When we had our first child, my father-in-law couldn’t believe how much money we had spent on an infant carrier car seat. I distinctly remember him saying, “Car seats are bullshit. We didn’t have them when you were babies and you ended up just fine. The mother just carried the baby home on her lap in the passenger seat.”
Times have changed. These days it’s not only considered unwise to drive with a baby without using a car seat, it’s also illegal.
As your baby grows you’ll have to purchase several different types of car seats (and please don’t even consider a used car seat). Let’s go over the different types of car seats so you’ll know what to expect.
Infant Car Seat:
When you first bring your little one home you’ll want to use an infant car seat. Infant seats are meant for babies up to around 22 to 26 pounds, though some models allow up to around 30 pounds. But you also have to check for height restrictions as well.
The cool thing about infant car seats is they are designed to pop in and out of the car without having to unstrap the baby. This is especially useful in bad weather.
How long your little one fits in an infant carrier car seat depends on how fast she grows. Smaller babies could fit in an infant seat for up to a year, while fast growers might only get a few months of use out of them.
A travel system is great because it comes with an infant car seat, a base for your car, and a stroller all in one. If you go shopping, you can drive to the mall and pop the seat out of the car and into the stroller without ever disturbing the baby! Once your baby outgrows the car seat, she can ride in the stroller without it.
If the travel system stroller is a bit too heavy or bulky for everyday use, you can pick up the more lightweight Infant Car Seat Stroller Frame which allows you to snap the car seat in and go. It’s much lighter and more maneuverable than regular strollers.
Convertible Car Seat:
With a convertible car seat your child sits rear-facing as an infant, and when he gets big enough the car seat can be turned around to face forward. Weight limits can really vary from one convertible seat to another ranging anywhere from 40 to 85 pounds.
We know you’ll probably be in a rush to switch the car seat around so you can keep a closer eye on your little one. But don’t be too quick to do so, as studies show that babies are safer when riding in a rear-facing seat. At the minimum, your baby should remain rear-facing at least until his first birthday. But we actually recommend keeping him that way as long as possible.
Once your child starts to outgrow his convertible seat you’ll need to switch to a toddler booster seat. Booster seats use the cars own seatbelt to strap a child in so it’s definitely easier to get them in and out, and by the time they are old enough to ride in one they are usually able to do it themselves. But since a booster seat allows a lot more movement, it’s important that your child be able to sit still and not unbuckle himself. Only you will know when your child is ready.