What should I look for in a car seat for a newborn? Getting the Right Gear

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newborn car seat
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Whether you're driving to your local grocery store or Grandma's house a couple hours away, you'll want to make sure your baby is kept comfy and safe in a car seat. But with so many options on the market, it's easy to find yourself wondering which is your best bet. Here's what experts and moms have to say about the key features you'll want in a car seat.

Know That It Fits Well in Your Car

"When purchasing a car seat for an infant, parents should first look for a seat that fits well into their car. Not all car seats fit on every car, so it is great to have the dimensions behind where the driver needs to have their seat and the back seat. It is also good to know where there is a LATCH system as well as lower anchors in the car to ensure that your car seat will properly fit into that space. If new parents have a small car, they need to be aware not to purchase a bulky seat. The...

"When purchasing a car seat for an infant, parents should first look for a seat that fits well into their car. Not all car seats fit on every car, so it is great to have the dimensions behind where the driver needs to have their seat and the back seat. It is also good to know where there is a LATCH system as well as lower anchors in the car to ensure that your car seat will properly fit into that space. If new parents have a small car, they need to be aware not to purchase a bulky seat. The best way to test this is in person at a store. Many baby stores will allow you to take a seat out and ensure it fits in your car before you make that purchase. Look for an infant seat that is lightweight and has a carry handle that's comfortable to carry. Many seats offer features that make it easier for parents to use such as a no-rethread harness, which then also assures the car seat will be used correctly and keeps baby safe. It doesn't matter what car seat is used if it isn't installed correctly. Read the manual carefully to learn how to install and properly use the car seat, and if possible, look for a local child passenger safety technician (CPST) to install your infant car seat." -- Julie McCaffrey, chief baby planner and owner at BabyNav Baby Planners

Make Sure It Meets Current Standards

"All new car seats sold in the US should meet safety standards. Car seats more than a few years old and used car seats may not be safe to use, due to outdated safety standards or possible damage from a previous accident. You want to choose a car seat that fits the weight and height requirements for your baby. All infants less than 2 years of age should be rear-facing in the back seat of the car.

"For a newborn, it is often convenient to have an infant carrier car seat that you can easily take...

"All new car seats sold in the US should meet safety standards. Car seats more than a few years old and used car seats may not be safe to use, due to outdated safety standards or possible damage from a previous accident. You want to choose a car seat that fits the weight and height requirements for your baby. All infants less than 2 years of age should be rear-facing in the back seat of the car.

"For a newborn, it is often convenient to have an infant carrier car seat that you can easily take in and out of the car without having to take the infant out of the seat. Once the infant is too big for the carrier, he/she will have to go into a convertible (rear-facing) car seat until at least age 2 years. A convertible car seat is one that can be installed forward or rear-facing, but stays in the car at all times. If you are looking to buy as few car seats as possible, you can purchase a convertible car seat from the start for your new infant, but you must make sure that it is made for the weight and height of your newborn." -- Dori Anchin, MD, pediatrician at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), Valhalla, New York

Look for Added Features

"Look for an infant car seat. You can use a convertible car seat from day one, installed in the rear-facing position. But an infant car seat is preferred, because it offers a slightly safer, more cocoon-like fit.

"Also, look for added safety features. If there's ever a place to splurge, a car seat is it. Some seats go beyond the government's safety standard and offer side-impact protection and a more secure fit in the car so that your baby is apt to stay put in a collision. Comparatively,...

"Look for an infant car seat. You can use a convertible car seat from day one, installed in the rear-facing position. But an infant car seat is preferred, because it offers a slightly safer, more cocoon-like fit.

"Also, look for added safety features. If there's ever a place to splurge, a car seat is it. Some seats go beyond the government's safety standard and offer side-impact protection and a more secure fit in the car so that your baby is apt to stay put in a collision. Comparatively, these seats are in the range of $200 or more. But I think they're worth it. Safety features to look for: An anti-rebound bar. I also like any infant car seat with a load leg. A load leg is a steel-enforced rod that's attached to the infant car seat base and affixes the infant car seat base to the floor of your car. It provides added stability in a front collision. Also, black is a great color for a car seat, because it hides gunk stains." -- Sandra Gordon, founder of BabyProductsMom.com

Go Lightweight

"I would focus on a lightweight one with a sunshade. Infant car seats start to get very heavy as baby grows!"

Do Your Research

"Look at the seat's safety, weight, manageability, maneuverability, ease of installation, ease of getting in and out of the car, and comfort ... Check Consumer Reports and The Wirecutter for reviews, too."

Ask Lots of Questions

"Safety is probably the most important part of getting a car seat. You obviously want to protect your little one the best way possible. Read and compare reviews of the products you're interested in. Also, baby store employees are a great resource to find out about the latest items and to see what's popular with new parents. Think of things to ask like, 'How easy is it to set up in the car?' To me, the second most important thing is the weight of the seat. You're going to be lugging that thing around for months, and they get heavy!"

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.