Car seats come in many makes, models, and stages. I was under the impression that you buy one car seat for your baby and that will last you forever. Boy, was I wrong!
If I would’ve known how many different types of car seats there were, I probably would’ve chosen a different one from the get go because even if you think you are saving money, you may not be in the long run.
Knowing what types of car seats are out there and what you need for different stages and ages is important and necessary.
Deciding on what car seat to buy will depend on your baby’s age, weight, length. Also, what car you drive and how easily you want to be able to take the car seat out.
I will break down every type and stage below.
Infant Car Seat
Infant car seats are for, you guessed it….infants! They are meant for babies from newborn and up to about 2 years old, depending on the car seat and size of the baby.
These car seats double as a carrier, so you can keep your baby nice and snugly in the car seat while you are in and out of the car. Which is very nice if your baby just so happened to fall asleep in the car.
However, they can get quite heavy and a little awkward to carry so I wouldn’t be toting the seat around for too long.
Depending on what stroller you have chosen, usually these car seats also attach to your stroller. If your stroller didn’t come with a bassinet, or a flat rumble seat, then you would need to use a car seat until the baby is a bit older. Most strollers will have an adapter to use with most kinds of car seats.
These car seats come with a base that is attached into your car with either the seat belt or UAS clips (if your car is equipped with them). The car seat then can be easily clicked into the base without having to secure it every time.
Infant car seats are rear facing only. Babies need to be rear facing for as long as possible as it is the safest.
Once your baby has reached the weight or height limit for that car seat or the car seat has expired, it’s time to upgrade to the next stage in car seats.
Convertible Car Seat
Manufacturers now sell car seats that convert from infant to forward facing, and some all the way to booster. They are larger car seats with no base that aren’t meant to be taken in and out of the car all the time. They are attached to the car with a seat belt or the UAS clips.
You can always start with a convertible car seat from the very beginning as they have infant inserts. The downside of using this for a newborn, is that they are not as easily removed and can’t be clicked in and out of a stroller or carried.
These car seats allow the child to be rear facing for longer (which is recommended for as long as possible). Depending on what brand you have, they generally allow a child to be rear facing till approximately 40-50 pounds or whatever height limit the car seat has.
Once your child has outgrown the rear facing, these car seats can be “converted” to forward facing. But don’t rush this…keeping children rear facing for as long as the parameters allows is safest. Once your child has outgrown the forward facing harness seat, many convert to a booster seat.
Forward Facing Car Seat
You can buy forward facing car seats that are not convertible. In this case you would use your infant rear facing car seat until your child grows out of it and then switch to a forward facing car seat.
These do not have a base and are meant to stay in the car as they are heavier and don’t have carrying handles.
These car seats will attach to your car with either a seat belt or UAS clips. Be aware, that the UAS clips typically have a weight limit for the car seat and child together. The weight limit can be anywhere between 40-60 pounds. Check the car seats manual for specifications.
Always use a tether when possible. A tether is a strap that attaches from the car seat to an anchor point in your car. All cars, minivans and light trucks manufactured after 2000 are required to have tether systems in place. Use the tether system until your child outgrows the weight limit.
Once your child has reached the maximum weight or height limit on the forward facing harness car seat, then they will need to be put into a booster seat. This all depends on the car seats parameters. If your child has reached the weight limit or height then it’s time for a booster seat.
Your child will remain in a booster seat until they can fit properly in the seat with just a seat belt. As a general rule, this is typically around the age of 8-12 and height of 4’9.
There are 2 types of booster seats, high back or backless.
Booster seats are not secured to the car on their own. They are simply rested on the seat and then buckled in with the child. Never use a lap belt only for a booster seat.
Finding the right car seat is important based on your child s age and weight. There are many different types of car seats for different stages. It’s good to be informed on all safety regulations with your car, car seat and where you live.
I have not gotten into proper installation here, so make sure you check your manual and possibly hire a car seat technician to make sure you have installed the car seat correctly. You would be amazed how many people do it wrong…..including myself.
Thank you for reading my article and as always please leave any comments and ask questions below. Cheers!