Choosing the safest car seat can be confusing at the best of times, but when you are already overwhelmed with medical concerns and finding other supplies for a premature infant, it can be truly daunting. 

A preemie’s small size makes it difficult to find a car seat that will hold them snugly and securely. A car seat for a preemie must have straps that adjust down to the infant’s small size. The best choices will adjust not only in the shoulder but in the crotch strap also.

Because many premature infants have breathing problems, they need to lay as flat as possible in order to help maintain an open airway. Some car seats come with positioning aids to help manage the fit for, especially small infants. 

While your new baby is in the hospital, the staff may conduct a car seat tolerance test to see how well your child can tolerate riding in a car seat. This test is recommended for infants born before 37 weeks and weighing under 5 pounds.

We have tested and examined car seats that are right for preemies and compiled a list of the best five choices.

Since the needs of a preemie are so specific, a car seat that is specifically for infants is ideal. Through our testing, we found that the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 is the best choice for premature infants. It is rated for a child who weighs 4-35 pounds and is up to 32 inches in height. This seat is rear-facing only, though since preemies tend to grow more slowly than full-term infants, your child should be able to use this seat for at least 2 years.

Image
Product
BEST OVERALL PICK
A leading, well respected brand you can count on
Ample weight range to support a preemie for multiple years
Strong safety profile, with added shock absorbing material
EASIEST TO INSTALL
Quiet in and out from the base keeps baby sleeping
Lightweight for portability
Various models and color options
BEST ALL-IN-ONE
The last car seat you’ll need to buy!
Goes from rear-facing to front facing, high back booster, and backless booster
Rigorously tested in safety labs to great results
BEST VALUE
A cheaper all-in-one option than the Graco model
Does not include a backless booster option
For children 5 pounds and up
BEST TRAVEL COMBO
Comes with a Pathway stroller that’s perfectly compatible with the car seat
Allows for LATCH and seat belt installation method
FAA approved for traveling families

Continue reading for detailed descriptions and parent’s experiences on our top 5 car seat choices for preemies under 5 pounds to ease your worries and simplify your choices.

NameWeight LimitHeight LimitMode
Graco SnugRide SnugLock 354-35 pounds32 inchesRear-facing only
Chicco KeyFit 304-30 pounds30 inchesRear-facing only
Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-14-120 poundsUp to 57 inchesRear-facing, Forward-facing, Highback booster, Backless booster
Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One5-100 poundsUp to 52 inchesRear-facing, Forward-facing, Highback booster
Britax B-Safe 35 Elite4-35 pounds32 inchesRear-facing only

5 Best Seats for Preemies

Now that we’ve given you the skinny on choosing a seat for your preemie, let’s go over the best car seats on the market for your early arrival. For this list, we’ve chosen three infant car seats and two convertible/all-in-one options.

Personally, we believe infant car seats are the best option for preemies. However, the all-in-one car seats we’ve included in this list are safe options for parents who want to make one investment rather than multiple.

Pick #1: Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Elite Best Car Seat for Premature Babies

What We Like
A wide weight range from 4 to 35 pounds
Four recline positions so your preemie is in the ideal position
Strong safety profile with added impact absorbing foam
What We Dislike
Provided padding could be better
Carry handle can “stick” a bit which was slightly annoying

This seat made the top of our list for a few reasons. We love this one because it has a wider weight range than many other infant seats. It will accommodate your little one from 4-35 pounds and up to 32 inches tall. While this is a pricier seat, it’s likely to last a while, especially since they may grow a bit slower than other babies.

The SnugRide comes with Graco’s Click Connect technology, making it compatible with all Graco Click Connect strollers. This means you won’t need to buy a separate adapter for the stroller.

The seat can be installed via the belt path or LATCH method and uses SnugLock technology for easy installation. All you need to do with the SnugLock is push down to lock the base in place. The base comes with four different recline positions and an easy-to-read indicator to help make installing the seat easier.

Along with these features, the SnugRide also has removable infant cushions, storage compartments for the LATCH connectors, an easy-to-adjust harness, and a rotating canopy to protect your baby from the elements.

This infant seat has gone through rigorous crash and safety testing and has meet/exceeded all federal safety standards. The seat’s shell is lined with EPS energy-absorbing foam as well.

The SnugRide SnugLock 35 can be used for 7 years after the date of manufacture.

Pick #2: Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat – Easy to Install

What We Like
Easiest installation of the infant seats we checked out
Very quiet clicking sound when removing seat from base
Several colors and models to choose from based on your preferences
Lightweight
What We Dislike
Neck strap fabric can be a tad uncomfortable for baby
Fabric warmed easily, and could be uncomfortable in hotter conditions

Easy installation is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a car seat for a preemie, if not for safety then for your own sanity. That’s the main reason this one made our list.

For example, the clicking sound when removing it from the base is quiet so you won’t wake your baby if they’re napping.

It comes equipped with the ReclineSure leveling foot, RideRight bubble level indicators, and the SuperCinch LATCH tightener. KeyFit seat will accommodate babies from 4-30 pounds and 30 inches tall.

It’s also available in three different models to cater to your specific needs: the KeyFit, KeyFit Zip, and KeyFit Zip Air. The main difference between the three is that the Zip comes with zippable fabric for easy washing and the Zip Air has a breathable backrest.

This seat is designed to be compatible with any Chicco brand stroller without the need for an external adapter. Keyfit 30 also comes in several different colors so you’re sure to find one that fits your family’s style.

Along with these features, the KeyFit seats also come with a two-position carrying handle with comfort grip, removable cushion inserts, and a foldable sun canopy.

The only downsides to this one are mostly with comfort. The neck-straps have been known to irritate the neck and unless you choose the ZipAir, the fabric gets warm easily which makes for a sweaty babe. Along with this, the carry handle takes a little getting used to when disconnecting the seat from the base when in the car. Not deal breakers by any means, but something to consider.

The KeyFit 30 can be used for six years from the date of manufacture.


Pick #3: Graco 4Ever DLX 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat – Best All-In-One 

What We Like
Intensely safety tested and far exceeded federal standards
Use from preemie until 10 years old
Great padding to keep your preemie nice an snug
What We Dislike
Most expensive option for families on a budget
Harness loosens up over time

We chose this Graco seat specifically because it’s a true all-in-one seat.

It can be used in rear-facing mode from 4-40 pounds, forward-facing from 22-65 pounds, belt-positioning from 40-100 pounds, and backless from 40-120 pounds.

Graco 4Ever DLX

It comes with an integrated belt lock-off for easy belt installation, convenient harness storage to keep the buckles from getting too hot, and a RapidRemove button cover for easy washing. The headrest also has 10 different height positions.

This Graco seat comes equipped with the SimplySafe harness adjust system, plush head and body inserts, in right LATCH, and a 6 position recline to ensure the perfect position.

It also comes with two integrated cup holders and the seat’s shell is ProtectPlus engineered for added safety. ProtectPlus engineering consists of roll-ver, extreme temperature, front, side, and rear-impact testing. The seat is tested 2x the federal safety standard.

The seat can be used for up to ten years after the date of manufacture.

What We Like

We like this one because it can be used in all four car seat modes and has gone through two times the required safety testing. It’s extremely adaptable to your child’s size and is easy to wash as well.

What We Don’t Like

This is a great all around seat, but it’s also on the higher end of the price range as well. The main concern we’ve found with parents is that the harness has a tendency to loosen on its own over time.


Pick #4: Safety 1st Grow and Go All-In-One – Best Value  

What We Like
Good value relative to other convertible seat options
Solid side impact protection
Easy to remove cover and removable cupholders you can throw in the dishwasher
What We Dislike
Not the easiest to install if you’ll be moving it a lot
Starts at 5 pounds, one pound more than competing models

If you’re looking for a great value, that’s why this convertible seat made it on our list.

The additional expenses of having a preemie can certainly add up. If you’re looking for a good seat, at a great price, that you can use for a long time, this may be for you.

The Grow And Go is designed to grow with your child from infancy up to age 10. You can rear-face this seat from 5-40 pounds, forward-face from 22-65 pounds, and use the belt-positioning booster from 40-100 pounds.

The seat has three recline positions, uses the QuickFit harness adjust system, and is narrowly designed to offer more front-seat space for parents.

In terms of safety, this seat contains reliable (and very comfortable) side impact protection that help it exceed all federal safety standards.

The seat’s fabric is removable and can be machine-washed. It is dryer safe as well on the low heat setting. Along with this, it has two soft-touch cupholders that you can throw in the dishwasher and harness holders to make getting in and out of the seat easier as your little one grows.

This seat can be used for up to 10 years after the date of manufacture.

What We Like

We love this option because not only is it a one-time purchase, but it allows rear-facing mode up to 40 pounds. The seat is also easy to clean and comes equipped with very cushy side-impact protection.

What We Don’t Like

The only issues we’ve found while researching this one are mostly based on convenience. The belt path for seat belt installation is very narrow, so it isn’t ideal for anyone with big hands. Parents have also complained that the seat is tricky to install/uninstall.


Pick #5: Britax B-Safe 35 with Stroller Best Car Seat and Stroller Combo

What We Like
Includes a lightweight and reliable Pathway stroller
Accommodates baby up until 35 pounds
Several color options
What We Dislike
Higher price range
Fabric wears over time

You just spent more time than any parent wants to in the hospital with your precious preemie. When you finally get home you’ll certainly want to get outdoors!

That’s why we’ve added this great car seat and stroller combo from Britax to our lineup. The included Pathway stroller performs great for what you’ll need in those first years, and we absolutely LOVE the B-Safe car seat.

First and foremost, we love the B-Safe 35 Elite for its commitment to safety. It comes equipped with Britax’s patented SafeCell impact protection, an impact-absorbing base, and a steel frame.

Britax B-Safe 35 Elite Infant Seat

Along with that, it’s relatively easy to install and uses SafeCenter LATCH technology to get the job done. To use the SafeCenter LATCH technology, simply connect the connectors to the vehicle anchors and pull on the tightening strap until secure.

This seat also has a spring-assisted recline to find the best angle position, auto-level indicators, and built-in belt lock-offs as well. It has a Click-and-Go system which makes it easy to get in and out of the included stroller. 

There’s a removable head pad, an extra-large canopy for sunshade, and padding on all five harness straps for added comfort.

The B-Safe 35 will accommodate from 4-35 pounds and up to 32 inches in height. It can be used up to 6 years after the date of manufacture.

What We Like

While we mostly chose this seat for its excellent safety features, it’s also great for comfort and style too. The seat comes with added padding and it has several different colors available to choose from. It also accommodates up to 35 pounds, which means it will last with your little one too.

What We Don’t Like

Parents have expressed concern over the weight of the seat and the durability of the seat’s fabric (or lack thereof). The fabric has been known to come undone easily. This seat is also on the higher end of the price range, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.


Buyers’ Guide

Price

Whether you’re on a tight budget or you want to go all out, there are seats available at every price point. If you want to make a one-time purchase, a convertible seat is the best option for you.

However, even though they will ultimately cost less in the long run, you will pay more upfront for the seat.

Weight Restrictions

Because we’re dealing with preemies here, you’re going to want a seat with a lower minimum weight allowance. Many seats currently on the market offer a minimum requirement of as low as four pounds.

Most hospitals won’t even let your little one be discharged until they’ve reached five pounds anyway, but the lower weight allowance is more accommodating.

Durability

Of course, you’ll also want a seat that is structurally sound. After all, it’s going to be transporting the most precious cargo.

When shopping around, take note of what the seat base and the skeleton of the seat is made of. The type of foam in the shell, the base composition, and the cushion material all play a part in this.

Special Features

It’s also worth checking if there are any special features specific to a seat. Is there extra cushioning for infants? How many recline positions are there? These features along with many others can make the seat a top-notch option for your kiddo.

Infant Vs. Convertible for Babies

The first choice you’ll need to make is whether you want to purchase an infant seat first or go right for a convertible option. Infant seats used to be the norm amongst the preemie world. However, convertible seats have come a long way and offer most of the same (if not more) safety features for infants and beyond.

Graco snugride snuglock 35 elite

In terms of safety, there isn’t much difference between an infant or convertible seat. The only concern in this department is the minimum weight allowance. Aside from this, here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding between the two:

Base shape

Infant car seats typically have a smaller base shape than convertible seats. This makes it more convenient for cars with narrow vehicle seats to get a correct install. However, there are certain convertible seats that are “slim fit” designed.

Convenience

For families with multiple vehicles, infant car seats tend to be easier to transport between cars. The base is separate from the seat, making it lighter and easier to uninstall/reinstall

Installation

The level of difficulty when installing can also play a big factor in the seat you decide on. As important as safety is, your sanity is up there too. While infant car seats tend to be easier to install, there are convertible seats out there that simplify the installation process.

Longevity

If you want something that will last a long time, a convertible seat may be the better option. They’re made to grow with your child and many have lower minimum weight requirements which make them safe for preemies too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do preemies need a special car seat?

Not necessarily. Infants aren’t typically released from the hospital until they reach at least 5 pounds. Because of this, any regular car seat will work so long as your baby fits the minimum weight requirements.

In very special cases, the hospital may require you to use a preemie bed to transport home. These aren’t typically sold on the market so the hospital will provide you with one if that’s the case.

How do you put a preemie in a car seat?

Putting a preemie in their car seat is the same process as a full-term baby. You will, however, want to take extra care when setting them in to protect their delicate body.

What is a preemie car bed?

A preemie car bed is basically a portable bassinet for the car. Your baby is strapped in flat on their back and they ride home that way. Preemie car beds are typically used for preemies born with specific issues.

What is the preemie car seat test?

The preemie car seat test is required before being discharged from the hospital. Basically, you have your baby sit in their car seat for an extended amount of time (usually 30 minutes). If your little one sits in their seat without any issue for that amount of time, they have passed and can go home.

If your baby doesn’t pass, they may be taken out of the seat and tested again at a later time. A second test is typically done for an hour rather than thirty minutes.

When are preemies allowed to be discharged from the hospital?

Preemie babies can be discharged from the hospital when they reach five pounds, can eat from a bottle, and have had acceptable urine and feces output.

No Hassle For Durable and Safe Preemie Seat

Choosing a preemie car seat doesn’t have to be stressful. Making a mental (or physical) note of a seat’s price, safety features, durability, and weight restrictions is enough to help you make the most informed decision possible.

We highly recommend the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 because of its special safety technology. However, if that seat isn’t your jam, the other four seats we’ve recommended have a lot to offer too.

Author

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren

Write A Comment