In the vast majority of cases, you will not be able to bring your baby home without proving to the hospital that you have a car seat and you know how to use it. A car seat is often one of the first expensive purchases that new parents make, but they are very important if you plan to ever put your child in a car.
They are so important, many localities and nonprofits have programs to help you get a car seat for free or at reduced cost. Fire departments and police stations have programs to teach you how to install your car seat and make sure your child is in the seat properly. You may remember a time when kids roamed free in cars, but putting your child in a car seat is no joke. Here are some places to check to help you get a car seat:
- This website, last updated in January 2020, lists resources by state of what the researcher was able to find in each state. It’s a good place to start!
- Your local hospital. Yes, they aren’t just heartless holding your baby hostage until you get a car seat. Many hospitals have programs that give out car seats or offer them for a reduced price.
- Safe Kids Worldwide. This international organization provides car seats and trains people on how to properly install them. Find your local partner here.
- Baby2Baby. This national organization provides for the needs of children in poverty, including but not limited to car seats. Find their list here.
- WIC and Medicaid. If you are on WIC or your child will be on Medicaid, you can get government assistance to get a car seat; just contact your WIC or Medicaid representative to find out how. Make sure, if this is the route for you, that you start the process well in advance.
- Your local pregnancy resource center. If you are in need, your local pregnancy resource center can be a good resource. They are dependent on donations, but when they have a car seat, they are happy to give it away.
Do not use a car seat past its expiration date.
Finally, we would advise not buying a used seat at all, unless you really, really trust the seller. You don’t know the history of the car seat, and you cannot guarantee that the car seat is made to the most current standards.
Car seats reduce the chances of a baby dying in a car accident by 71%, so there is a very good reason why they are so important. But in this case, important doesn’t need to mean expensive.
By Bethanie Ryan