Babies are expensive, there's no doubt about it. From formula to breast pumps to diapers to cribs and car seats, they require a large amount of equipment that not everyone can afford for a variety of reasons. But while the federal assistance program Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is there to help those who can't afford formula, what are your options if you can't afford a car seat?
First, consider asking for assistance at your local doctor's office, hospital, or even police or fire station. You can ask for the social worker in the hospital who will likely be able to connect you with programs that can help you find a car seat, according to Car Seats for the Littles, a community driven, education oriented organization, staffed by Child Passenger Safety Technicians from the US and Canada, and EU Advocates. Some hospitals do provide car seats if you attend their prenatal classes, and the hospital social worker will be able to tell you about these classes if they are offered. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, some fire and police departments can provide you with a car seat if you complete a car seat safety program, too, so it's worth asking at your local station.
It's obviously important to secure a car seat prior to the arrival of your baby, so you have time to meet any requirements reduced cost and/or free car seat programs might have that you would need to familiarize yourself with. If your doctor or hospital knows that you are having trouble affording a car seat, they might be able to point you in the direction of someone who is getting rid of one or a program that provides new parents with car seats.
Another option is Safe Kids, a nationwide program that sometimes offers a car seats in exchange for taking their safety program. Look for the branch in your area to find out when they are holding this class next.
Families struggling to afford a safe car seat can also look for a local Facebook page for moms who are trading or selling baby items they no longer need for their children. You might be able to share your situation and help another mom find a good home for a car seat that still has a little life left before its expiration date.
So, why the need for a car seat anyway? Well, according to Kids Health, a well-known resource for information about babies and kids, you will need to be able to transport your baby safely from the hospital to your home, and the hospital will most likely not let you leave if you can't show that you have a car seat with a valid expiration date. Once you're home, you'll need to bring your baby to doctor's appointments and, unless you can walk everywhere or find public modes of transportation, you'll need a car seat to transport your child safely.
If you can't afford a car seat is it's vital that you think about who you can talk to about the problem. There isn't a federal program that provides car seats for parents who can't afford them, but there are other organizations that might be able to assist you in finding one for free, or at least at a price point that's significantly less expensive. Programs found in your local community might be able to help you find a car seat, but you'll need to ask for help.
And really, that's the most important thing you need to know when it comes to finding a safe car seat in order to ensure your baby's safety: it's OK to ask for help, and you need to start exploring options for finding a car seat that works for your baby, and your family budget, before you give birth to your baby. While it may seem a daunting task, most towns or cities will have programs made available to you and/or your partner, so you can get the assistance you need. You just need to do a little digging to find exactly what program is available nearest to you.
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