An infant car seat is one of those few non-optional baby gear items – most hospitals will check to make sure you’ve got a current one before they send you home with your precious cargo. You’ll use this seat typically for just a year or less but will be spending a lot of time together: in the car (rear-facing, back seat), toted around on your arm (who needs the gym?), and wheeled around on a basic stroller frame or in conjunction with a full-size stroller with the use of an adapter.
FYI the number in the product name indicates the upper weight limit – after that, babe graduates to a convertible car seat. Many parents choose to move to a convertible seat before hitting that weight limit, though, since older babies often prefer more upright positioning.
Note: The following models all come with their own bases, and all meet or exceed requirements by the Federal safety standard. All cushions are removable (some with more ease than others) and machine washable.
This car seat is smaller than several of the others, so if you have a compact/two-door car, or, more importantly, a small or preemie infant, this seat may be a good option. Many NICU nurses recommend it for the extensive head and body support.
Pros:“Ride Right” bubble levels signal whether chair is in proper position in base; Cushion-y padding; Extensive stroller options and compatibility (including with many brands outside its own); Installation using LATCH is easy; Smaller size cradles tiny newborns
Cons: Thick cushions and padding are not very breathable so not ideal for warm climates; Fabric is somewhat coarse; Canopy requires finagling to adjust (par for the course for car seats, but this one’s especially bad); Heavy; Belt install is complicated, so for urban families who are Uber-ing or taxing a lot (or otherwise planning to use seat without its base) this seat is not recommended.
Maxi-Cosi is a popular car seat brand in Europe and increasingly in the U.S., largely thanks to its being lightweight and coming in so many color options. Hot pink, anyone?
Pros: Lightweight; Fun color options; Infant insert for babies under 6 lbs; Base has three recline positions; Base has anti-rebound bar which is not found on most rear-facing-only seats; Air protect “AP” side impact protection feature; Moisture-wicking fabric makes it a good choice for warmer climates; Can remove seat pads without re-threading harness
Cons: Bulky and long (in part because of the anti-rebound bar) so consider passenger in front of it, especially in smaller cars; Flimsy canopy; Seat is narrow towards the top; Compatible with many luxury strollers and European brands (a “pro” for some), but you may have difficulty finding stroller adapters for some of the popular American strollers
This seat is rather expensive for a something you’ll only use for a year but if you can use it for a few kids before it expires (8 years), then it’s worth considering.
Graco is one of the most popular, economical, and reliable brands in baby gear. This seat is an Amazon bestseller.
Pros: Lightweight; Higher weight limit (35 lbs); Snaps into any of the Graco ClickConnect strollers; Base has 6 different recline positions; Harness has 15 different height settings and two positions for the crotch strap; 7-year life (one of the longest in the marketplace); Graco’s basic “frame stroller” which accommodates this seat is the SnugRider Elite which has a huge storage basket, is super lightweight and very easy to fold and heave into your car and is very popular for the first year of life.
Cons: Sometimes you hear a click when the car seat isn’t properly attached; Some users report a loose fit with base; Can be difficult to access the button you need to press to adjust harness; Stationary canopy; Can’t use old bases
The cool thing about the ChiccoFit2 is that it can be used longer than other infant car seats — up until about two years old. It’s a normal rear-facing infant car seat to be used in the ultra-reclined position in baby’s first months of life, but then its base has a second “stage” suitable for 9-24 month-olds in which it’s used still rear-facing, but sits slightly more upright (which older babies really like). For a lot of parents it’s very appealing to have an infant car seat that lasts for so long. The Chicco Fit2 is a good match for families living in an urban/ walking environment; for example, if you’re someone who doesn’t drive often but needs to be able to take the occasional taxi ride, this seat is a good option because you bring it along with its stroller base, then pop it into the stroller when you reach your destination. This is way preferable to a convertible (aka toddler) carseat, which is massive and not something you want to be lugging down a sidewalk.
Pros: Ease of use across the board including ease of installation using LATCH and bubble style level; anti-rebound bar; height limit is three inches taller than the average seat (to the point above re: longevity); Ultra soft fabric (made in Italy) and thick padding including substantial headrest; nice legroom for babies/ toddlers when base is used in stage 2; Generous canopy
Cons: At 12 lbs, this is a heavy seat, so this is not an ideal option if you’re going to be carrying it; Best for use with a stroller; Compatible with most but not all of Chicco strollers