One of the first things you need when welcoming a new baby home is a car seat. An infant car seat is designed to be rear-facing only, which is the safest position for your little one in the event of a crash. While it's possible that your infant may be born large enough to fit into a convertible car seat, an infant car seat often provides a better fit. Many infant car seats come with a base that stays in the car, so it is easy to carry baby in the car seat itself while outside of the vehicle. Some are also compatible with strollers as part of a travel system.
When choosing an infant car seat, you should choose a car seat that is safe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a five-star rating system for evaluating car seat safety and ease of use. Three out of four car seats are installed incorrectly, so you should consider having yours checked out by a Child Passenger Safety Technician (you can find one here). You should be able to adjust the car seat straps easily. A car seat handle with a comfortable grip and stroller compatibility are also nice features. Remember to always register your car seat with the manufacturer so that they can contact you in the event of any recalls.
Our Top Pick: Uppababy Mesa
The Uppababy Mesa has a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It also boasts that it is the first naturally fire-resistant car seat, passing federal flammability safety standards without the use of chemicals thanks to the use of Merino wool. Most reviewers appreciated how easy this car seat was to install, especially with the green indicator that alerts caregivers to a successful installation. The no-rethread, five-point harness means that you don't have to take the harness apart as your baby grows. The headrest is adjustable and reinforced to give your baby extra protection in case of a side impact collision. This car seat is suitable for infants up to 32 inches in height and weighing between 4 and 35 pounds. The car seat on its base measures 28 inches by 17 inches by 25 inches. Even though it is wool, the moisture-wicking fabric is designed to keep your baby warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It comes with an infant insert for smaller babies. Uppababy offers a 1-year extended warranty when you register your product on their website within 3 months of purchase. It is compatible with some Uppababy strollers.
Runner-Up: Britax B-Safe 35
The Britax B-Safe 35 is very highly rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is intended for babies weighing between 4 and 35 pounds and with a height of up to 32 inches. It can be installed easily with the LATCH system found in most cars manufactured after September 1, 2002. Dual indicators reassure you that the car seat is positioned in the correct angle. There is a removable head pad that can be removed when your baby outgrows it. Reviewers noted that the handle felt comfortable to grip. The car seat itself weighs 10 pounds. It measures 17.75 inches by 25 inches by 26.5 inches. It comes with a 1-year warranty. The cover can be removed and washed by hand. One consideration to note is that there was a recall of the chest clip on certain B-Safe 35 models that were manufactured between November 1, 2015-May 31, 2017 as a defect caused them to be breakable, however, this has since been resolved. It is compatible with Britax strollers.
Also Great: Chicco KeyFit 30
The Chicco KeyFit 30 is a rear-facing infant car seat that received 4 stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for overall ease of use. It has LATCH connectors, making it easy to install in most cars manufactured after September 1, 2002. It is intended for infants weighing between 4 and 30 pounds and up to 30 inches in height. Without the base, this car seat weighs 9.6 pounds. The dimensions are 27.5 inches by 17 inches by 24 inches. There is a bubble indicator on each side of the car seat to alert you when it is properly angled. It comes with a removable sunshade to protect your baby from the sun, however, some reviewers note that the sunshade does not stay open and instead slowly closes while in use. The carrier shell is lined with energy-absorbing foam in case of a collision. The carry handle can be adjusted to two positions, and this car seat is compatible with Chicco strollers. Reviewers loved how easy it was to install securely.
A car seat is one of those baby items you definitely need and should install in your car before the baby is due. Choosing a car seat can be overwhelming since there are so many models available. When conducting our review, safety was taken into high consideration. All car seats on the market are required to meet Federal Safety Standards, however, we also utilized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's ratings which included evaluation of instructions, vehicle installation features, labels, and ease of securing a child correctly in the car seat. We reviewed how easy it is to install the car seats in the car, their compatibility with strollers, price, how easy they were to clean, and more. Our favorite overall was the Uppababy Mesa. Though it is pricey, it is easy to install, has machine-washable fabric, a no-rethread five-point harness, and a sunshade with UPF protection. Our very close runner-up is the Britax B-Safe 35. Finally, the Chicco KeyFit 30 which is highly rated for safety and reviewers found easy to use.