When to switch to a convertible car seat 

When you first put Baby in their infant seat, it probably seemed impossible that their little body would ever fill it out. However, unless you started with one, odds are you’ll have made the switch to a convertible car seat within the first year.

While some convertible seats can safely fit newborns, many parents opt first for an infant seat, which is easy to carry around, instead of keeping pretty stationary in the car. As time goes on, though, that seat that once had so much room for Baby to grow into will start to look much smaller, and will get a lot harder to carry!

It’s usually in the first year, that the time comes when Baby outgrows the infant seat, or you’re ready for a more stationary model. Luckily, there are a variety of convertible car seat options to fit your child, your car, and your budget.

When your child has outgrown the seat

All car seats have height and weight limits, and once Baby hits either limit, it’s time to make the switch. Most rear-facing-only infant seats have a weight limit of 22 to 40 pounds and a height limit of 29 to 37 inches, so once your little starts getting close to either of those points, it’s time to start looking around for their next car seat. If you’re unsure of your seat’s particular restrictions, review the manual.
Another sign Baby might need to move to a convertible seat comes when there’s less than one inch of space between the top of their head and the top of the seat.  This space is needed to ensure proper head and neck support.

What to look for in convertible seat

While you can’t put a price on safety, it’s important to note that there are convertible car seats available in every budget, and every seat that’s manufactured must pass the same safety tests. A more expensive seat does not equal a safer seat, so you’ll want to first determine your budget, then find a seat that meets your needs.
  • It’s a good fit for your vehicle: Some cars have more room, others have car seats for other children already installed.  When finding a new car seat, be sure it can be correctly installed in your vehicle, and will work with its size and any other seats that are already in place.
  • It’s a good fit for your child: If Baby is growing bigger or faster than a lot of their peers, it’s a good idea to seek out a seat with higher height and weight limits than others might have, so you won’t find yourself buying another in a couple of years.
  • It’s a good fit for caregivers: It’s important for Baby’s caregivers to completely understand how to install the seat every time, and that anyone who will be driving Baby around will be able to install and uninstall it easily, unless it’s a seat that’s going to stay in one place


Moving to a booster

Seat belts are designed to fit fully grown adults, and when Baby has outgrown the the car seat, they still won’t be fully grown. That’s why they will still need a booster seat to keep the seat belt positioned safely over their body. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends utilizing a 5-point harness until children outgrow it, so there’s no rush to move to a booster seat. However, if Baby is growing near the weight or height maximum of their seat and is behaviorally ready to ride in a booster, don’t worry that you are compromising their safety. There is currently no information that shows that a harness is safer than a properly installed booster seat for passengers who meet the size and behavioral criteria needed to ride in a booster.

  • “AAP Updates Recommendation on Car Seats.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, March 21 2011. Web.
  • “NHTSA Releases New Child Seat Guidelines.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation, March 21 2011. Web.
  • “Child Passenger Safety Laws.” Governors Highway Safety Association. Governors Highway Safety Association, August 2016. Web.
  • “Car safety seats for children: rear facing for best protection.” Injury Prevention. Volume 13. Issue 6. (2007): 398-402.

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