Car Seat Carrier vs. Convertible Car Seat Only

Hi all! 

I am pregnant with my first (with the anticipation of more than one in the coming few years) and am confused about the car seat options. 

Is a car seat carrier really necessary or worth the added convenience? Does it make sense to invest in both if I anticipate having multiple children in car seat age? I'm having a shower for this first baby, so it's possible to be gifted things for both immediate and longterm needs this time around. (Car seat is the one thing I am not considering getting second hand.)

But, do I need both? The car seat carrier sounds convenient, but for those who have tried both or who have only had a convertible car seat, what are your experiences? Is just a convertible car seat more practical?

Thanks!

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Small babies tend to fall asleep in the car. With the carrier it's easy to move them inside the house without waking them up.

Also, if you have more than one car, a second base for them is really cheap whereas moving a carseat between cars is a hassle to make sure it's installed properly each time (we very quickly bought a second carseat).

I have one child, plan to have another, and did get a carseat carrier. I know the carrier carseat isn't exactly a necessity, and can't speak to the experience of not having one. But I was happy to have a carrier for the following reasons:

Its much easier to get baby into the carseat while still indoors. The Bay Area's mild climate make this less significant, but getting a fussy baby into the carseat while its raining is not fun. 

If the baby falls asleep in the car, its easy to bring them inside without waking them up. 

It's easier to travel through an airport with.

We used ours until my daughter was almost a year old. Since we intend to have a second kid who would also use this same carrier carseat, that will be almost 2 years of use/convenience. For us that makes it a worthwhile purchase. 

That being said, its so easy to accumulate ALL the things, especially in the first year. So if you are trying to avoid that, it totally can be done to skip this thing.

Hello!

So first of all, I have been told carrier car seats are the safest for infants. My seven mo old is a super chunk but the ped recommended leaving him in the infant seat until he grows out of the size restrictions because of the safety factor. 

Second the carrier is incredible for when they fall asleep in the car (always?). It is so much easier to be able to move the seat than them for a lot of occasions. Especially if you plan on having multiples, I would go with the infant seat option. 

I have a 20 month old son and we've had both. We started with the Chicco Keyfit 30 and now have the Chicco NextFit Convertible car seat. 

The main reason the car seat carrier (the Keyfit 30) was beneficial that when my son fell asleep in the car I could carry him inside without waking him, usually. It also took up a bit less room in the backseat of our small car. The convertible car seat takes up a lot of room and means we can't push the driver's or passenger's seats back as far as we'd like. 

Our son is very tall and quickly outgrew the car seat carrier, however that's not something I or you can know ahead of time. When he was about 11 months old we wound up lending it to a friend who had a baby and we got the bigger convertible car seat, which overall was more comfortable for my son.

Some people like using the car seat carrier with an attachment to their stroller, but I never really liked doing that because of the recommendations against having the babies in the car seats for too long because of the way it affects the head shape.

If I had to do it again, I probably would still get the car seat carrier and use it for the first 6 months and then transition to the convertible one sooner than I did. So short answer, even though I didn't use it as much as some people I would still recommend having both, but knowing that you don't need to buy the convertible one until you need it.

Do you mean the snap&go that you put the bucket car seat into? Yes. You gotta have that. The baby falls asleep in the car seat and you can port him/her from car to wherever. I also brought it into the house because there were weeks when the baby would only sleep in the darn car seat. It's extremely handy. 

Just to clarify...do you mean infant car seat vs. convertible car seat? The infant one looks like a cradle with a big handle on the top. If so, then you should get the infant car seat, and only upgrade to the convertible car seat when your baby has outgrown the infant car seat. While you can theoretically place a newborn in a convertible car seat, everything I've read says that infant car seats are safer for infants. So the added safety, plus the convenience (it really is very convenient not to have to wake a sleeping baby to transfer him/her), points to buying the infant car seat. It's been a while since I shopped for infant car seats, but when my son was born I looked online at websites like <http://thecarseatlady.com/> to get useful information. BTW, the same goes for the next size up. Don't try to size up too quickly to save money. The point of using a car seat at all is for safety, so safety is the one thing you should not compromise.

Convertible cheaper option.  You get the infant seat so that you can adapt it to your stroller. In which case you also need to buy the adapter.  I never really just carried my infant around but I definitely adapted my infant seat to both my uppa baby and running stroller. 

If you plan on having more than one child I would get an infant car seat and then, in 1 year, purchase a convertible car seat.  Infant car seats only fit babies for the first 11-14 months but are safer.  Convertible car seats last for several years.  This means your first born will still be in the convertible seat when you have a second child (assuming a standard 2-4 year age gap).  Just make sure your infant seat doesn't expire for at least 5 years, so you're covered for both kids.

As for the car seat carrier, a few things to note:  There is no option to stroll around with convertible car seats; they are intended to stay in the car.  Only infant car seats are designed to be portable.  Infant car seats have a separate, detachable base that stays in the car and the seat clicks in and out.  

Is a car seat carrier necessary?  No.  But it is nice to have.  Should you buy a car seat caddie or stroller designed just for the car seat?  No.  Instead you should invest in a nicer stroller that sells a compatible car seat adaptor.  To do this requires a bit of research but it saves a lot of money.  Perhaps you really love a particular stroller - go to their site and see which car seats are compatible.  Or say you love a particular infant car seat - then make sure you buy a stroller that sells an adaptor.  All of this information is online and almost all of the major brands have at least several compatibility options.  We have the Chicco Keyfit 30 (a great infant seat) and an adaptor for our stroller (Bugaboo) and love it.  We have gotten a lot of use out of them with our kids.  Our friend with the same car seat has the caddie never uses it.    

In the end, just remember that babies don't need much, so plan your list with an eye to streamline.  Congrats! 

There are two reasons to start with an infant bucket seat, instead of going straight to a convertible.  Neither of them is conclusive though; only you can decide which makes more sense in your life. :)

The first and more important is that most convertible seats don't fit a newborn very well.  The bucket seat is specifically designed to properly support smaller, younger infants, and may therefore be a safer choice, especially if your baby is under 8 lbs at birth.  That said, convertibles CAN be safely used for a newborn, and some are more adjustable than others; if you decide to skip the bucket seat it's likely worth looking for a convertible with features that make it easier to fit to a small baby, like multiple crotch strap positions and a continuous recline adjuster. 

The second reason is that the bucket carrier can indeed be convenient for getting your baby in and out of the car, because it allows you to avoid disturbing a sleeping baby by messing with the harness and lifting or shifting baby - while crouching through the car door!  But it's safest and healthiest for your baby not to stay in the bucket seat for long when not actually riding in the car, and you don't want to have to actually lug the bucket very far in your arms, because it's heavy and awkward.  It can be nice for just going between house and car, but if you're running errands, shopping, sightseeing, or going to the zoo you need to use a baby carrier (meaning a sling or other soft carrier, not a "carrier" carseat) and/or a stroller - and although of course there are strollers that can be used either with or without a carseat latched on, you may prefer to choose your stroller and your carseat independently, without restricting yourself to "travel system" models.  Not all babies can be transferred from a carseat to a carrier or stroller without waking or fussing, but plenty can.  Unfortunately you won't know how easily yours "transfers" until after he or she is born!

It's also easier to move a bucket seat between different vehicles, especially if you get a base for each car that baby rides in frequently, than it is to uninstall and reinstall a convertible seat. And the bucket is easier to use on a flight, too. However this isn't terribly relevant if you have only one car, and don't expect to take your baby on an airplane many times before the bucket seat would be outgrown.

I don't regret having used a bucket seat with my kids for their first 6 months or so, but with our second (who rarely fell asleep in the car, and transferred to a sling easily when she did) it almost never came out of the car.  And I do know people who've been happy to just start with a convertible.  So the bucket is certainly not a must-have.

I had an infant seat that I used with both of my children until they were a year old, although I only carried them in it until around six months when it became too heavy to carry them in a carseat. I am glad I had an infant seat, and recommend getting one if you plan on using the car regularly. Getting a child in and out of the carseat for every stop is a lot of work, and if your child sleeps in the car it will most likely wake them up when you transfer them to the stroller or house. Neither of mine would continue to sleep in the carseat if it wasn't moving (e.g. on the floor in our house) but they would if I put the carseat on a stroller, and I know some kids will continue sleeping in their carseat even if they're not moving.

I know you said you weren't considering a used carseat, but they are safe as long as they aren't expired, there is no damage, and they haven't been in an accident they're perfectly safe. If you have a friend that you know well who has one that isn't expired and can vouch that it hasn't been in an accident then you might want to consider it.

I have 2 children who are past the car seat stage. My advice is to invest in a car seat carrier (a “bucket”) that snaps into a base in the car and into a stroller. It is a very worthwhile investment because babies sleep a lot so it is super convenient to be able to transfer them from the car to the stroller to the house without having to unsnap them (I.e. wake them up) from a standard car seat. The car seat bucket was the only way that my husband and I were able to go out for dinner for the first years of our kids’ lives.  After the baby grows out of the bucket, the only other car seat that you will need is a convertible seat. The right seat will go from a rear facing seat for a 1-2 year old, to a front facing car seat for a 2-5 year old to a booster seat for older kids.  

I think what it comes down to is personal preference and what you physically would like/need. With my first we had a "bucket" seat but I never carried it around. I really enjoyed babywearing so I would just pop him in to a baby carrier. If he was sleeping he'd usually stay asleep and I really enjoyed keeping him close....not to mention then I had both hands available for hauling things...so when we had our second we went straight to a convertible carseat. I would babywear so I could hold onto my toddler :)  This was just my personal preference and I know we all have our own ways :) Good luck Mama!

I did it both ways. First kid went straight into a convertible car seat. Second kid went into a bucket car seat that I borrowed for 5 months or so. 

Having done it both ways, my recommendation is to borrow or buy a super inexpensive bucket seat that will last 6 months, then spend your money on a nice convertible seat that’ll last 3-5 years.

Personally, I didn’t find the bucket seat any more convenient because my kids transferred from car seat to carrier to stroller ok. Some kids aren’t so forgiving. However, my second kid was small - came home from the hospital under 6 lbs. She was too small for the convertible car seat (by length) until she was 2-3 months old despite meeting the minimum weight requirement. The bucket seats are just a better fit for the smallest babies.

Our kids were both below average in size, so a car seat carrier (like a bucket with a base) was very handy.  One big thing to consider is that your baby will often fall asleep in the car, and it's the best thing to be able to click her out of the base, and take her inside.   Very, very convenient.  And you can get a stroller to put the seat with baby into, also, very very convenient. If you're doing drop off to a child care center, you'll have a lot of stuff and sometimes rolling your baby in is much easier.

When they get bigger, then you get one of those convertibles, and they can last up to 5 years, less, depending on how big your kids get.  We we had both- as infants, our kids used a car seat with base (we have a City Jogger stroller and with a pair of add ons, we could put the car seat onto it). Then we moved them to a convertible; then a booster (which btw is like 10% of the convertible, so it gets cheaper...), etc.

HTH,
 

Google Lucie’s List for a great resource on making this decision. I wondered the same, and found answers on her site, and with a good sense of humor! 

Hint: there’s no “right” answer, but you should also consider strollers before deciding!

Good luck and congrats! 

the car seat carrier is convenient when the baby is itty bitty...I can't imagine how I could have put my baby in one of those big convertible ones  his first 3-4 months b/c he was so little.  Also, you could consider getting a 2nd hand car seat b/c if it's not expired and <2-3 years old and in good shape, it's really no different from a new one. I actually had the same thoughts about not wanting a "used" car seat but now I realize what a colossal waste of money it was to spend $400+ on a new car seat and 2 or 3 car seat bases.  I totally understand though, given it's your first kid.  Would be interesting to see what parents of multiple kids say about this (i.e. did they obsess less about car seats and/or get a used one the 2nd time around).

Hi there,
Fitst of all congrats on the new coming baby!! This is what we did and it worked out really well: got an inexpensive snap n go car seat carrier which we used with our Graco carseat and we postponed buying a stroller until my daughter was about 10 months. With a carseat carrier you can transfer sleeping baby in and out of car without waking up and you don't need to bring a stroller everywhere you go for almost the entire first year and its very light to carry. Plus I was really glad I hadn't bought a stroller before the birth cuz my choices were actually very different 10 months later after paying attention to all the different strollers I would see everywhere... I decided no bulky stroller for me...

Hi Dr. JMO, 

Congratulations!

My son is 14 months now. We've been using Chicco Nextfit convertible car seat from day 3 (leaving hospital) to now. I don't think my son ever likes it. Some online reviews are great for this one but it doesn't look comfy to me. I have a few things to suggest: (1) go to stores to feel the materials and back support cushions, and don't order online before you actually see and touch it somewhere; (2) there's maybe a tradeoff between being supportive with thick cushions and being airy with thin materials. But it's probably hard to find any airy convertible ones. (3) be careful on how the car seat is designed to support/stabilize baby's head and neck. Think about how we adults like a U-shape pillow on a flight. Some carseats have poor neck support or very hard harnesses that need extra soft pads to protect baby's skin. (4) Consider if it's easy to hang mobile toys or so near the carseat. In a few months baby starts to get bored stuck in the carseat. It's helpful to create some fun there. (5) If you love traveling, look for information of flight seat dimension of your favorite airlines, and think about whether the carseat gonna fit there. Usually a car seat carrier won't have a problem, but a convertible may be tight for some flight seat. 

Hope these thoughts help a little bit! :)

Lanya

Infant seats are very convenient mainly for when the baby falls asleep in the car (which is basically always for the first few months). Also they fit in the shopping cart seats which is so nice if you run to the store during a nap (which is basically always for the first few months)! It's difficult to carry the baby around in the seat so plan on having a stroller to snap it into. I might add that there is nothing wrong with getting a used car seat carrier if it's never been in a crash and is not expired. People generally only use these things for about 9 months so most of the used ones you see are like new. I transferred my son to a convertible at around 4 months because something about the positioning of the infant car seat made him spit up all the time. I know several babies who also hated the infant seat and were never happy riding in the car until they went to a convertible seat. 

Thank you for all of the advice and recommendations! I very much appreciate it and it has been insightful.