What Vehicle Features Do You Need When You Have a Baby?

by Lori Straus

You’re expecting? How exciting! If it’s your first one, you’re probably spending a lot of time researching everything you need to do to make your baby happy and healthy. If it’s your second (or later!) one, you likely know the drill but still need to prepare. A baby, whether it’s your first one or your third one, requires change, including to the family vehicle. We’ll talk about car seats, when you may need to buy a new vehicle, and concerns about the different ways to keep your new family addition entertained.

Car Seats for Babies

No feature in a car is more important than the seating. First, make sure you have a tether system in place to strap in your car seat. If your car is old enough to not have one, the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario (MTO) says to have a tether system installed by your dealership.

Speaking from experience, an infant carrier is extremely handy when you have a baby: no matter if your baby falls asleep in the vehicle or the stroller, they stay strapped to the infant carrier while you transfer them. But once they outgrow it—which won’t take long—you’ll need to buy a proper car seat.

If budget is important to you, then consider a convertible car seat. (These may be called “3-in-1” seats.) They start at 1.8kg as a minimum weight and stay with your child until your child reaches 54 kg. These seats are rear-facing, front-facing, and booster seats all in one.

How Many Rows of Seats Do You Need?

The MTO says that although children under 13 are not required to sit in the back seat, they should because of the danger posed by air bags in the front. This is why children in car seats should never sit in the front seat. The airbag bursts out of its compartment at about 300 km/h, which can seriously injure a child.

In other words, if your baby is Child #4 and your other three are under the age of 12, give serious thought to purchasing a vehicle with a third row, for example, an SUV or a family van.

Boy Watching DVD in MinivanKeeping Babies Entertained

Newborns will likely usually sleep in the car, so you won’t have to worry about them too often. Once your baby requires a little less sleep though, you’ll have to find ways to keep them entertained. Babies are programmed to demand your attention, which can make driving difficult when there aren’t any other adults or older children in the car to help entertain the baby.

Children change as they grow, and you have to change with them. Start out with toys and just observe. If your baby is antsy and demands your attention frequently, that can really distract you from safely navigating a street filled with vehicles travelling at 60-120 kph. If you’re worried about screen time, do your best to set aside screen-free time once you reach your destination. If screen time is the only thing that entertains your baby so you can drive safely, then don’t feel guilty about installing a DVD player.

Plan Ahead

Even if you’ve already had a baby, laws and practices change. When I had my children, for example, we still placed our babies in their snowsuits into their car seats. That was only in the last decade. At least several months before your baby is due, ensure your car has all the features you need so your entire family stays safe. That may mean buying a new car, but it doesn’t have to. The same with in-car entertainment systems. If you use safety as your priority and filter, you’ll be able to easily navigate the features you need and the ones you want as you prepare for the new addition to your family.