Preemies need extra care, so choosing a car seat for them is a pretty big deal. Low-weight babies have undeveloped airways which makes them susceptible to breathing difficulties.
So you got to be extra cautious about the recline angle of the car seat.
You might know what car seats do and how to install them but that’s just barely scratching the surface. Finding a safe transportation for a premature baby takes a lot more research.
That’s why along with detailed reviews, I’ve also attached a handy guide towards the end to help you make the right decision.
In this round-up of the best car seats for preemies, you will find models offering lie-flat position to ensure easy breathing for your preemie. Most of them are rated for 4-35 lbs but there are a few exceptions too.
So without further ado, let’s explore some of the safest and reasonably priced preemie-friendly car seat options out there:
10 Best Car Seats for Preemies-2022 Reviews
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- 1.Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat
- 2.BRITAX B-Safe Ultra Infant Car Seat
- 3.Safety 1st onboard 35 LT Infant Car Seat
- 4.Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat
- 5.UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat
- 6.Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat
- 7.Primo Viaggio 4/35 Car Seat
- 8.Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat
- 9.Disney Baby Minnie Mouse Light ‘n Comfy Car Seat
- 10.Cosco Light N Comfy DX Infant Car Seat
- Car Seat Safety For Preemies- Things You Ought to Know
- What to Look for When Buying a Car Seat for a Preemie?
- Closing Thoughts
1.Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat
SnugRock is everything a parent should be looking for in a car seat made for premature babies. It’s a rear-facing model which is the safest form of car seats for babies who can’t handle sitting in a semi-recline position.
In the event of an accident when you crash into another vehicle, the hard steel frame of the car seat will protect your baby’s neck and head from the impact. On your worst driving days, this car seat can actually save the life of your little ball of joy, hence it rightfully deserves the top position on this list.
Moving on to the specifics, its Safe Adjust Harness System allows you to adjust both the harness and headrest without re-threading. Learning how to adjust it swiftly might take some getting used to. Sadly, the headrest isn’t removable but the cushion is.
Both the fabric and padding are of excellent quality and easily washable. The carrier is compatible with most Graco strollers and the single-handed Latch system is a clear winner for me. It lets you click in and out of the base by simply pushing the red button on the handle.
Granted, the button is a bit hard to push but it’s really nothing compared to the convenience it delivers. The seat itself is pretty spacious and will allow your infant plenty of room to grow. I loved the size and material of the canopy as well.
It goes all the way down to block the sun completely. Moreover, it has a mesh panel on it, which not only maintains optimal air circulation inside the hood but also lets you keep an eye on your baby. The only real downside of the car seat is the weight.
It’s noticeably heavier than standard car seats. Other than that, it’s a dream car seat for every parent who is about to take a preemie home.
2.BRITAX B-Safe Ultra Infant Car Seat
The B-Safe 35 Ultra model comes with an easily adjustable 2-position harness which ensures a snug fit. By snug, I mean it leaves exactly a 1-finger gap between the strap and the infant.
The height can be adjusted to 6 positions, ranging from fully upright to lie-flat position, making the transition from a preemie to a healthy one-year-old as smooth as it could be.
The car seat has built-in adapters for fuss-free attachment with Britax B-Free, B-Agile, B-Ready, B-Mobile Strollers. For other brands of single and dual strollers, you will have to purchase adapters separately.
As long as the stroller is compatible with this model, the seat will click in and out of the bass in a jiffy. Build quality-wise, this is decidedly one of the best infant car seats you can buy for your preemie.
The impact-stabilizing steel frame would make the perfect safety cocoon for your tiny baby. You will receive a well-padded infant insert for added comfort. Even without the insert (which you have to remove once the baby weighs 11 lbs), the seat has lots of padding and ample head support.
Moreover, it’s one of the easiest to install car seats on this list. I’ll knock off one point only for the fabric length. It’s acceptably breathable and easy to clean but doesn’t stretch all the way, making it difficult to tuck in.
3.Safety 1st onboard 35 LT Infant Car Seat
If you are prioritizing the weight of the car seat, Safety 1st would be a good choice as it’s one of the most lightweight options on this list. However, don’t equate its lack of heft with poor construction quality.
Its body is made from robust polypropylene, which delivers a fail-safe shock protection without making the seat too heavy. The straps have metal tongues and the seat pads are made from polyester blend to keep the price in check.
Anyone can single-handedly put the car seat together in a couple of minutes.
It’s really impressive how none of the cost-cutting decisions affect the safety and comfort of the seater. The seat is lined with thick and fluffy padding combined with an adequately padded headrest.
For optimal safety, the chest strap buckle rests right at the center of the chest, maintaining enough distance from the infant’s neck to avoid breathing difficulty.
You can swiftly change the height of the straps at the front by the infant’s feet with a single pull. The box includes pillow inserts for the head and body for extra support and stability.
Is there anything wrong with the product?
The car seat itself is fine but the extra-base that comes with it is kind of flimsy. No matter how tightly you attach the seat to the base, it doesn’t securely lock in place. Ditch the base if it doesn’t feel tight enough. You can safely fit the seat in your car without the base.
4.Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat
It will be stupid to talk about the most reliable car seats for small babies and leave Chicco KeyFit out of the equation. You can tell from the first glance that the manufacturer has put a lot of thought into the design.
The seat quietly clicks and out of the base, meaning you won’t have to wake up your sleeping baby when moving the car seat. Its SuperCinch tightener ensures a secure fool-proof, secure fit to the base.
The stunning base and easy assembly are complemented by soft, plushy fabric and cushioning. Hands down, it’s one of the most comfortable car seats ever made. The fabric is thick, highly breathable, and soft to the touch. It will keep your bundle of joy snuggled up throughout the trip.
Removing, cleaning, and putting it back is as effortless as it can possibly get. Another feature worth appreciating is the easy-to-read bubble indicators that let you position the seat at an ideal breathing position for your preemie.
The ReclineSure leveling foot reduces the risk of breathing problem by allowing your baby to lie at a fully flat position. I also loved how lucidly the manual explains different ways to position the seat.
Despite being one of the safest car seats for traveling with a premature infant, the product isn’t free of shortcomings. The car seat is undoubtedly heavy and the canopy quality isn’t up to the mark. It can’t be opened and closed smoothly or pulled all the way up.
5.UPPAbaby MESA Infant Car Seat
When it comes to the safest car seats for low-weight babies, very few brands come close to the quality Mesa seats offer. Compatible with Vista and Cruz strollers, installing and taking it in and out of the stroller is a piece of cake.
You can remove the seat from the stroller by simply clicking the button on the handle, which is exactly the kind of convenience you need while running quick errands.
The car seat has visual indicators as well to make sure you place the car seat into the base securely and accurately every single time.
If your vehicle’s passenger seat doesn’t have enough room for the base, you can just strap in the car seat with the seat belt of your vehicle without the base.
You can seamlessly adjust the length of the straps as your baby grows. There are even storage pockets for the strap buckles which would come in handy when you have to lengthen the straps.
The car seat gets a perfect score in the comfort department as well. The padded headrest, thick cushion, and infant insert create a cushy sleeping pad for your baby.
A lot of babies get very sweaty and uncomfortable in their car seats but not in this one, despite all the thick layers of cushion. The moisture-wicking fabric feels soft and solid to the touch. It can be easily tossed into the washing machine to get rid of blowouts and spit-ups.
In short, both the construction quality and design of the car are top-notch. However, the canopy design has some room for improvement. It needs to be larger and go all the way back for proper sun protection. People of average build will also find the car seat a bit on the heavier side.
6.Evenflo LiteMax 35 Infant Car Seat
Thoughtfully engineered to provide adequate support and comfort to a preemie, the base that comes with this car is absolutely top-notch.
It’s specially designed to securely fit and get in and out of all types of cars. The hooks on the base are meant to be installed into the metal latch rings for your car for extra secure installation.
The built-in pendulum level indicators let you position the seat at the safest angle according to the weight of your baby. I loved the addition of small pockets on the sides that’ll keep the seat belt clips out of the baby’s way.
The harness offers two length settings with the smallest setting providing a perfectly snug fit for a preemie. It’s one of the lightest car seats on this list and the seat itself is a bit on the narrower side.
That’s not a big deal since the infant is primarily designed for skinny, underweight babies. The fabric on the seat is soft and easily removable for cleaning purpose. I’d have to say that both the padding quality and thickness makes it one of the best car seats for your preemies on a limited budget.
Honestly, I was expecting thin, hard cushions, considering the car seat is on the lower end of the budget scale. The downside would be the canopy. Pulling it up and down isn’t as smooth as it should be. Plus, it feels kind of flimsy and may break easily if you aren’t careful enough.
7.Primo Viaggio 4/35 Car Seat
This brand crafts some of the best car seats a preemie can ever have. Its ultra-soft dual-stage cushion system can make the fussiest babies fall asleep. It comes with thick infant inserts as well for added comfort.
The upholstery fabric is the finest of its kind and keeps the baby cool and comfy even on the hottest days. Plus, no re-threading needed to adjust the straps as your baby grows.
The manufacturers have clearly paid a great deal of attention to the safety features of the car seat.
Its shell feels phenomenally sturdy. If you are anxious out of your mind about driving with your baby, know that this car seat can absorb a tremendous amount of shock and impact in the event of an accident.
The handle, when pushed forward to reach the car seat belts, doubles up as an anti-rebound bar to minimize rotation in the event of a collision. All car seats in Europe and Canada will have to feature an anti-rebound bar to pass the safety test.
Additionally, you can adjust the side impact protection in 6 different positions and easily ensure the most secure fit. To relieve pressure off our newborn’s underdeveloped airway, the car seat has tri-zone level indicators.
This will help you accurately recline the seat to the safest breathing position for your kid. Brownie points for color-coding the belt path which would allow for easy belt routing when you want to install the seat in your car without the base.
The only thing I didn’t like was the size of the carrying handle. It needs to be bigger. When the canopy is all the way down, it leaves a very little gap for you to properly grab the carrying handles.
8.Graco 4Ever DLX 4 in 1 Car Seat
One of the most popular and trusted infant car seats ever made, Graco 4Ever has redefined infant safety for its competitor brands. The DLX 4 is a convertible 4-1 car seat that’ll grow with your baby.
It can seamlessly transition from a nifty rear-facing car seat for a delicate 4 lbs baby to a backless booster seat that can handle up to 120 pounds.
Its Latch attachment system would be a gift from heaven for anxious parents who need complete assurance for secure installation. The latch system will make a loud click sound to let you know that the seat is correctly attached to the base.
Secure harness, high-quality fabric, and snuggly cushion aside, what truly makes Graco 4Ever worth all the hype is the Side Impact Protection. There are several customer testimonies about how the True Shield has saved the life of the baby during a fatal accident.
It’s quite a big car seat, so as your preemie grows into a healthy, chubby baby, it will still have enough room for him to unwind and chill. The only thing I didn’t like was the recline system.
Even when set on position 1 rear-facing, it doesn’t recline as much as most car seats. Also, accessing the recline settings is a pain since the seat is very big. You might have to take the car seat out to make the necessary adjustments.
9.Disney Baby Minnie Mouse Light ‘n Comfy Car Seat
Apart from adorable aesthetics and an attractive price tag, several other good things are going for it. Designed to accommodate infants from 4-22 lbs, the car seat comes with a secure 5-point harness system to keep the baby safely put.
The seat is built like a tank to protect your kid from huge impact during accidents, which is the whole point of buying a car seat. The harness adjustment might feel a little confusing at first but the instructions are pretty straightforward.
So it will get easier after a couple of trials and errors. I loved the soft and cushy cover can be extended to the feet to keep your bub warm in cold weather. Installing the car seat both with and without the base is a cinch as long as you follow the manual carefully.
I loved how it allows you to adjust the seat belt in multiple positions to keep up with an infant’s rapid growth. The sunshade is also nice and sturdy. It’s not the best but you can’t beat the price.
Having said that, I strongly feel the seat could use some more pad. So make sure to use an infant insert to make up for the lack of thick padding.
10.Cosco Light N Comfy DX Infant Car Seat
Summing up my list of the best car seats for preemies with another lightweight and economical option. Cosco is a fine specimen of a no-nonsense car seat that prioritizes safety and comfort above all else. Isn’t that kind of the whole point?
The rear-facing car seat can accommodate babies weighing between 4-22 lbs and is a bit on the skinnier side. That’s okay because premature babies don’t really need a lot of room.
The cozy and amply padded seat will snuggle up to your bub and help him fall asleep easily during a road trip as well as on flight. This model is certified for aircraft use, so if you really have to catch a flight with a preemie, this could be an option.
Its base comes with a stupendously awesome latch system that keeps it securely installed in your vehicle. All you have to do is click the car seat in and out and be on your way. Carrying the carrier with one hand would be a cakewalk due to its ultra-lightweight build.
And when there’s a blowout situation, you can just remove the seat padding and let your washing machine do the rest. The canopy on this, however, is a disappointment. It’s easily retractable which is great but the cover is too thin to provide solid protection from the sun.
Car Seat Safety For Preemies- Things You Ought to Know
The American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP has mandated a car seat test for premature babies. To perform the test, the baby would be strapped in the car seat for 90-120 minutes.
During this period, the observer will monitor the baby’s heart rate and breathing pattern. If the newborn shows any signs of oxygen desaturation, low or rapid heart rate, or difficulty in breathing, you will be advised to take him home in a car bed.
Mind you that you won’t be allowed to travel with a preemie until he passes the car seat test.
And to make sure the car seat doesn’t affect the infant’s heart rate or breathing in any way, here are a few things you need to follow:
- Give the kid at least an hour after past feeding time before putting him in the car seat. This would help avoid acid reflux which might be triggered from indigestion.
- Read the instruction manual carefully to figure out how the car seat works. Recline it as far back as you can to minimize the pressure on the infant’s airways.
- Make sure the chest strap clips are right at the center of this chest, on the same level as his armpits. It shouldn’t be very close to the neck region at any cost.
- Buckle up and ensure a snug fit. An easy way to find out if there is a slack in the shoulder area is to slide a finger under it. If it’s snug enough, you won’t be able to fit more than one finger under the harness.
- Only use the infant insert that comes with the car seat.
- Avoid placing thick padding behind or under the baby. It could loosen up the straps which could cause a huge safety risk.
Watch this video to find out more about car seat safety test and risk management for babies:
What to Look for When Buying a Car Seat for a Preemie?
Buying a car seat is a big challenge in itself. You will have to double down on your effort if the baby is born before 37 weeks and weighs below 5 pounds. Below, I have listed off and briefly explained the key attributes of the best car seats for preemies:
1.Lowest Harness Setting
A 5-point harness system is touted as the safest for of harness system for newborns. However, be it a 3-point or a 5-point system, what you really need to focus on is the lowest position both the strap and the buckle can go.
Seats with the lowest shoulder harness level of 5-6 inches would be ideal for premature babies.
Many car seats for preemies come with a special no re-threading harness adjustment system. Your job is to make sure that the harness straps are always below the baby’s shoulder level.
So you will have to adjust the harness length as your baby grows to maintain the safe strap position. A no re-threading harness system lets you make the adjustments without having to go through the hassle of re-feed the straps through the next slot.
Most infant car seats are designed to accommodate babies from 5 lbs. Since preemies are released from the hospital only after they weigh 4 pounds, you have to make sure the minimum weight requirement of your car seat is also 4 pounds, not more.
Premature babies are almost poetically fragile, so they need to be handled very carefully. Instead of going for an infant seat that only provides cushioning in the head area, choose a model that provides full-body support.
Since newborns have no head control, a quality infant insert or head positioner will keep your baby’s head stay back with the recline, therefore preventing it from flopping forward.
So that brings us to the very end of this discussion on the best car seats for preemies.
Even though each model featured here was picked after some serious thoughts, Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 would be my top pick. It hits that sweet spot between functionality and reasonable pricing with the added advantage of headache-free installation.
My key takeaways? Taking care of a newborn who arrived sooner than it was supposed to can feel overwhelming at first. Trust me, I know.
Having a car seat specially designed for your special baby will give you the peace of mind you so badly crave right now. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to seat the car seat, always be alert, and think on your feet. That’s premature baby parenting 101 for you, ladies and gentlemen.