Never before have I given much thought to a car seat. Once you have a child, it becomes a big deal. If you get the wrong one, you could be putting the life you worked so hard to bring into this world in danger. You wouldn't want your baby to be in an unsafe car seat would you?
Of course not. So, being the busy mom that I am, I have passed off the process of researching and purchasing Ada's new car seat to none other than my wonderful husband, Rick.
For those of you who have never shopped for car seats before, watch out. What a task. And it isn't something that you just do once and move on. No. It turns out that you have a baby, and then that baby grows, and grows, and grows. And what no one tells you is that it isn't just their cute little clothes that they outgrow. No sir e bob. They outgrow their strollers and their car seats and their toys and their shoes and everything in between.
Car seat 101 abbreviated- The highlights from what I understand since I haven't really researched all this stuff myself.
You have a baby, then you have to have a car seat to take the baby home from the hospital. It will typically fit a newborn up to 22 lbs. You should get a little u-shaped padding bumper to go around their tiny heads when you first use it. I got lucky and have a friend with twins, Michelle, who sold me her Graco Snugride -- probably the most popular car seat out there. I trusted her judgement and didn't ask questions knowing that she researched everything baby and is now a pro since she's successfully managed to get her two-year-olds to age two. Amazing! (Terrifying too!)
Once your child approaches 22 lbs--depending on the car seat (sooner for some kids like Ada who are bordering on being Amazonian), you need to get the next size up. Some car seats then go up to 35 lbs or 55 lbs or whatever, but kids have to be in a car seat until 85 lbs or so. (This is all from memory so check my facts and feel free to comment that I am an idiot.) And then you get to buy a third car seat for the last stretch of growth. You lucky duck! Unless you get the second car seat to go from 5 lbs to 85 lbs - which is what Rick suggested.
Okay, so now that we have that out of the way...
My darling Rick started researching, and I starting throwing every link I could at him so he could make an informed decision. He even watched the videos on YouTube of the parents who had lost a child because they picked the wrong type of car seat or were unlucky. Apparently booster seats and seat belt only car seats are bad. 5 point harnesses are the only way to go. And wait to turn the seat forward as long as possible. Facing backwards is best for as long as the seat is designed for it.
After about two weeks of intense research, Rick found the seat of Ada's dreams. The Radian 80. Ohhh, ahhh. He made his decision after carefully weighing the pros and cons. And after reading posts from loving mothers everywhere that their daughters just adored their pink car seats, Rick was hooked. Ada should have the pink one - the Pink Princess to be exact. Not the grey version that matched our car's interior and would be less obnoxious, but the bright pink one that screamed girlie.
Fine. Whatever you want honey. After all, she'll be in it until she's several years old so she might as well like it. It isn't like she'll be passing it on to a little brother or anything so who cares if it is pink?
We head to the store to get the new car seat, and they only have the grey one in stock. And it's the last grey one they have. And it's been open and on display for four days so they are willing to give us 15% off. 15% off a $300+ car seat is a big deal. So we quickly say, "Sorry Ada, screw the pink one. We're getting the grey one." Rick's bummed but you can tell he is excited to get the discount. We waited for the guy to find all of the parts for the seat. We tested it out in our car to make sure it fit and it does, sort of--assuming I never sit in the front seat again or that I enjoy having my knees at my chin for long car rides. And then the guy comes back to say, "We don't have the bumpers that go around her head in stock. We must have given them away with the last car seat so I'll order them and they'll be in next week. I'll give you 25% off and call you when they come in."
"SOLD!" Rick replies.
Sorry Ada. It just wasn't meant to be.
While the sun shines brightly on us (or not-so-bright-pinkly), our neighbor Colette isn't fairing so well. She has the Orbit travel system that her husband thought was "so cool" and is now less than excited about finding out that the handy dandy "system" just means that she has to buy 3 car seats over the growth of little Eva as the 2nd car seat goes to 55 lbs and she'll need the third one after that. The second one has been on back order for about a month now and she finally got one after paying a premium and getting aggressive about tracking it down. And now she found out that she has to buy a separate seat to attach to the stroller or Eva will be sitting straight as a board as they stroll the neighborhood. In the end, the travel system is costing her the travel budget! :)
Moral of the story: When it comes to doling out the big dough for large purchases for baby, do your research and try to plan ahead.
Here are a few tips and things to keep in mind when looking for car seats in case you are in the market...
size - will it fit in your car? what if you have more kids?
portability - is it heavy or awkward? does it have travel carrying straps or a carrying case?
Does it look cool? (pink? grey?)
Are the seat belts easy to adjust?
Think about the color... black will heat up in the summer
Will it fit in the trunk if your child isn't with you?
Covered metal hooks so kids don't get burned if it has been in the sun
Is it compatible with your car: http://www.carseatdata.org/