High-Ho, High-Ho…Off to a Convertible Car Seat We Go!
You picked your baby's car seat out before he was born. It probably had the cutest covering, the most padding and of course matched the nursery motif you picked out months before delivery. Now, baby has grown and his toes are sticking out over the edge, and his head, now the size of a cantaloupe, looks misplaced in the infant carrier. You might be able to squeeze a month more out of it – but you would definitely be accused of pushing the limits. Picking out car seats is difficult and most first time parents go through 3-4 car seats by the time their child reaches elementary school. They aren't cheap but going with a convertible seat can save you tons of money and time right from the get go.
First and foremost, the AAP recommends that “infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.” Many parents don't realize that the convertible car seat is suitable for infants as well and will save you the trouble of having to buy a new one. There are certain things to look for in a convertible car seat:
- Most expensive doesn't mean best. Make sure it has been safety tested and approved and take the time to look up the seat model online to make sure there aren't any recalls.
- Any car seat should be new! Resist hand me down or used seats that may have been involved in an accident, recalled or have lost parts along the way.
- A 5-point harness system is absolutely the best. Make sure it also has a fast adjust option on the front of the seat so you can loosen it quickly should the need arise. In order to accommodate a growing baby, the convertible seat should have at least 2 if not 3, slots for the belts to come through.
- The seat should come with BOTH a LATCH system and a belt loop system so you have both options for getting it into the car. Make sure, once you install it according to directions, that it is tight and doesn't sway from side to side.
- Dark upholstery is key. The pinks and baby blues are great – for about a week. Trust the advice that the seat will look like a metropolitan bus seat in no time. The cover should be very, very washable and easy to replace after washing. (Some people admit to just purchasing a new seat after taking one apart to wash it because it was so difficult to reassemble)
- The seat should fit your child through toddlerhood and convert into a booster seat when your child is tall enough. Look for a tall back that will sit a 5-6 year old comfortably.
- The shoulder path loops should be adjustable so you can adjust it to your baby when they move out of the 5-point harness.
- It should fit in your car. Depending on your car model – seats fit differently. Try a few out before deciding. Many stores will let you take the sample out to your car to try it before purchasing.
- Look for a convertible seat that goes to at least 80 pounds. This way you won't have to buy a new one every 18 months or so as your baby grows.
Convertible car seats have been designed to suit your child for many years. When buying one, don't worry so much about the brand or cost. Even the most expensive ones aren't necessarily better. All seats go through the same testing procedures and safety tests. There are a few tips to consider that will definitely come in handy down the road. When you purchase the seat, order replacement seat covers within the same week (maybe even two). It is difficult to get them in a year's time and trust me, you will at some point be glad you did. Also, some of the newer model seats have lights near the headrest. These are wonderful little additions to the car seat and will definitely come in handy down the road.
Before you buy yourself or a friend an infant carrier, think about how much money you can save by purchasing a convertible car seat instead. They make great shower gifts and they will be a lasting part of a baby's safety for a long time to come.