Infant Vs. Convertible Car Seats

A blogger pal of mine, Valery, recently wrote a super-helpful post on her blog, Life & Love Actually, about the baby gear items that she and her hubby have used for their cutie pie baby boy since he’s joined their family. {I highly suggest checking out her post, especially if you’re expecting – and for bonus points, here’s a post that I wrote a while ago that lists our baby gear preferences.}

Anyway, she and I were chatting back and forth on Twitter about our choice to use a convertible car seat for L from the very beginning (as opposed to purchasing an infant car seat to use initially and then purchasing a convertible car seat at a later time, when the baby was bigger). I promised her a post on the pros and cons of our choice, and here it is!

The main difference between the two is that an infant car seat has two main parts – the carrier and the base – and the carrier is portable, meaning that the actual seat part of the car seat attaches to a base, which remains in the car. This allows parents to detach the car seat from the base and carry the car seat (with the baby inside) inside the house, to the doctor’s office, etc. Convertible car seats, on the other hand, are not portable – it is all one unit, and the entire seat remains in the car.

Lionel-Resting

PROS: Convertible Car Seat

1. One purchase versus two. The most obvious benefit to purchasing and using a convertible car seat right away involves cost. Instead of purchasing an infant car seat (which typically start at around $80.00 for a basic model) and a convertible car seat (which typically start around the $120 price point for a basic model), we purchased one car seat that will last from birth (5 pounds) to toddlerhood (65 pounds).

2. More frequent parent-baby contact/closeness + baby-wearing. An added benefit to the convertible car seat: because the convertible car seat remains in the car, each time we would go somewhere, my husband Jord and I would pick up little L from the car seat and carry him in our arms wherever we were headed. He and I both found that we loved this additional cuddle time or closeness with L, especially in his newborn days, because we felt his body relax into our arms – laying in our arms was familiar – and comforting – to him. Furthermore, we knew that we didn’t want to cart around a stroller in our trunk if we were running errands or shopping in the mall, for instance – we invested in a Moby wrap and a sling, and our convertible car seat helped us to put those baby-wearing devices to use! We loved wearing L in his newborn days especially, and he would cuddle up to our chests and fall asleep as we walked through the grocery store, Target, Barnes & Noble, the mall, or anywhere.

3. One stroller purchase versus two+. Of course, if we were going on a bigger outing, such as a walk in our neighborhood, we would use our stroller, but again, since we invested in a convertible car seat, we were able to purchase a stroller that offered features that we wanted without worrying about whether or not the stroller was compatible with or would accommodate an infant car seat. We were able to purchase a stroller that (like the convertible car seat) accommodated L from an early age (eight weeks old) through much of his early childhood (70 pounds).

4. Exposure to the sights and sounds of the world. My husband and I both agree that this is, by far, the most noticeable benefit of purchasing a convertible car seat right away. Instead of carrying L in an infant car seat with a shade or canopy covering him, we carry him in our arms or in a wrap/sling, which allows him to view the world around him as we walk from place to place. L is insatiably curious – as I’m sure many babies are, particularly around this age (he is 8.5 months old), but compared to other babies that we know who are close in age to L, he seems to study his surroundings as well as the facial expressions, voice inflections and movements of people in a much more noticeable manner than other children. We feel strongly that exposing him to the sights and sounds of the world from an early age sparked his curiosity!

CONS: Convertible Car Seat

1. Lack of portability, particularly for two-car families. Since Jord and I are a one-car family, portability between cars (for ease of taking turns with your significant other when dropping a child off at day care, for instance) was not an issue for us. However, if you are a family who may be in need of flexibility in a situation such as that, an infant car seat may be a better option for you, purely because of the portability factor. While our convertible car seat isn’t a pain to install and re-install – we’ve moved our car seat between our car and my parents’ car, for instance – it definitely requires more work and time than a person may want to do more than a few times per month, much less per week.

2. Bulkier. Our convertible car seat is a bit of a beast size-wise; because it accommodates a child from five pounds all the way to 65 pounds, the car seat has a bit of a larger footprint than an infant car seat, or even other comparable convertible car seats. Again, we found that our convertible car seat was the best option for us based on the longevity of use and the stellar safety ratings that the car seat earned, but we definitely had to measure the back seat of our vehicle to ensure that the seat would fit.

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Update: Here’s a link to the convertible car seat that we chose for L: After a TON of research, we selected The First Years True Fit C670 Premier Convertible Car Seat for L, and we couldn’t be happier with it. We plan to purchase this same seat for any future children.

Update: Here’s a link to the stroller that we purchased for L, the BOB Revolution SE Single Stroller.

About Sara

Sara works in higher education, but she's most proud of her role as a Mama to two precocious boys, Lionel Conner, age 4, and Quincy August, age 2. In honor of turning 30 in 2016, she pierced her nose to "keep her young." She loves watching guilty-pleasure television, writing about motherhood, decorating her first home, sipping red wine with her husband Jordan, and chasing after her sons.

4 Responses to Infant Vs. Convertible Car Seats

  1. Valery February 26, 2013 at 3:21 AM #

    Thanks again for going through this! Its only been obvious to me lately with Z – but I can see him anxious to “sit up and see the world” and fights to fall back into the reclinng cubby of the seat. I think we will be thinking long and hard about this decision for future babies! :)

    • Sara February 26, 2013 at 2:49 PM #

      Thanks! My perspective is, admittedly, limited, since I have nothing to compare it to, but I’m glad you found it interesting nonetheless!

  2. Rebecca Hanover February 21, 2013 at 11:37 PM #

    Great points! I actually think that, looking back, it was nice to have the infant seat, but not critical to our survival or anything, ha! It feels like he outgrew it really fast and I can hardly even remember taking him places in it (though, there were definitely a few times when we brought him inside and he continued to nap for like TWO HOURS and given that our child did NOT “transfer” easily during naps, I was very, very happy we had the infant seat. Also, there was a nice long dinner at a french restaurant once where he slept in the infant seat, UNDER the table, the whole time :) But, again, not a huge deal either way. xox

    • Sara February 22, 2013 at 10:39 AM #

      Thanks for the comment, Rebecca! When it comes to napping, we found that our little guy learned to “transfer” well precisely because he never had a choice to do otherwise! And yes, I forgot to address what we do/did at restaurants – because we don’t eat out too often (we usually order in, if anything), we didn’t encounter too often the inconvenience of not having an infant seat to place the child into.