Car seat decision extravaganza

I’ve been researching car seats trying to decide how to handle the fast-approaching small person/smaller person car seat shuffle. We still have Peanut’s infant seat available for the first nine months or so. We didn’t get a convertible until Peanut was 8 months because he was, well, a peanut, and we wanted the removable ease of the infant carrier. We never really took it out of the car, and had him in a sling rather than carrying the car seat or clipping it to a stroller. Still worth it, though. Infant seats just seem to fit better and make babies happier than swimming in a convertible seat. Of our friends, the two who used a convertible seat from birth noted with considerable frustration that their infants screamed during every car ride, presumably because the huge seat wasn’t comfortable. That’s not research, that’s tiny sample, anecdotal take-it-for-what-its-worth data, but still. We’re glad we have the infant seat available.

For now Peanut is fine in his Decathlon, and would be for a few more years. But eventually he’ll need a booster, and I’m trying to find a way to get him into a dual-use booster or high-back booster before TBA needs the convertible.

Because we’re really cautious and go as far with AAP recommendations as we can (the AAP recommends keeping them rear-facing as long as possible and in a harness as long as possible, so we kept P rear-facing until he was two and will keep him in a harness until his seat’s maximum) I want a booster that has a five-point harness that will last until 70-80 pounds and that will convert to a backless booster after 80 pounds.

Institute for Highway Safety has recommendations for boosters, and I wish this info were available at retailers. Why should I compare based on features and colors when there is solid safety research available? Because that’s the way retailers and manufacturers want it. Sigh.

I’m also finding that more manufacturers are building convertible seats that last much longer for both rear-facing and forward-facing harnessed children. That means I’m considering getting another convertible seat, something I was trying to avoid with the whole booster solution. But the best boosters and the best convertibles cost the same, so I’m open to either solution.

For general car seat research, I’ve found a lot of info at Comparative pricing information better than a google shopping search updates often at the Car Seat Place. At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, they’re only willing to tell us how easy a seat is to use, but insist that all seats are safe. Gee, federal government, thanks for using my money to tell me if the labels are clear. How about you go back to focusing on ensuring that they all do actually pass your safety tests, and leave the label reading to someone else? You’re welcome, taxpayers, for the 10 cents I just saved each of you.

Shame on Consumer Reports for making car seat reviews available by subscription only. I understand making people pay for reviews of microwaves and televisions, but car seats? Public service, y’all.

Speaking of…do, please keep your children buckled in at all times, regardless of how far you’re going or how few cars are on the road; rear facing until at least 24 months*; and in a harness as long as possible.

So we’ve decided to go with this booster, which allows a harness to 80 lbs (or 53″) and accommodates use as a booster to 100 lbs (or 60″). It’s approved on airplanes, which is important to us. Second place on our list is this convertible seat that works to 53″ and is foldable for travel and carpools. Deciding factor was the Frontier’s booster option for taller kids and higher weights, and the fact that Peanut wanted a pink car seat but not a flowered car seat. Now we’re just hoping he still likes pink when he’s 9, or that car seats can be spray painted.

[It has not escaped this blogger’s attention that she would practically fit in a child’s booster and that, according to the recommendations, she would have been in a booster through freshman year of high school.]

*Several studies show “the standard advice of turning a baby from rear-facing to forward-facing at one year and at least 20 pounds puts a child at greater risk for severe injury than if they were to remain rear facing.”