One of the first things you will need to take your baby home from the hospital is a car seat, but which one should you get? Which one is the safest? Well, here’s the good news. All car seats on the market are required to meet government safety regulations, so no car seat is going to be potentially dangerous for your child.

There are currently three types of car seats, meant for different stages of a child’s life, each with their own benefits.

  • Infant Car Seats: From newborn to whatever your state’s height and weight limit is, your child will need to ride in seats that face the rear of the car.
  • Convertible Car Seats: Convertible seats transform from rear-facing seats to forward-facing seats. Typically, the forward-facing position can hold children up to 65 pounds.
  • Booster Car Seats: Booster seats help children sit higher up so your car’s regular lap and shoulder belt cross your child’s body at the correct points and hold them securely.

Height and weight specification laws vary by state, but in general, infants are required to be in rear-facing seats, while toddlers can be in either rear or front facing seats. Also, older children must ride in a booster seat. In the state of Tennessee:

  • Children less than a year old, or children under 20 pounds, must be properly restrained in a rear-facing child seat.
  • Children ages 1-4, or more than 20 pounds, must be properly restrained in a child seat.
  • From ages 4-9 and less than 4 feet 9 inches must be properly restrained in a booster seat.

While keeping in mind height and weight specifications, there are a few other things to keep in mind when purchasing a car seat.

  • Used or Hand-me-down: Used seats or ones that you may have kept from your first -born may not be up to date on the latest safety regulations. Check for any obvious defects or damage, and research the car seat model to see if it has ever been recalled.
  • Fitting with Your Car: Every car seat is different, and every car is different. Make sure the car seat fits well in your car, as well as any other car the seat may be used in.