In need of a car seat for a preemie? There are certain factors to consider, such as minimum weight requirement of the seat and additional body support for infants. My top pick for best preemie car seat is the Graco Snugride Click Connect 35 LX. The 35 LX has everything you need to ensure a proper fit for a premature baby, plus some great additional features that make it a great all around car seat.
Not sure if the Graco Snugride Click Connect 35 LX is perfect for you? Read on to see a couple other of my top picks for preemies.
How can I know I’ll need a car seat to fit a preemie?
Apart from if you are expecting multiples, which are typically smaller than full-term babies, you probably won’t know you need a car seat to fit a preemie. Chances are if you are looking for a car seat for a premature baby, you need to choose rather quickly. If you have already bought a car seat, check its specifications – it may be a good fit for your preemie. Otherwise, check out my detailed list below to help you make the right choice for both you and your little one.
Key Features to Look For
There are some things specifically to look for when looking for a car seat for a preemie:
Minimum weight requirements
Most convertible seats and some infant bucket seats have a minimum weight requirement of 5 pounds. Since many preemies will weigh less than this upon leaving the hospital, try to look for a seat that has a lower weight requirement. It is fairly easy to find an infant bucket seat with a minimum weight requirement of 4 pounds, but definitely be careful when choosing.
Body support for small babies (infant insert)
Most infant car seats come with some sort of infant insert, to add a bit more support for newborns. Some car seats just have a head support, while some have full body support. The added support is important to help provide extra cushion, but also to keep your baby’s chin off of their chest. Because newborns don’t have control of their heads, they tend to slump forward in car seats. A good infant insert will allow a baby’s head to rest slightly further back from their chest to avoid this slumping.
Lowest harness position
When fitting a car seat harness to your child, the harness straps should be as close to shoulder level as possible, or slightly below shoulder level. One of the main issues with finding a car seat to properly fit a preemie is that the lowest harness position is too high on many seats, leaving the harness above shoulder level rather than at or below it. Many infant bucket seats have a lowest harness level of around 6 inches, but if you look around you can find seats with 5 inch harness levels. This is best for preemies.
Other Features to Consider
This is something I didn’t even realize could be an issue until I was reading my owner’s manual for my infant car seat. Infant bucket seats have a handle that can be moved – when you carry the car seat, the handle will be up, but some car seats require that you put this handle in the “down” position when the car seat is in the car. Additionally, some car seats state that when the handle is down, you need to have a certain amount of space between the car seat and the vehicle seat in front of it. This can be an issue if you have a more compact car, such as a sedan.
It is becoming more of a standard for car seats to have no-rethread harnesses, but there are still plenty out there that don’t have this feature. As your child grows, you need to adjust the harness strap position – the harness straps are supposed to be at or slightly below shoulder level when rear-facing. A no-rethread harness is one that you can easily adjust without taking the harness straps out and re-feeding them through the next harness slot.
Weight of seat
When dealing with an infant seat, one factor that I consider important is how easy it will be to carry around. With my experience, infants tend to fall asleep in the car, and it’s such a shame to have to wake them up by getting them out of the car seat! A lightweight seat that you can easily remove from the car is key for keeping your little one asleep. I think anything under 10 pounds is sufficient, but the lighter you can find, the easier it will be to carry around.
You will find that car seats always have an expiration date on them. Most car seats are good for between 5 and 10 years. Obviously, your baby won’t be using an infant seat for this long, but if you are looking to use it for more than one child, this expiration date can become important in saving you money down the line.
Height and weight limits
All car seats have both a minimum and maximum weight limit. The bigger these ranges are, the longer you should be able to use the car seat. Most kids will outgrow the height category before the weight category, so keep that in mind for car seats that boast about high weight limits.
Convertible Seat vs Infant Seat
Most convertible seats have a minimum weight requirement of 5 lbs. Many parents opt to start out with a convertible seat because it will last longer, and you’ll be able to get more for your money.
The only real issue I have with convertible seats is that they tend to be heavy, and they don’t work as part of a travel system. Infant seats are easy to put in and take out of the car, so if your little one falls asleep on the car ride, you don’t have to disturb them by taking them out of the car seat – you can just bring the whole seat with you.
But if you do decide to go with a convertible car seat over an infant seat, there is one convertible seat that is great for preemies – the Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Seat with Tiny Fit.
Watch the Snugride
Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Seat with Tiny Fit
The Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Seat with Tiny Fit has every feature you need to properly fit a preemie. Tiny Fit is added cushion, and is essentially a pillow to help support smaller babies. Additionally, it has a no-rethread harness, an easy to remove and wash cover, and fabric that helps wick away moisture to keep baby dry and happy.
- Minimum weight: 4 pounds
- Body Support: Yes – infant insert to be used 4-22 pounds
- Lowest Harness Position: 5 inches (with Tiny Fit)
- Expiration: 10 years
The only real downfall with this seat – although it is a big one in my opinion – is that you won’t be able to carry your newborn around in it. At 23 pounds, this seat is definitely too heavy to be moving around often at all.
Best Infant Bucket Seats for Preemies
Graco Snugride Click Connect 35 LX Infant Car Seat
The Graco Snugride Click Connect 35 LX infant car seat has a nice wide range of weights and heights. This should definitely last you until at least baby’s first birthday. It has a no-rethread harness, 2 crotch buckle positions, and a nice big canopy to help keep your little one protected from the sun. The 35 LX includes a nice infant insert, but it can only be used up to 12 pounds. It also has an easy to read bubble level to help ensure the correct angle. The handle can be in any position when installed in the car, and at just 7.5 pounds, it is very easy to carry along.
- Minimum weight: 4 pounds
- Body Support: Yes – infant insert to be used 4-12 pounds
- Lowest Harness Position: 5 inches
- Expiration: 7 years
Another Color Option for the Snugride
Less expensive option
Cosco Light N Comfy DX
The Cosco Light N Comfy DX is one of the least expensive options when it comes to a car seat for a preemie. At just 9 pounds, this is among the lightest infant bucket seats you will come across. Unfortunately, not all of the models come with an infant insert, so make sure to choose a model that does come with the insert for added preemie protection. The Light N Comfy DX also has 3 crotch buckle positions – many car seats have just 2. This allows for a more snug fit for smaller babies. This seat also has a relatively low high weight limit, at just 22 pounds, and low height limit at 29 inches. This may leave you needing to switch to a convertible seat sooner than you’d like.
- Minimum weight: 4 pounds
- Body Support: Yes – infant insert included on some models
- Lowest Harness Position: 5.25 inches
- Expiration: 8 years
Ease of Use Ratings
Although safety should always be a leading concern when it comes to our children, you shouldn’t obsess about the safety differences between car seat brands. They are required to pass strict federal safety tests before being sold in the US market.
However, getting the installation or usage of a car seat wrong can introduce safety issues. That is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues ease of use ratings (see below) for each car seat. The easier to use and the clearer the instructions, the more likely your child is to be buckled up properly every time.
The Snugride ClickConnect 35 LX R received 4 stars in the rear-facing category.
The summary rating for the Maxi Cosi Pria 70 in forward-facing mode is 3 stars.
If you have your heart set on a convertible car seat, I definitely recommend the Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible seat with Tiny Fit. This is the best convertible seat on the market for a premature baby because of the added infant support, low harness height, and minimum weight requirements. Maxi Cosi really thought about tiny babies in making this, so you can rest assured that your little one will fit comfortably in the Pria 70. It is heavy though, so it’s not a seat you’ll be able to carry your baby around in outside of the car.
If you are opting for a bucket seat because of the ease of use, my overall choice is the Graco Snugride Click Connect 35 LX infant seat. I chose this seat because it hits all of the necessities for premature babies: low harness height, minimum weight of 4 pounds, and includes an infant insert. But on top of this, it has some nice added features, such as a no-rethread harness, and a handle that can be left in any position. Really the only downfall to this seat is that it is a little expensive. There are cheaper options out there, just with fewer features.
Want more? Click the link for more infant car seat reviews for preemies.