You’ve confirmed your pregnancy, told your partner, celebrated the news with friends, started your baby registry, now what? One of the most important things on your list of course is to research car seats! (Unless of course you plan to never take your baby anywhere that is not walking distance to you.) With so many options available, it is important to know what you are getting yourself into and how to get the most bang for your buck.
There are two types of car seat options when it comes to keeping baby safe in the car:
Infant bucket Seats are also sometimes called pumpkin seats or infant seats. Did you know that isn’t the only option? A convertible car seat is another choice right from birth. As with any car seat, you need to research the minimums of that particular seat in order to know if it will work for your situation. If you think you will have a preemie, or smaller baby at birth, you will need to pay extra special attention to which convertibles will fit a smaller baby.
Some convertibles are not made to fit a baby until 6-9 months old, even though they may be tested on a smaller test dummy and rated from 5 or 6 pounds and up. These seats still must be used properly, which includes making sure your baby fits the height minimum, weight minimum and the harness straps fall at or below your baby’s shoulders. (Some seats follow other rules so be sure to read the manual, or ask a CPST for more help.) You may find it useful to search for/read online reviews by CPSTs since you will often see them recommend what age the seat you are considering will begin fitting a baby.
*Did you know that "fitting into a carseat" is determined by the average torso height of a newborn.*
What are some of the pros to using a convertible car seat from birth?
- No heavy seat to lug around
- More time to babywear! You can’t remove the seat from the car each time, so you’ll need to use a carrier for baby, or a stroller that reclines flat.
- You save some money buying a seat that will last for a few years instead of less than a year.
- You don't have to worry about buying multiple bases (extras for partners, friends, grandparents, etc)
Some convertibles will come with infant inserts that work quite well to support a newborn baby. Others do not, and you will need to use rolled receiving blankets (or swaddle blankets) to help support baby. Nothing should ever go behind baby’s head or behind the harness unless it came in the box with your car seat, or you ordered it directly from customer service for the car seat you bought.
Another trick that may need to be utilized to get a convertible (and sometimes an infant bucket seat as well) to fit a small baby, is a rolled wash cloth. This should only be done if absolutely necessary to keep baby from slouching down due to too much space between the inner most buckle slot and baby’s crotch. The manufacturer must also approve this. So far, a few companies specifically do not want this trick used with their seats, so send an email to customer service or call your car seat manufacturer if you need to use this trick and aren’t sure if they have approved it.) The washcloth will be rolled and then positioned in a U, with the bottom of the U near the crotch and the sides by the thighs. (Refer to photo below)
Some convertibles that work well for newborns will still need some adjustments before they can be used. Each manual will guide you through what you need to do for a newborn. Some seats do not mention it in their manual, but if you call and ask, they can provide you with a smaller length harness, or shorter crotch strap. Many seats also have special rules about using the seat until a certain number of pounds, such as requiring a belly pad, infant body insert, infant head insert, requiring the buckle to be in a certain slot, or requiring the harness to be routed a different way. The best way to find all of this information is to look in the manual. Most manufacturers will include everything you need to know right in that handy little book. Keep it in its storage compartment in the seat if there is one, or in your glove compartment so it is always near by if you have a question. Another way to find out this information is to go get your seat checked by a CPST. Visit cert.safekids.org to find one near you. (*Tip! Searching by state instead of by town will work much better.)
For more information about car seat shopping and your options, click here! Read more about extended rear-facing and why you may want to further consider if starting with a convertible car seat is the right choice for you and your family.
Meet the Author:
Ali is a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) with Safe Kids Worldwide. She has been babywearing since she was a teenager, both as a nanny and with her nieces and nephews. She first found her love for woven wraps when her first child was about 9 months old. Her passions include helping parents and caregivers learn to wear their babies, both as a Volunteer Babywearing Educator and leader of BWI of Greater Burlington, and as a private babywearing consultant through Wisehart Parenting. In her free time, she enjoys providing free private car seat inspections, as well as volunteering at local car seat inspection events. She lives in Fairfax, VT with her husband who is also a CPST, and has three children.