We bought our infant car seat while I was in labour with #1.  While I’m the type of person that likes to be prepared, I also like to leave things to the last minute which could explain my chronic lateness problem.  So, I did do a bit of research about which car seat to get... but hadn’t made much progress, and still hadn’t bought one.

So when contractions started one week before my due date (what? NO, I still should have a week to get ready!), and then we got sent home from the hospital because they slowed down, I decided that would be the time to go buy the car seat.  We went to Walmart, picked the one that seemed to be the best choice, and bought it.  Unfortunately, I have regretted that choice for almost 6 years through all three kids.

So, if you are in the process of buying your very first car seat, here’s some advice that I wish I had read before we went shopping.

Don’t buy your car seat while you’re in labour.

Seriously, I hope there’s more of you out there that are smarter than me, but I’m telling you, go out at least a month or two before your due date and get the car seat.  It really is the one big purchase that you need to make before you go to the hospital.  Especially since they won’t let you leave without it.

Crib?  You could survive at least a week without (laundry basket, anyone?).  Stroller?  Even a 12lb baby is pretty manageable to carry for a couple weeks.  High Chair, toys, even a change table - you can survive just fine without for several months.

But the car seat? Just go buy it.

Find one with easily adjustable straps.

You are supposed to have your straps tight enough that you can only fit one finger between their chest & straps.  Because babies grow fast, and different outfits (or even how full their diaper is) can affect the straps’ tightness, you are adjusting them all the time. So, if your straps are hard to adjust (such as needing to flip the car seat over to adjust them... like ours), you end up not having them tight enough, or too tight, and feeling frustrated that you didn’t think about making them tighter before you got the baby strapped into the seat (not to mention, you’re already late, because you have chronic lateness problem!)

Don’t worry about getting a fancy handle.

We got the one with the Z shape in it, because it seemed like it would make it easy to carry.  But 90% of the time, you are carrying it over your arm.  Unless you are massive body builder that enjoys working your triceps with your baby, you are going to be slugging that handle over your arm as soon as you can, because that is the easiest way to hold a heavy, awkward bucket for longer than 3 minutes.

DO worry about getting a handle that can click back upright with one hand.

I actually don’t even know if they make ones like this.  But our car seat requires two hands to click the buttons on either side of the handle to get it back to its top position - and it usually clicks into the “back” position as soon as you lean it away to get the baby out.  So, you have a baby in one hand and you need to move your car seat out of the way to avoid being the annoying parent that left a big car seat in the entrance... but you need two hands to get that stinkin’ handle up so you can pick up the seat.  How many times have I wished that I could click that handle up with just one hand?  Many, many times.

Check the Expiry Date / Manufacturing Date.

We are currently using an expired seat (GASP!).  It is only one month past its expiry date, and we are only going to be using it for a few more months, so we are not buying a new car seat.  BUT, had I looked through the boxes and found the seat that had the latest manufacturing date, I might not be in this predicament 6 years later.  Even if you’re only having one kid - the closer the expiry date, the easier time you will have to sell your seat when you’re done with it.

What I Wish I Knew About Buying an Infant Car Seat