Newborns can either sit in an infant safety seat or a convertible safety seat, also known as a forward-facing car seat. A convertible seat converts from a rear-facing seat for babies to a forward-facing seat.
The convertible car seat is the second car seat stage, right after infant car seat. When your baby grows too big for his infant car seat, but is too small to face forward, he can use a convertible car seat in its rear-facing position. Although a convertible car seat can face front or back, it’s safer to keep your baby in a rear-facing position for as long as possible. Most experts recommend that children stay in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old regardless of height.
Some people skip buying the infant car seat and just buy a convertible car seat instead. Although there are benefits of owning an infant car seat, a convertible car seat can be used for longer and tends to be cheaper in the long run.
Unlike infant car seats, convertible car seats stay in the vehicle and the seat is not detachable. This is less convenient because the car seat is not portable, making it harder to transport your baby. Convertible seats are heavy and you cannot easily take them in and out of the car, carry your baby in the carrier, or snap them into a compatible stroller. Instead, you will need to buy a separate travel system if you want to use a stroller.
Buying a Convertible Car Seat
Choosing a convertible car seat for a newborn can be tricky because not every convertible car seat will fit your new baby comfortably.
Infant car seats are meant for newborns so they fit your baby snugly. How comfortably your baby will fit in a convertible car seat will depend on the size of your baby. Many convertible car seats include an infant insert that helps to position the baby in the seat, and provide body and head support. If the seat does not come with any type of insert, you may need to use rolled up blankets around your baby’s body for head and/or body support.
Pay attention to the car seat’s minimum weight and if the seat comes with an infant insert. Although many convertible car seats have a minimum weight of 5 pounds, the Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat starts at 14 pounds. They have a separate infant insert that you can purchase, called Clek Infant-Thingy Infant Insert, which allows the Clek Floo and Foonf convertible car seats to accommodate a child from 5 pounds.
You can also consider buying 3-in-1 or all-in-one car seat, which can change from rear-facing to forward-facing, and then to a booster seat. Note that some 3-in-1 car seats are not for newborns and can only be used as forward-facing. These car seats can only convert from car seat for older toddlers to high-back booster to backless booster. This is why it is important to read the description of each car seat model to see if the 3-in-1 car seat can be used in a rear-facing position. You can read tips on what to look for when buying a convertible car seat.
Convertible Car Seat Installation
Studies show that three out of every four car seats are incorrectly installed. Always refer to your own car seat manufacturer’s instruction manual to see how to install the car seat properly. Below are helpful reminders when installing a convertible car seat:
Convertible car seats have two separate belt paths where the LATCH belt or vehicle seat belt can be threaded through the car seat. One of the belt paths is used for rear-facing position and the other is used for forward-facing. Check the car seat instruction manual to find the correct belt path to use. Some allow different routes through the belt path to offer the best fit in a variety of vehicles.
Convertible Car Seat Weight Limit
Convertible car seats have higher height and weight limits than infant car seats, which allow children to sit in the rear-facing position for longer. Most convertible car seats can fit babies in a rear-facing position from birth to 40 pounds and newer car seat models allow forward-facing up to 85 pounds. It is best to keep your child in the rear-facing position until he reaches the limit specified by the car seat.
The weight and height limit for convertible car seats vary by model, so it is important to check the label on the car seat for limitations, usually found on the car seat sides.
When to Change to Booster Seat
Don’t rush to switch from a 5 point harness to a booster seat before your child is ready. Once your child has outgrown the weight or height limit of their forward-facing harnesses, it is time to switch to a booster seat.
The forward-facing weight limits on many convertible cars has increased in recent years. Parents are advised to keep their children in a harnessed car seat for as long as possible before switching to a booster seat.
Children at this stage are not ready for adult safety belts and should use belt-positioning booster seats until they are at least 8 to 12 years old and at least 4’9”.
To get an idea of average height/weight requirements for convertible car seats, below are five popular car seats and their maximum size requirements. Please remember to check your own car seat’s manual for specific size limitations.
1) Diono Radian RXT Convertible Car Seat
Limits: 5-45 lbs. rear-facing, 20-80 lbs. forward-facing
2) Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat
Limits: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 20-65 lbs. forward-facing
3) Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Convertible Car Seat
Limits: 4-40 lbs. rear-facing, 22-85 lbs. forward-facing
4) Britax Roundabout G4.1 Convertible Car Seat
Limits: 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 20-55 lbs. forward-facing
5) Clek Foonf Convertible Car Seat
Limits: 14-50 lbs. rear-facing, 20-65 lbs. forward-facing