Infant Car Seat
Infant car seats are made to cradle and protect the smallest children, from newborn up. They’re often designed with a base that stays buckled in the vehicle while the seat snaps in and out to use as a carrier. Many parents enjoy the conveniences of the infant seats, as the child can stay in the seat and with the parent or caregiver whether inside or outside of the car.
This car seat should be facing the rear of the vehicle at all times. Your baby’s head must fit under the top rim of the seat, with at least an inch to spare. One thing to consider is the handle; read the manufacturer’s instructions to learn what position the handle needs to be when it’s in your car. When a child has reached the maximum weight or height limit of their infant car seat, it’s time to move to a convertible seat.
Convertible Car Seat
Rear-facing or Forward-facing
Convertible car seats are convenient because they can be used for both the rear-facing and then the forward-facing position as your child grows. Read the manual carefully and remember that children should continue to ride rear-facing until they reach the maximum height or weight limit before you move them to the forward-facing position.
Use a convertible seat as long as you can until your child outgrows it. When your child’s ears hit the top of the seat, or their shoulders are above the top slots of the seat, it’s time to move to a combination or booster seat.
3 in 1 Car Seat
Rear-facing or Forward-facing
These seats are called “3 in 1” because they can be used as: 1. a rear-facing car seat, 2. A forward-facing car seat with a harness and then 3. a booster seat. You can use these seats forward-facing with a harness and tether after your child reaches the top rear-facing height and weight limit allowed by the manufacturer.
Combination Car Seat
These seats are designed to be used as a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness, and then as a high back booster seat. Children should reach the maximum height or weight limit of their rear-facing car seat before they are moved to a combination seat. Check the car seat manufacturer’s height and weight requirements before using with your child.
Once your child has outgrown a seat with an internal harness, it’s time to move to a belt-positioning booster seat. Booster seat use is extremely important because most children do not fit properly into an adult seat belt until they are about 4 feet, 9 inches tall. And, during a car crash, an improperly positioned seat belt places a child at increased risk for certain injuries, which can be severe.
When younger children sit in the seat of a car, their legs are frequently too short for their knees to reach the edge of the seat and bend comfortably. As a result they tend to slouch or move forward, causing the lap belt to rise over the belly, which is unsafe. Booster seats allow children to sit more comfortably; and ensureing that the shoulder belt lays flat across the center of the chest and away from the face, and that the lap belt fits snugly over the top of the thighs.
The most commonly available booster seats are designed for children who weigh between 40 and 120 pounds. Do not use a booster seat before your child outgrows a forward-facing seat with a harness.
Sometimes it’s tempting for a parent to move a child of 2 or 3 years to a booster seat for convenience, or because a younger child needs the convertible seat. Remember: they are not big enough or developed enough to withstand a crash in a booster at that age. Trust us–it’s worth it to make sure your child restrained as safely as possible.
No-back booster seat
These can be used by children that are at least 40 pounds. Older children may prefer a no-back booster seat. A child must use a lap/shoulder belt anytime they are riding in the car with a booster seat, as they need both protection over their chest and hips. Never use a lap only belt with a booster seat.
High-back booster seat
High-back booster seats are a good choice for vehicles, such as sedans or coupes, that have a low head rests in the back seat. They are also a good choice for children who meet the height and weight requirements to be in a booster seat, but may need additional head and side support in the vehicle. In addition, some high-back booster seats have the option to remove the back if/when the child no longer needs that added support. A child must use a lap/shoulder belt anytime they are riding in the car with a booster seat, as they need both protection over their chest and hips. Never use a lap only belt with a booster seat.
Built-in Car Seat
Some cars and vans have car seats built right into them. Some of these seats convert to a belt-positioning booster and others become a five-point harness. Both are easy to use, but neither can be used for children younger than 2 years. These seats can only be used forward-facing.
Special Needs Car Seat
Some children have particular transportation needs that typical car seats cannot meet. Special types of restraints have been developed to keep these children safe. Car beds are available for premature or low-birth weight children who may need to lie flat. Children in full-body or other extensive casts, children who have difficulty controlling their bodies or heads, and those with behavioral problems also may need special restraints to meet their needs. For more information about special restraints, call Cincinnati Children’s at 513-636-7865.