This is Part One of a series of infant seat comparisons. Part Two will be a Chicco Keyfit 30 Overview. These are the most common infant seats I see at seat check events in my geographical area.
Since I lack a newborn baby, and very few have the patience to allow car seat shenanigans to take place for as long as one of my photo shoots usually do, I used my teaching doll. I take this doll with me to every car seat check or event to help demonstrate proper harness adjustment and fit etc. He was actually a gift to me from the organization I volunteer with as a thank you for my time. Perhaps at some point, I will show you how I carry him around at events. He is always rear facing.
Up first: The Graco SnugRide 22 (SR22) . An identical SnugRide 22, with the rear adjust harness can be purchased for around $80. For an extra $10, you can get the front adjust harness, which is absolutely worth that Andrew Jackson! More about that in just a moment. I’m personally not a big fan of the SR22 for a few reasons, which are demonstrated in the pictures and explained. I’m not sure what newborns they designed this seat around, but I certainly haven’t met them!
Here’s a pic of Baby Boy in the SR22. You can kind of see that the baby is swimming in the seat.
A closer view demonstrates that there is a 3.5″ gap between the baby’s crotch and the buckle. While this can be remedied with a tightly rolled washcloth shaped into a “U” around the crotch buckle strap, I’m not sure why Graco made the crotch depth so large in a seat made for newborns. I believe that the fewer modifications a parent has to make, the better. One could make the argument that my doll lacks a pelvis and a diaper and a real baby wouldn’t fit so poorly. I assure you that real newborns do not actually fit much better.
In normal daily driving, a real newborn would slide down until their bum met the webbing. This would leave their vulnerable spine completely unsupported by the seat. It could also cause breathing problems and reflux.
The seat has a 6″ crotch depth for a newborn!
Moving up the seat, you will notice that the lowest harness position is also not making contact with the baby. You may remember that for a rear facing seat, the harness must be AT OR BELOW the baby’s shoulders. Having the harness above the shoulders could allow the baby to ramp up the seatback in a collision before the harness stops him.
Again, one could say that my baby is a doll and a real newborn would fit better. Again, I would assure you that most do not. You can also see that the chest clip is touching the harness buckle (slid all the way down), and is very close to the baby’s neck. The buckle assembly and chest clip are HUGE!
The shell height measures 19″.And now the back of the seat. You can see the harness adjusters, which are the metal clips on the harness webbing. Especially with a newborn, when there isn’t much harness length being used, it can be easier to adjust the harness each time you use the seat. On the SR22, each side of the harness adjusts individually.
It can be tricky to get each side adjusted the same so the webbing lengths are identical.
But it has a nice useful 19″ sunshade!
Fairly well, but again, not particularly user friendly. If you happen to have LATCh in the seating position you intend on using, it works great. If you have a lapbelt, it works well. But if you have to install with a shoulder belt, it’s not user-friendly for the average parent. Which, if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you aren’t. You’re likely above average!
First, the level indicator is located only on one side of the seat itself. So when you install the base, you have to put it in, then click the seat onto the base to check the angle. If the angle is wrong, you have to take the seat out to reinstall the base, and so on and so forth.
With a lap-shoulder belt, it looks straight forward. Route it through just like the LATCH strap, buckle it and lock the belt, right?
Not so much. With that approach, you are likely to end up with a lopsided seat over time.
To fix that little issue, I usually recommend using the locking clip (LC) that comes with every car seat instead of locking the belt at the retractor. It must be within 1″ of the buckle and you ONLY use them on lap shoulder belts. I took some pictures to demonstrate how to put an LC on a seatbelt, but due to formatting issues,it will have to be a post of it’s very own. Another day…
Anyway, with the SnugRide 22 installed with the base, I measured about 16″ from the car seat “bight” to the vehicle seat back, which means there is 16″ of legroom for the baby. I measured 31″ from seatback to seatback with my driver’s seat where I normally have it to drive. It was just barely touching the back of the driver’s seat, but not bracing against it.
So, in short, I think that for someone who truly feels like they NEED an infant seat, this one is inexpensive and will do the job, though not particularly well for most babies. I did borrow one from my sister in law to use when I brought Little Man home. And I hated it. She used it for her younger son until I procured from a friend a front adjust SR20, which she used through it’s expiration date. I don’t recommend this seat unless a parent has a real need for an infant seat. I feel that there are convertibles for less money that will last a child longer and actually fit newborns better.