With all the information out there regarding car seats and car seat safety, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and anxious about whether or not your baby is as safe as they can be. It doesn’t help that more often than not the guidelines and recommendations for car seats change. It’s easy to be left behind and left wondering if you have it all right. Is it time to ditch the bucket seat? Is my baby big enough? Will they still be safe? Where do they sit now? We’re here to set you straight when it comes to wondering whether or not your baby is ready to move up to a convertible car seat.

For starters, lets do a quick rundown on the basics of the first two car seats you will own: the infant seat and the convertible seat.

Infant Seat

While you technically can start your newborn out in certain convertible car seats, an infant car seat is the first choice for many moms. Designed especially for the smallest of babies, these rear-facing only seats are not only the safest choice they are also convenient for parents. We’re sure you’ve experienced this first hand: the car ride has finally lulled your anti-sleep baby to dreamland at the same time you’ve arrived at your destination. There’s no way you’re going to lift your baby out of the car seat and risk a dramatic wake-up, so you unhitch the handy car seat from the base and go on your way. It’s a win-win for everyone. The only con when it comes to infant car seats is babies outgrow them quickly, usually well before they turn 1 year. Be sure to look for an infant seat that has the highest weight/height limit available so you can maximize its usage and your wallet.

Convertible Seat

The appeal of convertible car seats is that you can use this seat from newborn through child age. Some even convert to a car seat booster, so technically you could only buy one car seat to last you through all of your car seat years. As mentioned above, an infant seat is the safest car seat for your newborn, so if you’ve chosen that route, then your next seat would be the convertible. You can continue to keep your baby rear-facing, but you are also able to flip this seat around to forward-facing when the times comes. A downside to convertible seats is they are heavy and they are fixed in the car, so removing them is a bit of a pain (another reason why infant car seats are ideal for those first few months).

Is it time to make the switch?

Switch if… the weight limit is maxed out.

Every car seat you will ever buy comes with strict weight limits. Be sure to read your owner’s manual and know those weight limits inside and out. When your baby reaches the highest weight limit for the infant car seat, be sure to have a new convertible seat lined up and ready to go. In general, infant car seats max out at a weight limit anywhere from 22-35 pounds depending on the model.

All car seats should have a label attached to the seat with the weight/height limits on it. If you don’t have easy access to your owner’s manual, no worries. The information you need is right there on the seat!

Switch if… the height limit is maxed out.

As well as having a weight limit, infant car seats also have height limits. Again, read your owner’s manual and know what your seats height limit is. Usually babies tend to reach the height limit before the weight limit. The average height limit for most infant car seats maxes out at around 29 inches. When your baby becomes too tall for the infant seat, it’s time to switch them to a convertible.

Make the switch when your baby reaches either the height limit or the weight limit. Don’t wait for your baby to reach both limits. If your baby is too tall for your infant seat, but still has several pounds to gain to reach the weight limit, go ahead and switch them over to the convertible.

Switch if… the head height is maxed out.

This guideline goes along with reaching the height limits. When the top of your baby’s head is within one inch of reaching the top of the car seat, it’s time to switch them to the convertible seat. The closer your baby’s head is to the top of the seat reduces the amount of support they need for their head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash.

There are no safety concerns if your baby’s legs hang over the bottom of the car seat. It is perfectly okay to let their little legs dangle. Don’t let their long legs fool you into thinking they’ve outgrown their infant car seat!

Switch if… it’s too uncomfortable.

More than likely, lugging around the infant car seat is getting uncomfortable for you. Even though your baby still fits perfectly in the seat, your muscles can’t keep up with the increasing weight. You could leave the car seat in the car and use it as a convertible by not removing it with the baby in it. Instead, just remove and insert the baby for car rides and keep the seat in the car. It might not only be you who is uncomfortable with the infant seat though. If your baby is starting to fight the infant seat, by crying a lot during car rides on a consistent basis, they may be ready to switch too. They could be upset over any number of reasons, such as not being able to see out the window, being too reclined, or feeling too cramped.

If you’ve researched all the size limits and your baby is still well within the safe ranges, but you still feel as though they may be too big for the infant car seat, it is okay to switch them over to a convertible. As long as they remain in the rear-facing position and they are at least a few months old, there’s nothing wrong with making the switch. While trying to keep them in the infant car seat for as long as possible (within the correct limits) is ideal safety-wise, sometimes moving up to the convertible makes a world of difference in yours and your baby’s outlook on road trips.

So, is it time to make the switch? If so, here are 13 awesome convertible car seats that we here at Daily Mom know, love, and use for our kids!

Whatever car seat your precious baby is in, be sure you’re using it correctly by avoiding these 5 Common Car Seat Mistakes!

Photo credits: Dani, Katherine
Sources: HealthyChildren.org, About.com/Parenting


  1. Great post! It is so important to stick with the manufacturers guidelines on weight limits! There is no point in putting your kid at risk. Thanks for sharing.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here