Car Seat Conundrum: Demystifying car seats & boosters with Dr. Alisa Baer

choosing a safe car seat for your infant, toddler and childWe know that choosing a car seat is tricky (you want the safest car seat that’s easy to install and transport while looking great in your car!). No doubt, there are a lot of factors at play, but it needn’t overwhelm! There is a science to it. Guiding factors include the age, height and weight of each child, how many kids you have, your lifestyle and type of car you are most likely traveling in. Luckily most seats work with most models, but some work better or worse depending on your vehicle and the backseat configuration. “It’s like a puzzle,” says Dr. Alisa Baer, dubbed “The Car Seat Lady.” With thousands of car seat installations under her belt, she has created magic formulas of seats countless times.

There are a few things that you can look for or consider when making your purchase to ensure a good choice, including how long it remains rear-facing (the longer the better: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least two years) and how secure the seatbelt installation is.   Even if you picked a great seat, proper installation is key. “What’s shocking,” says Baer, “is that an overwhelming number of car seats are not installed correctly.” Baer notes, “If you’re not sure how to do it, you can go to seatcheck.org or safekids.org and find a certified installer in your area.” In fact, considering the misuse rates, she’d recommend it.

Living in the city can add extra complication to the car seat question. “Although it’s legal to travel in the city in a cab without a car seat,” says Baer, “this doesn’t mean it’s safe.”  The best solution depends on the baby’s age and stage she says.

Infant travel systems are easy, as most strollers are compatible with most major car seats using a car seat adapter.  However, when the child is a toddler, travel by cab gets much harder: The car seats are generally large, heavy and more difficult to transport. Most strollers cannot be used with the larger convertible seats, and therefore, if you did tow one along, you’d need some way to carry it when you leave the cab. As a result, many city parents feel stuck or improvise.

“I’ve heard of parents who hold their toddlers on their laps in cabs, buckling themselves in and holding the child; those who put their kids in baby carriers and then strap themselves in the seat; and others who double buckle both parties in using one seat belt. These are not solutions,” Baer implores. “No one, not even the strongest human being (or carrier strap) can keep hold of a child in an accident. The G-forces at play just don’t allow for it,” she says.

As kids get older, thankfully, getting around gets easier, as instead of the protective car seat, they transition to a booster designed to help position the seatbelt straps. The relatively diminutive seats are easy to carry around. “There are some with carry straps and others that are even inflatable,” she notes.

To find what’s the best and safest car seat for you, Baer says, evaluate your car, child and lifestyle. You may opt for a permanent solution in the car and another set of assists for taxicabs and travel. So go ahead and explore! With a few easy solutions, there’s no reason why you can’t hop over to a museum or get out of dodge. Magic 8 ball says, “Safe and happy travels ahead.”

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