When you are having twins, you have to invest in a lot of "stuff" for your babies -- two cribs, two high chairs, a double stroller. But there’s one particularly crucial piece of equipment that you’ll have to buy for each baby. In fact, you won’t even be able to get home from the hospital without it! Mandated by law, car seats provide protection to infants and young children in the event of a vehicle crash. Although the laws on car seat usage can vary, the bottom line is that your multiples are going to require one for the next few years.
The process of selecting car seats can be confusing. Infant seats, convertible seats, combination seats, booster seats ... unfortunately, it is likely that you are going to have to purchase a couple of different products to accommodate your multiples as they grow. Although laws vary by state, the current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatricians is that babies should ride in rear-facing seats until they are two years old, or or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. After that, they should transition to a front-facing seat with a harness, and then to a booster seat. The AAP recommends use of a booster seat until a child reaches a height of 4 feet, 9 inches, generally between the ages of eight and twelve years old.
Many parents of twins prefer the convenience of an infant seat for their babies; these products feature carrying handles that make it easier to transport babies in and out of the car. Generally, these seats can only be used in the rear-facing position, so another product will have to serve for older babies and toddlers after their transition to a forward-facing position. Visit the About.com Guide to Baby Products for a comprehensive and informative review of the different types and styles of car seats, and to help you make a decision about the best product for your multiples.
However, before you buy car seats for your twins, here are five questions you should ask:
1) Car Seats for Twins: Will Both Seats Fit in My Car?
Seriously. Get out the measuring tape and confirm the dimensions of both your vehicle and the car seats before you make a purchase. Give some serious thought to how you will arrange the seats in your vehicle. Car seats must be installed in the back seat of a vehicle, never in the front seat. Will you position one seat behind the driver and one behind the passenger side? Or put two seats next to each other in the back seat? Do you have other children that require a safety seat? Is your back seat wide enough to accommodate everybody? How difficult is it to access the middle seat when you are putting babies in and out of the vehicle?
Many infant seats utilize a base that is installed in the seat and remains in the car, allowing the infant carrier to be secured while driving, then removed to carry the baby. Parents of multiples often prefer this style because it is the easiest way to carry two babies at the same time. Be sure to factor the dimensions of the bases as well as the seats themselves when evaluating a car seat purchase for twins.
2) Car Seats for Twins: Will These Seats Work With My Stroller?
A popular option for infants is a travel system - a combination of a stroller and an infant carrier that functions as a car seat. Travel systems are available in double configurations for twins, and many families recommend this option for the when their multiples are young, citing the ease of transporting babies from the house to the car to the stroller -- and back -- without having to negotiate them in and out of various pieces of equipment. However, before you buy a travel system for twins -- or a stroller frame for use with seats -- be sure to specifically confirm that the stroller can accommodate TWO car seat carriers. (Some models of double strollers are actually designed for use with one only one seat for children of different ages.) Secondly, confirm that your selected model of seat will work with your selected stroller. While some travel systems are sold as a package, including seats and a stroller, others are sold separately, and not all models work together.
3) Car Seats for Twins: Will These Seats Accommodate Smaller Babies?
The weight guidelines for car safety seats vary from product to product, and it is important to confirm the recommendations before making a purchase. Twins and multiples are more likely to be born prematurely and weigh less than singletons. Will your seat be safe for a small preemie? For example, the Graco SnugRide (compare prices) accommodates babies from four pounds up to thirty-five pounds. But the Britax Marathon (compare prices) is only recommended for babies weighing more than five pounds. Some products feature a removable insert so that smaller babies will fit securely in the seat. More than half of twins -- and the majority of triplets and higher order multiples -- are born weighing less than five and a half pounds, so consider this possibility before purchasing car seats for multiples.