The first few weeks you have a baby, you are going to be blissfully happy staying at home and not doing anything other than cradling your baby and caring for them. However, most new parents tend to get a bit stir crazy at some point and want to go to stores, take drives, and just leave their homes. Sometimes, this will happen during the day, and other times it will happen at night when your baby just won’t sleep.
Even so, venturing out in the car with your precious bundle of joy can be a bit of a harrowing experience. Even if you are careful, you can’t always guarantee that someone else is going to be careful. That’s where a great convertible car seat comes into play. You want to ensure that your child is protected if there ever is an accident, and a convertible car seat is just easier for parents who are busy and on-the-go.
What is a Convertible Car Seat?
A convertible car seat is one that grows with your child through the different stages of development. Some will go from a rear-facing seat to a front-facing seat to a backed booster seat, and some will even go all the way to a traditional booster seat.
These seats tend to be a bit more expensive and come with a higher number of accessories and special features like cup holders for your baby bottles or a tray for food on the go - you are essentially making a commitment to a car seat for a few years.
Every convertible car seat is different, but most fit infants from about 5 pounds to children as big as 35 pounds in the rear-facing position to even more in a booster.
Why Choose A Convertible Car Seat?
Convertible car seats are simply the best for most parents because they don’t cause a lot of hassle. You don’t have to go shopping multiple times, do the research again, and then install everything into your car. Instead, you do the research once, make the purchase once, install it in your car, and just make the switches as your baby grows. It really is much easier for most parents.
Another reason parents choose a convertible car seat is that your child is going to grow very fast - one day, they will fit perfectly in their seat, and the next day, they won’t. To save some uncomfortable trips or having to rush around to find something new, simply choose a car seat that does it all.
In particular, if you have a very specific type of small car that doesn’t hold a lot of car seats well, you won’t have to go through the hassle of returning seats over and over again. Finally, these seats, while costly, actually provide some savings over buying three different car seats.
Some Detractions from Using A Convertible Car Seat
Of course, there are some things to think about before you ultimately decide to use a convertible car seat. Many convertible seats are a commitment: you will use this seat unless you are willing to buy something new and not get the full range of use out of this one.
Unlike some infant seats, convertible car seats aren’t as easy to carry around or use as a rocker. They also aren’t (with very few exceptions) easy to use with stroller systems. This limits some of the uses, but if you are willing to buy a stroller separately, you will be able to get a pretty good deal.
It also isn’t a good idea to allow your baby to sleep in the carrier, so this can force you to skip over that habit that many of us have seen for our entire lives.
Another detractor is that in order to use the seat properly, you will have to keep the owner’s manual, something we tend to throw away almost immediately. Be sure to store it somewhere you will know where to find it once the time comes for your baby to move into a new position.
How to Choose the Best Convertible Car Seat
Once you decide that a convertible seat is the right option for you, do some research to determine the best convertible car seat - and there are a lot to choose from, with more coming out all the time. To help you narrow down your list, we’ve got some things for you to think about:
Features Your Convertible Car Seat Needs to Have
A convertible car seat will have many options for you to research and choose from, but there is also a list of non-negotiables to consider. These include:
- A harness adjuster on the front
- Up-front buckle-release button that is easy to use (not all are!)
- Plastic belt guides that are solid and won’t snap
- At least two recline positions, but more is a benefit
- A good warranty
Once again, these are pretty much just the basics of what you are going to want. There are some other things to pay attention to as well, because, remember, this is a commitment. You have to think not only about your ease of use and the safety of your child, but also of your child’s comfort.
How Comfortable Is the Seating Pad?
For longer road trips, those nights where they just won’t sleep, or just a drive to grandma’s, you want to ensure that the seating pad is extremely comfortable. Take the time, go into the store, and physically touch the seat pads and try to imagine how comfortable it will be for you. Make a fist and press lightly to see what it feels like. Would you want to sit on it? Could you fall asleep on it? Check the amount of coverage the pad has over the plastic of the seat.
You also have to think about the quality of the fabric on the seating pad - is it sticky and hot or breathable and comfortable? Babies are going to have accidents and blowouts, so you may want to see how stain-resistant the fabric is as well, or at least how easy it is to take the pad off and wash the fabric.
Do the same for any pillows or inserts there are - and there should be some, either standard with the seat or as an extra. You want to get some lumbar support as well as a head cushion.
How Easy Is It to Recline?
Ask any veteran parent, and they will tell you that reclining some car seats is nearly impossible. Better convertible seats will have easy adjustment options on the front of the seat, so they will easily recline without having to change any of the other settings.
How Easy Is Installation?
You may think that you are going to install your car seat and never move it, but that isn’t too likely. You are probably going to switch cars, use it for rentals, and even let grandma and grandpa use the seat from time to time, so you do want to think about how easy it is to install.
Some seats have a tracking system that allows for easy access to the seat belt mechanism, so you just have to release the latches, and the seat is easily mobile.
How Much Space Does It Take Up?
This may seem obvious, but some people don’t think about it: the best convertible car seat is one that works in your car. You may have a bigger car where it doesn’t really matter how much space something takes up, or you may have a small car where space is at a premium.
Some convertible car seats will have a “seat saving” base that helps you to fit another car seat back there, if necessary (or in the plans).
In Summary: The Best Convertible Car Seat Meets All Your Needs
A convertible car seat is easier, safer, and more convenient than many other options you may have. But just like what the best diaper bag has for you, where you are going to give birth, or even who will be your child’s godparent, picking the best car seat requires some time, thought, and research.
You need to buy the right booster seat that meets all your needs and then buy accessories to make it absolutely perfect for each new stage. If you have friends that have babies, it might be a good idea to look at their seats as well, feel the padding, and read reviews of the best convertible car seats. In the end, a convertible car seat is a commitment, but your little one is undoubtedly well worth the investment!