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How to choose the right infant car seat for your family

By: Nancy Ripton

Photography by Michael Alberstat Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by Michael Alberstat

Travel

How to choose the right infant car seat for your family

By: Nancy Ripton
There are many items you’ll need for your newborn, but there is one in particular that you should buy well before your due date—an infant car seat.

“Babies can arrive early, so parents need to shop ahead of time,” says Angie Aben, a Calgary-based certified child restraint systems technician. Your car seat should be installed around week 36 of your pregnancy. Here’s everything you need to know about picking the right seat:

Shop Canadian
Although Canadian standards are closely aligned with those of the United States, our regulations are more stringent. For example, infant car seats have different rules here for handle placement. Accordingly, all child seats must be purchased in Canada, meet Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS), and carry the National Safety Mark (a maple leaf with a number on it). Any seat carrying this mark is considered safe for use.

Check that any seat you purchase or receive from a friend was manufactured after January 2012, when CMVSS standards changed. Never buy or accept a used seat if you are unsure of its history.

Narrowing your choices
The first choice you’ll have to make is between an infant-only car seat, or an infant/child convertible seat, which saves you from having to purchase another as your child grows. “Both are equally safe as long as they are installed and used correctly,” says Jacquelyn Quirk, programs associate at Parachute, a non-profit organization dedicated to injury prevention. If you choose an infant seat, you may want to purchase a secondary base so that you can use it in more than one car.

“Not every make and model is compatible with every car,” says Natalie Nankil, media relations manager for Chevrolet. Call ahead and see if a store will let you test the seat with a trial installation before you buy (or be sure to keep your receipt for a return). Placement of the handle can make a big difference in passenger-side legroom. “If space is at a premium, you want a seat that can have the handle up,” says Aben. (Remember: babies/toddlers should remain rear facing until at least age two.) Also, don’t forget to fill out the product registration information (card or online) so you can be contacted in case of a recall.

You may also want to consider a seat with warm lining and additional padding. “Parents should never add after-market accessories to their child’s car seat,” says Aben. That includes harness covers and cuddle bags aimed at keeping your child warm. “Bulky snowsuits are not okay either,” says Aben. “Dress your baby in thin, warm layers of clothing with blankets added afterwards.” Some manufacturers make stay-warm items that are tested with the car seat.

Proper Installation
According to a study by the Canadian Paediatric Society, up to 81 per cent of car seats are installed incorrectly. “Installing a car seat is not a one-time event,” says Quirk. Over time, car seats can loosen, and you may need to take yours out for things like cleaning the car and have to re-install the seat. Rather than get someone to install your new seat for you, seek out a hands-on program that will teach you how to install the seat properly. Chevrolet, working with Parachute, is offering free installation workshops in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. “It doesn’t matter what type of car you have,” says Nankil. “We just want kids to be safe, and this program can make a difference.”

Recalls and Safety Notices
Transport Canada is the best place to keep abreast of any recall or safety concerns. You can also consult Healthy Canadians recalls and alerts. or follow Healthy Canadians on Facebook or Twitter to make sure the seat you’re buying is safe.
 
For more on everything you need to know to welcome baby, check out From bump to baby

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How to choose the right infant car seat for your family

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