When pregnant with your first baby it may surprise you to find out you need to buy different types of car seats by age. That's right, just as your child develops, the car seat has stages too. Though this information can feel daunting when faced with what type of safety device to buy, we have broken down the car seat stages for you with some helpful tips and products Good Buy Gear’s baby gear experts endorse.
Baby's First Car Seat
Before your child leaves the hospital it's law in most places that you have to have a car seat to carry them out of the facility. This is the first of the car seat stages—the classic infant iteration. This one keeps littles snug and safe, facing the rear of the car at a 45-degree angle, and attaches to a base that's kept in the vehicle. The car seat snaps out of this secured base so you can easily remove the device and carry your baby in it.
It's recommended babies stay in this seat until they grow out of either the weight or height requirements. Most cater to infants between 4 and 25 pounds, but check with the manual to know for sure. Also, for very young babies, many experts say they shouldn't be in the car seat for more than two hours due to possible strain on the infant's still-developing spine. So while it’s safe to use these infant car seats while traveling, it’s best to not leave them in it after, even if they are sound asleep.
In this category Good Buy Gear recommends the Snugride 35 Lite LX by Graco. Designed to be rear-facing and sit babies from 4 to 35 pounds and up to 32-inches, it's a lightweight and easy to install car seat. We also carry the highly-lauded Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Car Seat. This one is also for babies starting at 4 pounds to 30 pounds, and includes an extra large canopy and infant insert.
Convertible Car Seat
When looking for types of car seats by age, often once your baby has outgrown the infant-sized device the next car seat stage is the convertible car seat. This comes into play usually around one year of age and, like the infant version, gets positioned rear-facing until your little one is at least 2-years-old. In fact, many safety experts say to keep toddlers this way as long as they don't pass the maximum weight requirement and their head is below the top inch of the frame. Over time it may seem your child is getting cramped by being rear-facing, but worry not, they will put their legs in the position that's most comfortable for them.
Of course switching the convertible car seat to forward-facing after the kid turns two is also fine, and some prefer the change. When installing the safety seat this way look for hooks on the back of the rear seat that connects to the car seat's clips, which can be tightened until the device remains stationary in the seat. As far as how long your kid can use this gear, well the same rules apply regarding weight and height requirements.
While many convertible car seats are for older babies and toddlers, some work for tiny infants too. These items come with inserts that pad the main frame so it fits the little ones snug and secure. But, before you buy make sure the convertible car seat is the type that covers all ages. In this category, one of our favorites at Good Buy Gear is the Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max 2-in-1, which holds children from birth to 85 pounds. This car seat features a one-handed chest clip, machine-washable and dry-able fabrics, and a harness holder. Another great convertible car seat is the Cybex Eternis S model. It features a 12-position headrest and works with children from birth all the way to kid-hood by going from an infant seat to a front-facing car seat to a booster.
The final car seat stage is the booster seat, which is for kids that have passed the 40 pound mark, often around the age of 6. Instead of a harness seat belt like the one built into convertible and infant car seats, the child is secured by the car’s pull-down shoulder strap. There are two types, a simple seat that looks like a hard pillow with handles, and a set up that looks a lot like a car seat without the harness. The latter is good for smaller kids and as they grow you can usually remove the back and transition it into just the seat part.
At this point you may wonder why use a booster seat at all. These devices work to keep your child safe by securing the shoulder strap across their small frames better. Otherwise the strap is near their neck, and in an accident that's not a safe or useful place for it to rest.
For this car seat stage we recommend the Diono Everett NXT, a sleek booster seat that accommodates kids from 40 to 120 pounds. No matter what kind of one you need, search for types of car seat by age, or better yet, by weight and height. And ask the experts at Good Buy Gear too, we are happy to help. After all, safety should always come first, but that doesn’t mean it can’t function for your life, your kid and your budget.
Becoming a parent and knowing what essential gear your child needs at each stage of their development can be overwhelming. That’s why we aim to provide parent-to-parent advice on the gear you actually need, at affordable prices. For more information on car seat safety read our open-box car seat requirements.