Nathan Asher, M.D.
You're getting ready to welcome the newest member of the family home. Everything is ready in the house, from the crib to the high chair. It's important to be knowledgeable before you get to the house as well, especially when it comes to your little one's car seat safety. The two main types of car seats are infant-only car seats and convertible car seats.
Infant-only seats are unique in that they:
Infant-only seats are used for infants up to 22-35 pounds (check your seat's instruction manual for its specific range). Babies who have outgrown an infant-only seat will need a larger seat that can continue to be used rear-facing until your child is 2 years old. Your baby is considered too large for a rear-facing seat when his or her head nears the top of the seat; there should be at least one inch between the top of the head and top of the seat.
Convertible car seats are another option for your newborn and can be used as your child grows beyond infancy. They typically fit newborns up to 40 to 80 pounds and 40 to 57 inches tall, are generally cheaper than infant-only seats and can be rear-facing for as long as necessary. Once your child is old enough to be front-facing, the convertible car seat can be turned around.
If you choose a convertible seat for your newborn, make sure you add a newborn insert or padding to the seat so your baby fits snugly within and doesn't slide around. It's also important to note that a convertible seat is heavy and without a handle, so it cannot be removed easily or used as a carrier.
Some convertible seats are 3-in-1 and can eventually be modified into booster seats for older children. Your child should remain in a car seat or booster until an adult seat belt fits comfortably, which is usually when he or she is around 4'9" and around 8 to 12 years old. Most children don't fit into an adult seat belt until 10 or 11 years old.
Regardless of which type you choose, there are some general rules that apply to both types.