Car Seats for Big Babies

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Car seats for babies longer than 26 in.

May 2006

Hi, My 4 month old is already 26 inches. Right now we have her in a Graco Snugride. I was told by a mom that my daughter should not be in the Graco travel system anymore. Is this true as it is not safe. Please advise. Thanks. Stefanie

At 26'' it's time to lose the infant carseat and get a 'convertible' carseat. (It converts to a forward-facing seat when the time is right.) You won't be able to use it as a 'baby bucket' to tote your kid or as the seat of your stroller; it stays in your car anon
Most of the Graco's sold up until recently do indicate in the manual that they are good up to 26''. I just received an ad in the mail that said they now have one out that is good up to about 30'' (aimed at holding a rear facing baby up until about 1 yr), however, it was not the SnugRide. Check your manual or Graco's website to verify. I moved both of my kids between 4 and 6 months to convertible seats for length reasons only Beth
Absolutely you should move to a different car seat. It is not safe if the baby exceeds either the weight or the length restrictions. I believe it is 20 inches. The baby's head should also not be within an inch of the top. It is a drag to have to move out of the infant car seats/carriers, being able to take them in and out of the car in the car seat, click it into a stroller is just so convenient. However, your baby is ready to move up to the next size of seats. Britex is the best car seat out there and you won't have to buy another one. mary
according to the graco website, the snugride is recommended for use for children up to 22 lbs. or 29 inches. looks like you have 3 inches to go! you can see more at (click on infant carseat, select a snugride model and check out the recommended use tab) anon
My 4 month old daughter grew out of her Graco bucket seat at 4 months old - she was too long for it. We moved her into a Britax Marathon. it is inconvenient at first because she was still such a baby, but by 6 months she was super sturdy and I just made sure I always kept a carrier in the car for quick outings. Now at 8 months I don't miss the bucket seat at all Anon

8-mo-old twins who weigh 20 lbs

June 1999

We have 8-mo-old twins who weigh 20 lbs and therefore need larger carseats. But we need some advice. We understand that it is better for babies to face the rear until they are a year old (bone structure not strong enough to support neck in collision when front facing until one year of age). However, the only three seats that are rated for up to 30 lbs for rear-facing infants aren't as safe (according to Consumer Reports) as some of the other models, which must face forward after 20 lbs. My question is this: Does the increased safety from facing the rear until 30 lbs offset the overall better safety of front-facing seats? In essence, is it better to buy a seat that faces the rear but only rates good, or one that faces the front but is rated very good. Please advise! Mary

Happily there is someone who REALLY knows child car seats! Ms. Vella Black-Roberts of California Child Health Project in Oakland (phone 281-7908) is a Certified Child Safety Expert, and her group is a non-profit group whose goal is to improve the health of California children. I called her because I was nervous about articles saying the majority of car seats are installed incorrectly, and I wanted really expert advice after my pediatrician, mechanic and brother all pleaded ignorance. I got Ms. Black-Roberts' name from the Department of Transportation website, and I can testify that she is WONDERFUL. A lot of what she told me was common sense (like, when installing the car seat, put your FULL ADULT WEIGHT in the seat so the retaining belt will fasten tightly) but a lot of what she told me was new. Anyway, call her (she's on Broadway near 13th st--very easy drive from Berkeley) and rest assured that you've done your best for your baby, at least as far as car seats go.
Last week I posted a plea for advice about carseats (for 20-40 lbs) and another parent of twins, Kristin Lukor, responded with the name of a child safety expert, Ms. Vella Black-Roberts of California Child Health Project in Oakland (phone 510/281-7908). I just wanted to report that I called her and her advice was wonderful. After talking with her we purchased two Britax carseats, which are rearfacing until 30 lbs., and according to Ms. Black-Roberts, are far superior to other seats. We purchased them at Berkeley Baby (Shattuck at Ashby), which has the going price (plus a twin discount) and provides free installation, a tremendous plus. The store owner feels so strongly about Britax that it's the only seat he stocks (plus Century Smartfit for infants). The Britax seat received an excellent overall rating from Consumer Reports, although was not at the very top of the list. [Incidentally, Ms. Black-Roberts said we should not look to CR as definitive - it is only one of several rating services]. I believe that Britax is one of, if not the only, seat that can be tethered when rearfacing, which really adds to the sense of security. They're expensive ($199), but we feel it was money well spent. We are very grateful for Ms. Black-Roberts's advice (and for Kristin Lukor's!). Mary
I recently posted information about the Britax Roundabout carseat, which the California Child Health Project (510/281-7908) recommends as the best convertible seat (faces both rear and forward). In my posting I inadvertently said the Britax was rated excellent overall by Consumer Reports. In fact, it rated very good, which was still the highest rating given to any convertible seat (hence my error). I believe the NTSB also gave the Britax seat its highest rating. Perhaps of more use in selecting a carseat is to visit a page the American Academy of Pediatrics has put together for the National Safe Kids Website ( and select Child Car Seat Locator, which will lead you to the page). It has lots of good information about selecting the right carseat. As a final note, there will be a carseat clinic this Saturday, June 26, from 11 to 2 p.m. at DeFemery Park in Oakland (off Adeline). Call the above number for more information. (6/99)
I've been meaning to share my experience with the Century Next Step carseat with you all because every time I install it or use it I continue to be surprised and pleased at how it works. Century has had a long-standing reputation for being safe and I agree that if a carseat will install securely it will definitely be safer. I don't use a tether and do use the carseat in airplanes, taxis, RVs, and our truck and car. Compared to another older model I gave my babysitter to use, it's been like night and day. What I really like about this carseat is that it has been designed to allow a shoulder harness seatbelt to secure it without a clip. It took me some time to realize it is more secure without the clip and the molding of the seat actually allows a real snug fit in your car. This is so much easier than using the clip. I always secure it with my full body weight (knee pressing on the seat) and when I check it, it's so firm on the car bench I can't wiggle it at all and it holds the tension indefinitely. So, as an alternative to Britax, I recommend the Century Next Step (we got ours at Toys Are Us for about $100). -- Shanta (6/99)
From: Peter (5/99)

I've been doing some research on rear-facing carseats for infants over 20 lbs. I thought I would provide an update to the material on the web-page. The issue is that rear-facing car seats are recommended for infants until age one year, but most convertible (rear and front-facing) car seat can only be used rear facing until 20 lbs., which doesn't make them any better than regular infant seats if you have a big baby (ours is 17 lbs. 9 ozs. at 4-months).

According to the January 1999 issue of _Consumers_Reports_ three companies make car seats that will accommated infants up to 30 lbs. in the rear facing position. The text from the article describing those car seats is given below. The short version is that the Evenflo Horizon V is both the cheapest and safest.

Britax Roundabout $200 Crash protection: Infant: good Toddler: fair Labeled for an infant weighing at least 5 lb. Has built-in safety-belt clips that are easy to use with emergency-locking-retractor car safety belts. Can be used rear-facing with an infant weighing up to 30 lb.; only model that can be used with top tether in that position. In 30-mph, front-facing crash test, dummy's head moved farther forward than the standard allows, but the tether improved performance. (When seat is used in rear-facing position, tether routed toward the rear of the car improved performance; tether routed toward the front worsened performance.) 1-yr. warranty. Recommendation: Very good; suitable for heavy infants in a rear-facing position. Century Smartmove XT 4720 $125 Crash protection: Infant: good Toddler: fair Can be used rear-facing with an infant weighing up to 30 lb. In 30-mph, front-facing crash test, dummy's head moved farther forward than the standard allows, but the top tether improved performance. Hard to thread the car's safety belt through the seat. Similar seat model: Smartmove 4712, $120. Recommendation: Good; suitable for heavy infants in a rear-facing position. Evenflo Horizon V 420 $50 Crash protection: Infant: good Toddler: good Labeled for an infant weighing at least 5 lb. Can be used rear-facing with an infant weighing up to 30 lb. When the seat was used front-facing with its tether in 30-mph crash test, the tether cracked the back of the car seat shell. 1-yr. warranty. Recommendation: Good; suitable for heavy infants in a rear-facing position. Very good when used without its tether.

From: Jennifer A question for those of you with big babies: my rear-facing carseat (like most others) is rated for children less than 1 year old, 20 pounds, and 27 long. At 3 months old, my baby is already over 16 pounds and 25 long, so she will clearly exceed the height and weight limits on her caresat long before her first birthday (and probably before 6 months, at the rate she's growing). Of the safety specs on the carseat, which is the most relevant? I asked my pediatrician, and he said that the height and weight limitations were the important ones, and to just put my daughter in a regular forward-facing carseat when she hit 20 lbs or 27. However, I'm pretty sure I've read that all children under 1 year need to ride rear-facing. Any information on this subject, as well as any recommendations about carseats that work well for honkin' big infants, would be appreciated. Digest Nov 26-30, 1998: Big babies and carseats
From: jocelyn About big babies and car seats: My daughter is now eight months old and exceeds the weight/height recommendations for the usual infant rear-facing car seat. We got a large car seat which can be used both rear and front-facing and which is rated from something like five pounds to (I think) forty. We actually have her front-facing (our pediatrician said that if she fit the height and weight standards, she would be fine), and we have had no problems (in fact, she really seems to enjoy looking around). In any case, getting one of the all-purpose car seats may work well. Of course, there's no more clicking the car seat in and out to go places, but I found that once my daughter got over about 15 pounds, that was just too difficult anyway. Good luck!
From: Sybil Dear Jennifer, Your pediatrician is definitely right on this one. The carseats are built and tested according to height and weight, not age (they can't use real children to crash-test the seat! They use dummies of a given size and weight that corresponds to the average size and weight of a child of a given age. Yours is not average!) If your baby's feet are up against the seat of your car when she is facing rearwards, that seat is no longer safe for her. If she is significantly heavier than the carseat makers intended the user to be, she will not be safe in it. -Sybil
From: Kathy For the mom with the big newborn. I would suggest that you buy a full size car seat and put it rear facing. I recommend the Century 1000 car seat. It is a five point system car seat that works best for babies. I never used a infant seat until my daughter was about 6 months and then moved her to the full size. I kept it rear facing until she was over a year old. Hope this helps
From: Wendy My daughter was also over 16 pounds at three months and was quickly outgrowing her infant carseat. (Interstingly enough, my first daughter had weighed only 17 pounds at 12 months, so we were not prepared for this, but we adjusted.) We were able to find several major brands of carseats which had two sets of loops in the base, one allowing for rear facing and the other allowing for forward facing. So we simply put her in a bigger-kid carseat at an earlier age. After her first birthday, we just turned the seat around to face forward. She is now 7, so things may have changed, but my guess is that you could find a big kid carseat with this option in the base of the frame.
From: Diane Most Toddler car seats now are actually for birth through 3 or so. You can install the toddler seat backward like an infant seat. I don't remember the brand we have but it was purchased from Costco. But when we were looking, I noticed most of them do say they're also for infants. They allow you to tilt the seat so the infant is pratically laying down (just like the infant seats). I'd recommend getting those cushions to fit around the baby so that the width of the seat is more snuggly around your child. This prevents his/her head from shifting too much in case there is an emergency stop. We've used it for our baby backward so that he can sleep better. The only problem I can see is if you have a small back seat area. Using these toddler/infant seats backwards take up a lot more room and I've had to move the front row seats further up in order to fit it in.
From: Ted Every carseat I have ever seen for toddlers (20-40 pounders) can be strapped in rear facing as well as forward facing. So I would go ahead and put your baby in the larger size, but continue to keep him rear facing. Many pediatricians actually recommend that you keep your child rear facing for as long as you can as it is much safer. Most of the larger size carseats are marketed now as newborn to toddler. My father bought me one of these when my first child was born but it just seemed so big that we stored it away and used one of the smaller ones for a while. Digest Dec 1-3, 1998: car seat for a 25 lb girl
From: Renee To all, I heard that Britex is a good brand, but did not find it at Toysrus, instead bought a Century. Is this acceptable for carrying a 25lb kid. Most of the seat belts in my car are retractble shoulder belts, except for the center seat in the rear. Does this mean that the car seat must be placed in the rear center seat?
From: Janette My understanding has been that a baby needs to be 20 pounds AND one to face forward because of the lack of neck strength before age one. Th ere are larger car seats which can face backward (to I think 30 pounds) and forward from 20-40 pounds. Good Luck from a mom with big babies too! Janette
From: Laura be very careful when you read car seat labels. seats you can face rearward, even if they hold kids up to 40 pounds, usually have to be turned forward when the kid hits 20 pounds. my son weighed 20 pounds at 13 weeks, about a year ago. and that point, Britax was the only company that made a comfortable-looking rear-facing seat for a 20-pound kid that young (it faces rear until 40 pounds, though i think even with Brtiax a large kid's feet will hit the car seat well before 40 pounds). Rockridge Kids has a couple Britax seats; century may also make one now. they're really expensive. our pediatrician recommended he face the rear until at least 6 months and preferably a year, based on muscle and bone development (which has zero to do with weight). infants are simply too fragile to withstand whiplash, regardless of their weight.