Shopping for your baby’s first car seat is head spinning. The types! The styles! The cool colors, such as “blackberry,” “night” and “sand”! To save your sanity in the car seat aisle, here’s a smart and safety-minded shopping strategy I suggest that can narrow the field considerably: Choose an infant car seat with a load leg.
A load leg, a.k.a. a foot prop or stability leg, is a popular feature on European car seats and fortunately, it’s gaining ground in the U.S. too. If I were doing it all over again, I’d definitely checkout an infant car seat with a load leg.
What is a load leg?
A load leg is a steel-enforced rod that’s attached to the infant car seat base. It affixes the infant car seat base to the floor of your car. After you install the legged base, you kinda forget about it. But if you ever get into a crash, the load leg hunkers down.
It provides added stability in a front collision. In that type of crash, which is the most common, government safety standards allow an infant car seat to rotate downward up to 73 degrees. (Picture a rear-facing infant seat rocking forward, toward the back of a car’s front seat.) “But we really don’t want the car seat to move at all,” says Bob Wall, a car seat safety technician instructor and the global advocate for Wonderland Nuna, in Middletown, Virginia.
According to Nuna’s internal testing, a stability/load leg helps keep a car seat planted by distributing the force of a crash by up to 90 percent. Crash forces get diffused through the seat and the frame of your vehicle, to help keep the seat fixated, which protects your baby’s head and spinal cord from injury. “The less motion, the better for your child,” Wall says.
The safety back story: All car seats sold in the U.S. must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, which protects your child in the event of a front collision. U.S. car seats must provide this baseline of safety. Car seat manufacturers “self-certify” to meet FMVSS 213 by doing their own in-house testing. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts spot checks. They’ll buy brand new seats off store shelves and test them in their own facilities to make sure seats are compliant. Although there’s no U.S. federal safety standard for the load leg, car seats with a load leg are tested to meet FMVSS 213 with and without the load leg.
Infant Car Seats with Load Legs—Your Options
There are currently six infant car seats on the U.S. market with a load leg:
Nuna Pipa. It’s just 7.7 lbs without the base. It’s one of the lightest infant car seats on the market, which make toting around your tot a lot easier.
GB Idan (coming soon)
The Cybex Aton 2, Aton Q, Cloud Q (which reclines flat, turning the seat into a carrycot) and GB Idan infant car seats offer linear side-impact protection (L.S.P.) system. L.S.P. is designed to absorb more of the energy of a side-impact collision, which is less common than frontal collisions but often more deadly. The innovation is a small plastic wing on both sides of the car seat, which you’ll engage if your child’s car seat is installed in the outboard, by-the-door positon.
To activate the L.S.P. system, you’ll simply flip out the wing on the side of the car seat near the car door after clicking the car seat into its base. You don’t need the L.S.P. system if you install the car seat in the rear center seat, which is technically the safest seat in the house. The plastic wing transfers the energy of a side crash into the shell of the car seat so a baby isn’t jostled around so much. Cybex safety testing found the L.S.P. system increases safety by 40 percent in a side-impact collision.
Car Seat/Stroller Compatibility
Cybex car seats are compatible with the Cybex Balios M, Iris M-Air, Agis M-Air 3 and Agis M-Air 4 strollers as well as the GB Pockit+ and GB Maris strollers (the Pockit+ and Maris be on the market February/March 2017).
GB Idan will be compatiable with all Cybex strollers and the GB Maris stroller.
You can also use the Aton 2 as a travel system (car seat + stroller) using Maxi-Cosi adapters with these strollers: Baby Jogger City Mini, Baby Jogger City Mini Double, Baby Jogger City Select, Quinny Buzz and the Quinny Moodd and Stokke Xplory. The GB Asana35 is compatible with the Pockit+.
The GB Asana is compatiable with the GB Qbit+ stroller.
The Nuna Pipa car seat is compatible with 19 strollers, including:
Nuna Tavo (no adapters need).
Nuna IVVI; you’ll also need Nuna Ivvi car seat adapters or car seat ring. Good news! They come with the Nuna Mixx and the IVVI.
Nuna MIXX; you’ll also need a car seat adapters but they come with the Nuna MIXX.
UPPAbaby Vista 2015; you’ll need the UPPAbaby Vista/Cruz 2015 or later car seat adapter for (sold separately)
The Nuna PIPA is also compatible with each of these car seats with the Maxi-Cosi car seat adapter (sold separately):
UPPAbaby Cruz (2014 or earlier; discontinued by manufacturer)
UPPAbaby Vista 2014 (also on its way out)
Overall, there are lots of safe car seats on the market. If you decide to go the load-leg route, you’ll pay a premium for its added features. Put it on your baby registry. If you’re paying the tab yourself, watch for a sale. Bottom line: Consider an infant car seat with a load leg a good investment in your baby’s safety.
Latest update on the post: 1/19/2017