Baby Seat Madness: A Dad's Tale

Babyseats

We have a whole site that deals with moms and cars, but there are also some dads on staff who live and work with cars. As a new father who’s fully aware of the entire array of car seats, from infant to convertibles to boosters, I still found myself thrown for a loop when our 6-month-old had to move out of his infant seat and into a convertible. I don’t know about any other dads out there, but in our house, if something comes with instructions and needs to be installed, it falls onto my to-do list, not my wife’s. 

Getting the seat for our primary car was easy. This is for my wife’s Subaru Outback. We went with the biggest and baddest — which in this arena means safest — seat out there, the Britax Boulevard CS. It’s huge, taking up nearly the entire backseat of our Outback. 

I went to buy the seat all by myself (which is unusual for baby-stuff shopping) in a new Cadillac CTS. I wheeled the huge box out to the car, and lo and behold the box didn’t fit in the trunk. It didn’t fit in the front or backseat either. I had to break down the box and take the seat out. Even then the seat alone didn’t fit in the trunk.

When I got the Britax home and started setting it up in the Outback, I realized that all the online reviews mentioning how big it was were accurate. It’s so big it obstructs the rear view a little bit. It’s just huge. However, it’s built like a tank, and the little guy is kind of wedged in there with little space to waver. OK, all done … right?

Nope — I also needed a new seat for test cars. Our infant seat fit into a base, so we had one seat and two bases so we could each shuttle the child. Now we had to get an entire second seat.

My wife went out and bought a very affordable secondary seat that came recommended. Our son travels about 1.5 miles every morning in this seat. That’s about it, unless we’re using a test car for a weekend trip to the suburbs, so there wasn’t much need to get the biggest and baddest a second time — plus it needed to move from one test car to another about every other day.

But then we realized we needed yet another seat for the nanny in case she needed to take him anywhere. That meant I had to go out at the last second and buy another one myself without having the laser focus I’d had on the Britax. I was given a few options that were rated highly and wouldn’t break the bank.

Fitseat310

I went with the Graco ComfortSport — which is a better trim name than many carmakers use — that was on sale at our local big box store. It took me at least 20 minutes to determine this would be an acceptable seat. It must have had something to do with the long line of options on display that disoriented even a moderately informed dad. If you’re not at all informed, I think they’d all blend together.

After unboxing and installing three new seats in less than a week, I’ve become a bit of a pro at threading the straps into the right positions. Compared to the bigger Britax, both of the smaller seats seem to work better with a shoulder strap seat belt strapping them in than they do with the Latch straps, which we always relied on with the infant seat and its bases.

I definitely think that — while I’m sure they’re plenty secure and safe, and are all government tested — these less-expensive seats aren’t as solid as the more expensive one. That kind of worries me, although I guess it shouldn’t. The third seat — the Graco — I’ve now adopted as the test-car seat, moving it frequently from one test car to another, much to the annoyance of the other reviewers. While not as big as the Britax, hefting the Graco around an 11-story parking garage isn’t exactly a picnic.   

Most dads don’t have to worry about that, though.

By David Thomas | October 15, 2008 | Comments (13)

Comments 

Dan

You are right that size and weight are HUGE issues.

We have two kids, but 5 carseats due to different people picking up the kids (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Babysitter) and are changing them in cars a lot.

We also do a lot of travel and frequently rent cars. We have a Britax that is almost never used because it is so hard to move from car to car.

We are sold on the Graco ComfortSports and the Graco Turbobooster booster seats.

We have gone to using booster seats exclusively when we travel, even though our youngest is a bit small for a booster, because boosters fit just about any car (with shoulder belts) and weigh very little.

We are now shopping for a new minivan and am hoping to get one with built-in booster seats (the Dodge/Chryslers are supposed to have this).

Most moms and dads don't worry about a nanny, either.

No need to judge people. I think a lot of working parents use childcare of some kind whether its a nannyshare like us or daycare.

Ira

I've raised four kids and frankly the things people worry about today makes me wonder if we've gone soft. The article was very well written, however the one thing that struck me was perhaps my wife and I were actually fortunate that we didn't have as many options back in the day. I recall there being three baby seats to pick from.

jon

What a thouroughly boring article !

Between the 2 boys, our car, and MIL's, we have 6 carseats between us. 2 carseat/carrier style, and 4 Evenflo Triumph convertible seats. Thoroughly ridiculous... hard to believe that neither I nor my husband ever rode in carseat. We may as well have been hanging off the hood. But today's kids need to be in Tank-sized car seats because today's cars are made out of plastic and rubberbands. At least I was free-wheeling it in a 40-foot long Cadillac Eldorado as a youngster. Less need for a $400 carseat when you're surrounded by actual steel. I'd still put my kids in the carseat though, even in the Cadillac.

GinaCC,
Well today's cars are probably 200x safer than anything we rode in back in the day. I still remember sitting in rear facing seats in the back of a wagon.

And I would always lay down across the backseat of sedans.

The weird thing for me is that I should have been prepared for all of it with this job. But when you're using them all the time it is really a different story.

Working in the car seat industry myself, I would recommend the Sunshine Kids Radian 80 to anyone with a small car. It's a super safe seat - and it folds for travel. I'm also a fan of the True Fit - it's got a lower harness weight limit than the Radian, but it's also not massive like the Britax. Oh, and the Graco Nautilus is another great option. I'd say that when shopping for car seats, the best rule of thumb is the pick the seat with the highest harness weight limit and to aim for a limit of 65 or 80 lbs since that keeps your kid in the harness longer (which means they are safer for longer.)

Thanks for your article! The ComfortSport is a good rear-facing seat, but it will be outgrown quickly forward-facing as the top harness slot height on it is painfully low. Your child won't likely make it to the 40lbs limit on the harness. Harnesses are outgrown by height before weight when the top of the shoudlers go above the top harness slot or when the top of the child's ears are level with the top of the shell of the seat.

I second the suggestion of a Sunshine Kids Radian or the Evenflo Triumph Advance as seats - both rear-face to 35lbs (you should rear-face to the maximum limits of the next - not just to 1 year and 20lbs) and the Evenflo will get you to 50lbs harnessed, and the Radian to 65lbs (the 80lbs model has the same top harness slot height, so unless you have a hefty child, the extra 15lbs in the harness are not necessary).

You want to aim to rear-face for as long as possible and then keep your child in a harness for as long as possible. Rear-facing is 5 times safer than forward-facing. Delay the move to the booster for as long as you can.

Each graduation in a car seat is a demotion in safety.

Thanks for your article!

The Graco ComfortSport is good for rear-facing, but is not so good when it comes to turning the seat forward (which should not be done until your child has reached the maximum rear-facing weight and height for the seat). The top harness slot height is painfully low, so the average child will outgrow this seat in height long before reaching the 40lbs harness capacity.

Harnesses are outgrown forward-facing by height when the top of the child's shoulders are above the top harness slot, or when the top of the ears are level with the top of the shell of the seat.

Good convertible seats are the Sunshine Kids Radian65, the Evenflo Triumph Advance and the Compasss TruFit as alternatives to Britax. All rear-face to 35lbs (rear-facing is 5 times safer than forward-facing) and have good top harness slots and good maximum harness weights.

You want to aim to rear-face for as long as possible and then harness forward-facing for as long as possible. Each graduation in a car seat is a demotion in safety for the child.

Alicia

We went with the Radian 80. The small footprint is really impressive, leaves a lot more passenger space in the backseat than our infant seat did. Our child really seems to enjoy the upgrade also, as her new seat is much fancier. Really wonderful in comparison. I'm ALSO really glad I won't have to switch seats again at 40 lbs, as no reward could be large enough to make me want to remove/reinstall that carseat, EVER again!

Not sure if the folks above work for SunshineKids or not but to our readers, yes the Radian is considered a very safe seat and good buy.

Thanks for the article! I really liked it and I aggree on your statement about the booster!

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