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The Ultimate Infant Car Seat Buying Guide

Snuggle Bugz | | Comments 0

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Welcoming a new life into the world is a remarkable journey filled with joy ... however, it also requires a fair bit of preparation. One of your first responsibilities as a new parent will be to ensure your little one’s safety while on the road. 
 
Whether you're a seasoned parent or a wide-eyed novice, our Ultimate Infant Car Seat Buying Guide will equip you with the knowledge to cut through the clutter and find the perfect infant seat for your newborn. 
 
So, take a deep breath, and let's embark on this exciting journey together! 
 

What Is an Infant Car Seat? 

Infant car seats are designed to provide the utmost safety and comfort for infants. These rear-facing only seats are engineered to protect your baby's delicate head, neck, and spine in the event of a collision. Typically, infant car seats can accommodate babies from birth (around 4 lbs.) up to around 35 pounds or 32 inches in height, although it's important to check the specific weight and height limits for each model. 

One of the standout features of infant car seats is the included base, which can be installed in your vehicle using the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system or a seat belt. This base allows for easy attachment and detachment of the car seat itself, making it a breeze to hit the road with your kiddo. Think of those subzero winter temps. Instead of dragging baby out in the cold, removing their jacket, and buckling them into the seat, you can get baby snuggly seated and secure inside your home and just quickly connect the seat to its base. 
 
 Additionally, some infant car seats can be used without a base, utilizing only the vehicle's seat belt, which is particularly useful when travelling or using a cab or Uber. 

The lightweight and portable design of infant car seats is another significant advantage, typically weighing between 7 to 10 lbs. (without the base). This makes it easier for parents to carry the seat from the car to their destination, ensuring a smooth transition for their baby. 
 

Travel System Compatibility  

When shopping for an infant car seat, you may want to ensure it can be used as part of a travel system 

A travel system refers to the pairing of an infant car seat with a compatible stroller, creating a seamless and convenient transportation solution for your little one. Many infant car seats are designed to directly attach to specific stroller models, while others may require additional adapters to ensure a secure fit. 

By choosing an infant car seat that is compatible with your preferred stroller, you can easily transfer your baby from the car to the stroller without disturbing their sleep or removing them from the seat! Our Car Seat Compatibility Guide can direct you as to which seats and strollers work together. 

This is also useful because many stroller seats can’t be used until your child is around 6 months old (when they have developed adequate neck and head support). However, when used with an infant car seat, your stroller can be used from day one. Plus, many infant car seats come equipped with canopies, to protect your baby’s tender skin from harmful UV light on your strolls. 

For more info on travel systems and our favourite picks, check out our Top Travel Systems of the Year article. 

Nuna

TAVO + PIPA Travel System

$1,200.00

Peg Perego

YPSI Travel System

$1,379.99

Willow Brook Travel System

Sale

Britax

Willow Brook Travel System

Sale Price: $479.99

Regular Price: $599.99

Save 20%

Things To Consider 

When shopping for an infant car seat, knowing basic terminology can help. For an in-depth explanation, our Car Seat Terms Explained article tells you everything you need to know. 

Once you know the terms, there are several key features to consider. Not all seats will have these features, and that’s okay! Just keep them in mind as you shop, it will help you select a seat with the features that matter to you most.  

Safety Features: 

  • Five-Point Harness: A 5-point harness refers to the number of straps that secure a child. Two straps over the child’s shoulders, two straps over the child’s hips, and one strap at the child’s crotch.  
  • Load Leg: A load leg is a sturdy metal support that extends from the base of the infant car seat to the vehicle's floor, providing additional stability and reducing the risk of seat rotation in the event of a collision. The Clek Liing Infant Car Seat is a popular choice for this exact reason. For more information on load legs, check out our What Is A Load Leg? article. 
  • Anti-Rebound: An anti-rebound bar (like the one found on the KeyFit 35 ClearTex Infant Car Seat) helps to minimize the rearward movement of the car seat during an impact, further protecting your baby's delicate head and neck. 
  • Side Impact Protection (SIP): Infant car seats like the Mesa V2 and PIPA offer advanced Side-Impact Protection, with reinforced sides and energy-absorbing materials to shield your child from lateral forces. 
  • SensorSafe: Found only in Cybex seats like the Cloud G Lux, this innovative technology alerts parents of potential safety issues, such as a child being left unattended in the car or the chest clip becoming unbuckled. Learn more about this state-of-the-art technology here. 
      

Comfort Features: 

  • Removable Infant Inserts: Many infant seats (like the best-selling Mesa V2) come with soft, plush inserts to ensure a snug and comfortable fit during baby’s early months. It can then be removed as they grow. 
  • Recline Positions: The ability to adjust the recline of the car seat during installation is a useful tool as it helps to maintain the optimal 45-degree angle for your baby's delicate spine and head. 
  • Mesh Ventilation: Strategically placed mesh panels can improve air circulation and keep your baby cool and comfortable, especially during warmer months. Most brands include some variation of this feature depending on their seat’s design. 
  • Expandable Canopies: Look for infant car seats with large, adjustable canopies that offer a high UPF rating to shield your baby from the sun's harmful rays. Some models like the Nuna PIPA also offer extra coverage with its Sunshade and Dreamdrape features. 
  • Adjustable Headrest: A height-adjustable headrest allows you to accommodate your growing baby, providing crucial head and neck support as they develop. This feature helps maintain proper alignment and comfort during car rides. Baby Jogger’s City GO comes with a combination adjustable headrest and harness for your babe. 
  • Lounge Mode: Some infant car seats like the Viaggio 4-35 Lounge offer a "lounge" feature, allowing the seat to recline even further when used with a compatible stroller (or outside of the car), providing a more comfortable resting position for your little one. 
     

 Convenience Features: 

  • Narrow Profiles: Seats with a 17-inch-or-less width (like the Clek Liing) are narrow enough for 3-across seating in many vehicles (be sure to check your car model), a valuable feature for families with multiple children.  
  • No Rethread Harness: This convenient feature eliminates the need to rethread the harness as your baby grows, simplifying the adjustment process. 
  • Removable and Washable Fabrics: Look for car seats with easily removable and machine-washable seat fabrics, making cleaning a breeze. 
  • Ergonomic Handles: Most seats come with a comfortable, well-designed handle to make it easier to carry the seat from the car to the stroller (or other locations). 
  • European Routing: This feature allows the vehicle's seat belt to be routed through the car seat in a specific way, providing an additional layer of safety when using the car seat without its base. The Nuna PIPA is one of the most popular seats for this exact reason. 
  • Aircraft Certification: Some infant car seats are certified for use on airplanes, offering the convenience of using the same seat during air travel. 
  • Swivel Seats: Some infant car seats like the Aton G Swivel feature a swivelling design, making it easier to get your baby in and out of the car.
Liing Infant Car Seat

Sale

Chicco

Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat

$399.99


Keep In Mind  

The Fit:  
When selecting an infant car seat, it's essential to have a proper fit in your vehicle. Not all seats will seamlessly fit every make and model of car, so try to test the fit before you buy. Here at Snuggle Bugz, we have a Dry Fit Program where you can test any of our floor model car seats in your vehicle to ensure a secure and comfortable fit! 


Weight & Height Ranges: 
In addition to the fit, it's important to consider the minimum and maximum weight and height ranges for each car seat model, as well as the overall weight of the product. Some products have a more generous range of use than others. If you want to maximize the time you can use your seat, look for options that can accommodate heavier/taller babies. Typically, infant car seats can accommodate babies from birth (around 4 lbs.) up to around 35 pounds or 32 inches in height. Also, consider the weight of the carrier. Heavier car seats may have lots of great features, but they can also be more challenging to carry. 

Price Point: 
Dollars and cents are another factor to keep in mind. While all car seats sold in Canada must meet baseline safety requirements, the more advanced features and additional safety enhancements can impact the overall cost. However, many options give you the best of both worlds. For example, the Peg Perego Mico 30 is an economical option but still comes with plenty of bells and whistles. 
 

US vs. Canada: 
Many parents-to-be are surprised to learn there can be a difference between Canadian and US car seat models. Some brands may offer distinct features or variations in their Canadian and US product lines (i.e. the Nuna PIPA has a load leg in the US but does not in Canada), so be sure you are referencing Canadian sites when doing your research.

Baby Jogger

City GO Infant Car Seat

$399.99

Viaggio 4-35 Lounge Infant Seat

Sale

Aton G 180° Swivel Infant Car Seat

Sale

 

Car Seat Safety Reminders 

When it comes to the safety of your little one, there are a few crucial things to keep in mind: 

  • Ensure the child car seat has a National Safety Mark, indicating it meets Canadian safety standards. 
  • Do not use a car seat that has been involved in a collision, as it may have sustained unseen damage. 
  • Check the expiration date on the car seat, as they are designed for a specific lifespan. Learn more here. 
  • If possible, dry fit the car seat in your vehicle before purchasing to ensure a secure and comfortable fit. 
     

When in use: 
 

  • Avoid placing any additional items, such as toys or blankets, inside the car seat with your child. 
  • Remove bulky winter coats or any other items that may create space between the harness and your child. 
  • For more safety tips, click here. 

 

Alternatives 

While infant car seats are designed for newborns and young infants, there is another option to consider: the all-in-one car seat. These versatile seats can accommodate your child from birth through the booster seat stage, eliminating the need to purchase multiple car seats as your little one grows. 

All-in-one car seats offer the convenience of a single, long-lasting solution, but it's important to weigh the pros and cons carefully.  

These seats may not provide the same level of newborn-specific features and adjustability as a dedicated infant car seat, and they can be heavier and bulkier to maneuver. For a comprehensive exploration of the benefits and drawbacks of all-in-one car seats, be sure to check out our dedicated article Should I Get an Infant Seat or All-in-One Convertible Seat? 

Final Considerations 

Choosing the right infant car seat is an important decision for new parents, one that requires careful consideration of safety features, comfort, and convenience. By understanding the key elements to look for, such as load legs, side-impact protection, and travel system compatibility, you can make an informed choice that will give you peace of mind and provide your little one with the utmost safety and comfort during those countless car journeys.  

For more information, check out our Top Infant Car Seats of the Year as well as our Must-Have Car Seat Accessories For Baby article in our Learning Centre. Here, you will also find a wide array of product reviews. 

Happy Shopping!