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Infant Car Seat Versus Convertible Car Seat: What Should You Go For?

infant car seat

Infant Car Seat

VS

convertible car seat

convertible car seat

Are you totally befuddled on whether to go for the infant car seat or the convertible car seat? Well you are not alone, I still remember that time when I was heavy with my first child and could not decide on what seemed like hundreds of choices.

While some parents swear by the infant car seat and others by the convertible car seat, your choice will typically come down to what you are looking for in a car seat given that each type of car seat has its own pros and cons.

However, even as the convertible or the infant car seat has its own advantages and disadvantages, the most important thing to take into account is the needs of the newborn infant, which are typically very different from that of the toddler or older child.

The following are some of the most important things to take into consideration when making the choice:​

  • Fit to child - Most infant car seats will fit infants weighing in from as little as 5 pounds up to about 30 pounds. For most convertible car seats you may have to use an infant insert to make them fit the newborn.
  • Incline Angle - It is generally recommended that you incline your infant at a 45 degree angle. Most infant car seats will allow for this angle making the ride comfortable for the child. Some convertible car seats such as the Britax or Chicco have angle recliners to achieve the recommended angle. Most convertibles will however need you to use blankets to achieve the angle and may not be as safe or as comfortable. 
  • Harness Tightness - For your infant it is very important to have harnesses with the right tightness, typically you want 5 point harnesses that are tight enough to pass the pinch test. Most convertible car seat harnesses may be too long to fit the tiny infant making them unsafe. 
  • Strap Positioning - Just as important as the harness tightness. You need a car seat that has straps that are positioned at or just below the child's shoulders. Given the newborn infant usually has a torso about 7 inches, you need a car seat whose lower strap slots can fit that torso length.
Safe infant car seat positioning
best angle infant car seat
infant car seat angle

Pros of Infant Car Seats

  • Infant car seats come with a base and hence they can be easily snapped in and out of the car, making it possible to lug the car seat with the infant in it.
  • Offers the perfect fit for even the smallest of babies up to a minimum of five pounds.
  • You can attach it to a stroller and jog or walk around with the child
  • You can lug it around without awakening the child and go into restaurants or even into a plane with utmost convenience

Cons of Infant Car Seats

  • Given that it typically has lower height and weight limits, you will typically require a convertible all in one or combination car seat before the child turns two years which adds to costs

Pros of Convertible Car Seats

  • Reduces costs particularly if you are on a budget as you only need to buy one car seat that your child will use for several years
  • Most convertible car seats are suitable for children from 5 pounds and above and turn from rear facing to forward facing to accommodate the needs of the growing child

Cons of Convertible Car Seats

  • Do not come with a base and hence installing or uninstalling them from the car can be quite an inconvenience particularly if you do it often.
  • Some of the large convertible car seats do not provide a good fit or angle for the newborn child making them relatively unsafe and uncomfortable
  • They are very heavy, making it almost impossible to lug them around as you would an infant car seat
  • They cannot be attached to a stroller for use when jogging walking or doing other tasks
  • With no base, installing will normally awaken the sleeping child

My Take on What Car Seat You Should Buy

Even as consumer reports recommends that you switch to an convertible car seat sooner rather than later, you can still enjoy the benefits of the infant car seat while still keeping your child safe. Even as you may have to spend more money when shifting to a convertible car seat later, the convenience of an infant car seat is worth the money. I would recommend that you buy the infant car seat and later buy the convertible. Moreover, you can get a travel system cheaper this way as the stroller and infant seat will typically come at a lower price when combined. 

Video on How to Do the Pinch Test

Sheryl Brown
 

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