Monday, August 31, 2009

Buying the right car seat for baby

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Rebecca Atkinson shares her experience buying baby’s first car seat and learned an interesting lesson along the way. A must read for all expectant first-time parents!

One of the most important purchases you make for baby while you’re still pregnant is choosing a car seat. Mark and I knew we had a line on a bassinet/stroller combo, so we didn’t need/want one of those three-in-one car seat/stroller deals. My husband, Mark spent countless hours researching car seat options for us. As an automotive journalist, he often has a different car each week, which means the space for a car seat varies greatly. We also don’t have a ton of storage space at home, so we thought it would be nice to have one car seat that could grow with the baby as long as possible.

We finally settled on the Sunshine Kids Radian Car Seat because it was foldable for easy storage, and the narrowest car seat around. The company claims you can put three abreast if needed. The price was a hefty one, nearly $300, but a worthwhile investment since it would definitely grow with our child.

It was a great concept in theory, until Meredith was born and we actually needed to use the seat.

We first began doubting what we thought was the smartest purchase we made before we’d even made it out of the hospital. When they discharge you, you’re required to bring your car seat inside and show the staff you a) have one and b) know how to put the baby in it. The nurse took one look at our car seat and asked my husband how he planned on carrying it. He looked at her and said, “With the carrying strap.” After rolling her eyes, she said, “I meant, how do you plan on carrying it with the baby?”

We stopped and looked at each other. We hadn’t planned on that. I guess in our heads thought we would just carry the baby if we had to take her out of the car seat and weren’t using the stroller or Snugli. Mark said he’d just carry the seat, with the baby strapped in, the nurse rolled her eyes yet again, sighed and sent us on our way. Before we even got to the car we realized how awkward the car seat was and that we hadn’t considered portability on our list of requirements when we bought it.

We spent the next week or so taking the baby out of the seat every time we had to run an errand. Neither we nor baby liked this method of transport as it often woke her when she was sleeping. Neither of us wanted to admit our mistake, but one night as we were going out to get stock up on diapers, we somehow got on the subject of the car seat and sheepishly admitted to one another that we should perhaps look at an easy-to-carry infant car seat.

I can tell you now, that was the best $100 (with tax) we ever spent, and the same seat has been on sale for about $60 since. Sure she’ll outgrow it and it takes up a fair amount of space when rear facing, but both Mark and I can carry it (for now at least) and if she’s asleep, she can stay asleep which any parent will agree is definitely a plus.

While the other car seat will come in handy down the road, it is not something I would recommend for new parents.

Biggest lesson learned? You can do all the research in the world but sometimes you have to learn things the hard and expensive way – by living through it.

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  1. I want to clarify that the car seat we did buy was one that could grown from infancy and up as it came with all the extra infant padding to help keep them in position and so on. I'm not sure that's clear from my post!.

  2. We started using the bigger one you bought when our daughter was about 10 months old. It will eventually come in handy, but you definetly want the portable one for now! Once baby is too big for it, the Sunshine one is a great larger rear facing one and is comfortable for the kids front facing too (our daughter is almost three now). Compared to other seats we've used in rental cars while travelling, I really like the Sunshine!

  3. Great post Rebecca - very true! I would add the same holds true for strollers. My husband did hours of research on them before our first daughter was born, finally settling on "the Cadillac of strollers"... only to discover that even folded up, it wouldn't fit in our trunk. :)

  4. Thanks Patrica, we're looking forward to when we can use it again.

    ha - Jenny that's funny, we purposefully tried not to make that mistake with strollers as people told us about that - so did okay on that, but goofed on the carseat. You win some, you lose some right? lol


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