Sunday, June 5, 2011

Best Car Seat: Infant Seat vs Convertible Seat

If there's one thing you absolutely HAVE to buy before having a baby it's a car seat. Or at least before bringing them home. Did you know many hospitals will demand to see the car seat before releasing you?? Be my guest to be the worst procrastinator on Earth but do me a favor & check this one off your list.

There are two types of car seats you'll have a choice between, an infant seat & a convertible car seat...You're going to need a convertible car seat eventually (you're toddler will use it until they're large enough for a booster seat) so many might reason that you should just spend the money on a convertible but before you decide let me give you my thoughts...

An infant seat is portable, a convertible is not. Meaning that if your baby falls asleep in the car (which he/she will, guaranteed) you can just lift out the infant seat (the seat has a base which remains attached to your seat) & keep them asleep. (fingers crossed) With a convertible car seat you have no choice but to take the baby out of the seat or sit in a parking lot twiddling your thumbs waiting for them to wake up.

The other big bonus of a portable seat is you'll have somewhere to put the baby when you arrive at your destination. Set the infant seat in your shopping cart or keep them in it at a restaurant. In fact many restaurants have infant seat holders called "slings" that you can set the infant seat right into. (much safer than the old upside down highchair trick). Until your baby is old enough to sit in a high chair (around 6-8 months) you'll be stuck holding them or bringing the stroller unless you have an infant seat.

My other reason for endorsing an infant seat is that although newborns can technically ride in a convertible car seat I think they're far too slumpy for it. Newborns are little more than a big blog & that blob has no strength to hold itself up. In an infant seat they're somewhat reclined which although is a bonus for a newborn will also be one of the reasons you'll want to switch your older baby to a convertible seat.

So with that said the choice is yours (obviously).
If you're really tight on money then you might want to only spend the cash once & get a convertible seat. If you can afford to start off with an infant seat & switch to a convertible later than that's the route I'd definitely recommend.

As for brands, I'll give you my two cents on what I've purchased for my girls & then hope you experienced moms will comment with what has/hasn't worked for you with your car seats!

My first car seat was a Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Car Seat. We bought it because the Chicco Cortina KeyFit 30 Travel Systemwas highly recommended on Consumer Reports. In my next post I'll get into why I HATED my Chicco Cortina stroller but as for the infant seat on it's own I'll say I'm pretty ambivalent. The seat installed easily & I liked that I could buy an extra base for my husband's car & grandma's house. However, I wasn't in love with the amount of padding & texture of the seat's fabric. It wasn't the most inviting for a sensitive little newborn (or my picky design taste) & kind of cheap to be honest. A Hula Moon Car Seat Cover however was an easy fix for both. (China Doll print, SO stinking cute!) The car seat & cover lasted through both of my girls & the Chicco Key Fit 30 continues to be an affordable, Consumer Reports recommended car seat.

When it came time for a convertible seat we once again did our homework on all the different brands as well as checking out the displays in person at my local baby store & finally chose the Britax Boulevard 70 Convertible Car Seat. I love this seat. It's very easy to install, has great padding, super soft fabric & wonderful safety features like side-impact head padding which many other seats haven't yet included. We've done a lot of car seat shopping in this house & I must say I'm a Britax girl through & through. If we ever have another baby (I can sense my husband's nervous twitch from me just typing that) I would probably buy the Britax Chaperone Infant Carrier.
Yes Britax is expensive but if there's one place, in my opinion, not to scrimp it's your kid's car seat.

Next post...strollers! (please, try to contain yourself)


40 comments:

  1. How funny - those 2 car seats are the same 2 we use(d)! However, I love my Chicco seat and stroller and had zero complaints. It ended up being perfect for our tiny preemie :) But be aware that any additional products (extra inserts and strap covers, etc.) are not recommended. Babies in the NICU must pass a car seat test before being able to leave (they monitor their oxygen levels, etc.) and my mom had purchased a special preemie insert and they wouldn't test with it. Also if there was an accident these inserts "null" the seat warranty.

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  2. My only recommendation is that when you get a convertible/booster, that you spend the extra money for one that reclines. We learned our lesson on this quickly. It pained me to see my 2 year old with her head slumped down while she slept for long rides or even just on the way home from church or the store. We then purchase a reclining seat and now when she falls asleep one of us reaches back and pulls the lever so she can sleep comfortably.

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  3. I have a travel system with my second baby, and I didn't with my first. (I just had the stroller and the baby carseat.) I totally recommend getting a travel system if you're going to be out and about in those first few months! Mine is a tandem stroller as well, so my three year old can hop on the back, and I love it. It takes all sorts of carseats, actually, so I can use the stroller again if I have a third, even if I have had to replace the carseat by then. The one thing I would change is actually my vehicle - I'd love to trade in for a slightly newer one that has those special clips for the carseats. I think they're much more secure feeling, to me, and you don't have to worry that your three year old accidentally unbuckled the baby when she was trying to get herself out of the car. (It's happened to me, but happily I did notice!)

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  4. What a cool blog! Thanks for starting it Natasha!
    I purchased a Graco travel system w/ my now 4yo. It has survived him plus my 2yo son and now using it for my 2mos old daughter. I agree about the infant carrier seat. It was a must for me! Gotta have somewhere to keep the baby safe & secure when you are out & about. Although, those things get crazy heavy! I love that it snaps right in my stroller. Haven't researched one in a while, but mine has held up nicely. I would suggest purchasing an extra "base" or two depending on your vehicle situation. We have one in dad's pick-up and one for the grandparents. Much easier to just snap the carrier in place than unhooking that base from the Latch system - harder than it sounds :)

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  5. I agree with Leigh Anne about the extra bases. We bought a base for both Grandmas and one for my husband's truck. It is very handy when someone else is picking up your child or if you are not always driving the same vehicle. Just snap and go.

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  6. We loved our Chicco Keyfit 30! Not only was it SO easy to install, but our baby always seemed so cozy and snuggly in there. I really loved too that we didn't need to buy a second base; we could just buckle it into my husband's car using the seatbelt if we needed to. That said, my baby grew so fast he only used it for 4 months and then we switched him to a convertible seat (right now he is 6 months and about 23 pounds. . .). I'd totally recommend it though!

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  7. I love Britax as well! We have used the infant and convertible seat for our daughter. For your stroller post- I tried 5 different strollers before finding the baby Jogger City Select that I LOVE. Great for outdoor walks and malls. I would tell new Mom not to waste money on a jogging stroller ( or buy it used) cause really - you dont jog once baby arrives- no matter how good your intentions are. :)

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  8. well, this post made me laugh, a little. not because what you wrote wasn't informative, but because I wished I had read it like a year ago:) I'm so not a planner, I wasn't ready for my first and I wasn't ready for my second. When I went into labor with my son, my husband literally threw the car ( in pieces, as in I had bought it used and had taken it apart to wash it, so the base was in a different area of the house, the car seat was hiding too and the cover was in the dryer, thankfully not the washer;) ) so, anyway, I was only in labor for like an hour, we had nothing ready to take to the hospital and worst of all my husband hastily follows behind me with all the pieces to this car seat as i'm screaming my head off, we left like an hour later! after the nurses got a good laugh:)

    hope no one judges this;) I swear I'll be more prepared for my third.....

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  9. I would definitely recommend an infant car seat to any new parent. My youngest is 7 months old, and this time around we used it until he was about 5 months (he's a HUGE baby), but with my daughter she was in it until she was around 9 months. When they're smaller and unable to sit in a shopping cart, it's incredibly useful to be able to just place the carseat into the cart, or attach it into the stroller- I don't know if all new parents realize you can just plop the infant seat into the stroller as well (I didn't for a few months!) I also loved using the car seat around the house- my kids both preferred taking naps in it during the day, and it was easy to pick up and carry with me room to room. I just covered the straps with a blanket and rested them on top :)

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  10. I loved both parts of my Chicco travel system--sad to see you didn't like the stroller(if you are tall like me it was the only one with handles that I didn't have to slump over). Our little girl was very tiny--5 pounds and she fit in fine with the newborn insert.

    One thing about an infant seat--when they start sitting up, my baby didn't seem to like reclining in her infant seat as much. Even though weight wise we could still be in the infant seat, we made the change at 6 or so months. We moved her to the convertible and she loved the "freedom" a lot more. But I do miss the easy days of just grabbing the carrier.

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  11. For my daughter I was given an infant carseat/stroller combo. It was a Graco brand and I liked it because it was easy to handle. My boyfriend chose the Chicco brand because he felt it was better protection for her. It definitely had more padding but I felt it was a lot heavier to carry than mine.

    For the convertible seat we both decided to get the Britax brand. We did our research and felt that was the best one to get. Granted its not cheap but we thought it would be the best bet for her and we would have them for a long time since they she can use it until she weighs 65 pounds.

    Thanks for coming up with this blog Natasha! Great way for us mommies to give our advice to future mommies.

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  12. Great new blog Natasha!

    We went with an infant car seat so we could transport our little girl if she happened to fall asleep. It was also safer for me to carry her through icy parking lots into the grocery store, etc. We didn't get an extra base b/c we only had one car.

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  13. I would definitely recommend getting a travel system. It is so much easier to lift the car seat out and stick it into the stroller, then have to do that with the baby. Money-wise, though, I have to say that while I think safety should be top priority, the majority of cost involved with the high-end car seats are for the looks. Safety-wise, you can find an affordable car seat that may not have all the cushy, frilly padding, but has a high safety rating. I'm just not the type of person to spend more just because of how something looks or feels. So for frugal moms, compare all of the car seats, because the high safety rating on the lower cost car seats may surprise you.

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  14. Great idea, in fact one i did informally when i was pregnant with my second and a whole bunch of friends were pregnant with their first. I called it the Baby Roundtable. I compiled the whole thing into a word document and posted it on my site. It's a little dated-- from 2007, but feel free to borrow/copy/share any you find useful!

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cP2MEBJ3zMzI6Zh3E7hQts-YuGZjvLc9xxWyZdGwHis/edit?hl=en_US

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  15. I'm pregnant with my first and I made the decision to just get convertible for a few reasons. I live in an apartment... and carrying a carseat up and down the stairs is not appealing to me. Despite if I have a wonderful recovery (or the worst, knock on wood) I just can't be lugging that thing around. BUT! I am keeping my options open. I think I'll get a moses basket for baby when she needs a place to be in the restaurant or when she's napping. And if carrying her in a moby or a basket doesn't work out- we'll get the chaperone infant seat. My reasons are because it is for such a short time, it's not cheap, you can't return it (let alone sell it), and it's heavy for up and down stairs travel. I got the Marathon 70 Britax convertible seat, but what I find I need to do most as a new mom is to keep my options open. When one day it seems like the dumbest idea and you say you'll never do that and set it in stone... well then the next day comes, the wind changes and viola! You are doing what you said you wouldn't. So I'm keeping my options open :D. Thanks for the post, it is something I never thought I'd be passionate about. (I am lucky, if I want an infant seat, my sister has one waiting in the wings for me. :D)

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  16. We were given a travel system by my mother in law (It was the Safety 1st brand from Target I think). It was nice to use the bucket seat for her first few months. It was very convenient to be able to go in/out of the car into stores, etc... when she was sleeping. She outgrew the seat fairly quickly. We bought a convertible carseat for my husband's truck before she was born, but in the beginning she was so floppy that we didn't use it. She's a little over 2 and still using that convertible seat (Evenflo Titan). We're gearing up to get her in a convertible booster seat (Graco Nautilus), since her shoulders are getting to be too high for her to fit in the convertible seat safely (she's quite tall for her age).

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  17. I agree that spending the money for a quality car seat is worth it. Don't even think about buying a second hand one and make sure you ergistered your car seat so if there are any recalls you'll know about them. I hated Evenflo when I had it for my first child andI now love my Graco and it has been used for 2 children.

    If you don't have a vehicle there are some hospital/agency's that will rent car seats out by the day.

    Also get the car seat checked by a someone who is trained to make sure they are in properly.

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  18. Or you could just have your baby at home and skip needing the car eat right away =o)

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  19. I have a 1 1/2 year old girl and until she was 12months (more or less 9Kgs...sorry, I'm from Portugal and we don't use pounds...!) we used the infant seat, for all the reasons Natasha explained, plus it's safer for the baby to travel "backwards". ( Just make sure your baby doesn't spend more than 2 hours in a row sitting in the infant seat, it's not good for their back. If you need to make a long trip, stop from time to time and pick your baby up, for a while, to change position and then you can put him/her back in the infant seat and continue your journey.)
    Then we switched to a convertible seat that we ordered online from Germany, which will last until she's about 12 years old. After much research, regarding most of all safety issues, we ordered the Cybex Pallas Fix and are fully satisfied, specially my daughter Catarina that loves the safety cushion.

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  20. I def. recommend an infant seat if you can get one. We had a Graco and we loved it.

    We have 2 chicco strollers and they are ok.

    As far as a convertible car seat, we chose the Evenflo Triumph65. My son is 20 mths. 36" and 33 lbs. He is still rear-facing in his seat. We wanted the seat where he could rear face the longest since AAP recommends rear facing as long as you can. He can rear face until 40 lbs in his car seat. Our first choice was Britax but it would only RF until 35lbs.

    Love the blog Natasha!!

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  21. YES. Agreed. We bought the less expensive Graco system (Quattro stroller?), and recently reused it for our second child (outside the 5-year window, give me a break). I was happy with it both times. It will last 6 months if your baby is average, up to a year for those little petite girls. For newborns, I HIGHLY recommend the additional head pillows. No link, but they just curve around baby's head. Mine started out with two pillows that go from one shoulder around baby's head to the other shoulder. As baby grows, you remove the inside one and you still have the outside one.

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  22. I highly recommend that everyone looking for information on car seats visit car-seat.org for a wealth of helpful and informative mothers, fathers and car seat techs. It's also very inadvisable to use car seats outside of the car. I understand the convenience of using an infant seat that snaps into a stroller, however numerous studies have shown that extended use can reduce baby's oxygen level. Sitting an infant seat in a grocery cart or on a chair or table is also dangerous and leads to numerous infant injuries every year. Baby carriers are a safe and convenient way to hold or carry your baby while shopping or dining.

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  23. I agree with dmcL but I also want to point out that adding extra pads, seat covers, etc that are not included with the seat are NOT known to be safe as they have not been crash tested. I also would really like to advise you all to keep your kids rear facing until at least age 2 (AAP recommends this!!!), longer if it's working out! Please also make sure baby is correctly fastened (chest clip not at the tummy please) and not with a bulky snowsuit on under the harness. I wish posts like these would share some of this VERY important life saving info.

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  24. Natasha,

    Great idea for a website. I'm pretty sure every post you write will open up a can of worms as far as the comments go. After all, I guess this comments section is all about leaving your own two cents!

    My two cents are going to steer away from the Debbie Downer aspect of the car seat topic. I also used the Chicco Key Fit 30 with baby #3. I chose that one because it holds babies up to 30 lbs. and my first two kids were really large at birth and gained weight fast. My first actually grew out of his infant carrier at 4 months old. I can't imagine going straight to a convertible car seat. My kids were born big and the Britax car seat made them look like tiny peanuts. I thought the Key Fit was fine. Didn't love or hate it.

    What I did/do love, is Britax car seats. I've tried quite a few since my oldest is now almost 9. Wow, how I love them!

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  25. I had an infant seat (as part of a travel system) with my 1st son. I'm now 5 months preggers with my 2nd son, so I had to buy a new seat since my old one expired...plus the buckle annoyed the crap out of me. *Hated* that thing.

    I didn't use the giant travel system stroller much. Literally, maybe half a dozen times. It was big & heavy & annoying to use...even in my giant mom-boat sedan. I actually got the most use out of a $15 umbrella stroller. Looking for one that's a little nicer this go 'round, but still don't want a big travel system stroller.

    I love this blog idea. :) I enjoy the crafts you post on your other blog...but my time is limited enough that I just pine for crafty time from a distance. :)

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  26. I wish more blog posts like this focused more safety information instead of the aesthetics of a car seat. Personally, I did a year of research before choosing the Grace SnugRide 35 for its ease of use and 35lb rear facing (RF) weight limit. The colour was not a factor, safety was the only factor I took into consideration.
    When my daughter outgrows this seat, which will still be a while and she is 8.5 months and over 20lbs, we will replace it with a Sunshine Kids Radian or Radian XT. This seat will keep her RF until she is 45lbs (to my knowledge the highest weight limit on the market in Canada and the USA).
    Keeping children RF as long as possible is the safest way for them to travel in the car.
    Car seats are made for the car. Using them outside of the car can lead to injury. Keeping babies in car seats for extented periods of time can lead to oxygen desaturation. Travel systems are made for convenience, not the safety of your child. Babies kept in their car seats for hours on end are being deprived of oxygen and much needed contact with their parents.
    There are many different carriers to suit every need out there. We never have to struggle with a large stroller or awkward car seat, our daughter is always right with us in the carrier, seeing the world as we see it. She is also not being put on the floor in harms way or bumped around like a piece of luggage.
    Read your car seat manual...several times if necessary. Each one will tell you not to use "after market products." This includes the cover mentioned in this blog (which will void warranty and possibly endanger your child in a firey crash). Most of the extra pads, bundling covers and such make it impossible to properly tighten the restraints. In a crash, the G Forces exerted on your child will likely compress the extra material and eject them from the seat. The same is true for snowsuits in between the child and the straps.
    A car seat is not a status symbol. It is to protect your child's life in the case of an accident. Choose wisely and use wisely.

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  27. Definitely go with an infant car seat - we got the Graco Snugride and were really happy with it. A lot of people say to get the lightest car seat possible so you're able to carry it. By the time my son was 9 months old I had bulging biceps. I'd also go with a Snap & Go stroller because it's so easy and light and VERY easy to maneuver. We bought the highest end Britax when we went to the convertible seat....My husband said it best...I just spent $500 on a laptop - why the heck would I go cheap on something that could potentially save my kids life if we were in an accident. It's worth every penny.

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  28. I have three kids and I have learned alot from each. With my first 2 we bought the infant car seats (that came with the matching stroller). I wish I had bought the convertible seat. With my 3rd child we finally wised up and did it. I love it because my baby is good up to 100 pounds! I read that some people think the downsides are the baby falls asleep and then you are stuck, or there is no way to keep the baby contained--not true. That is when a BABY WRAP comes into play. If my daughter passes out, I put her into my Mai Tei wrap. When she was smaller and we wanted to go to a restaurant I held her on my lap. (I had to nurse her anyway.) Either way, it does come down to personal choice. I have used both, and I need to add that I have been a parent for 13 yrs now. Good luck with whatever kind of car seat you choose.

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  29. We went with a convertible car seat for our 2 month old and I have no regrets! I can see the convenience of an infant seat but we decided against it because it is an additional cost, you are limited in the amount of time they can spend in the seat, and I didn't want to store the infant seat after a few months. Most of the time when we are out and about I use a sling. Rather than buying a Moses basket, we bought a bassinet that fits onto the stroller, so if we are out at night and expect her to be sleeping we bring this - at home she sleeps in the same bassinet on a Moses basket stand. However, one thing I hadn't anticipated about the convertible seat is the heat - the weather where I live is getting above 115 degrees during the day, so the seat is extremely hot because it stays in the car.

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  30. What perfect timing! I'm pregnant with my first and am trying to determine what I REALLY need. Obviously, a car seat is at the top of the list. I look forward to future posts!

    Some other ideas that may be helpful for me (and other new moms): carriers vs. strollers, which stroller, which carrier, cloth diapers.

    Thanks!

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  31. Haha, I was just taking to hubby about being overwhelmed by what we need to get! Thanks Natasha!

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  32. We had a Graco Travel System. I really liked the carseat, stroller not so much. I bought one of the "Snap 'n Go" frames and that is still one of my favorite baby purchases. It is a lightweight frame that turns your infant seat into a stroller. Next time (if there is a next time!) I would just buy a new infant seat to go in the Snap 'N Go. The extra bases with the infant seat are also really convenient.

    We also went with a Graco MyRide 65 for her next carseat when it was time to switch to a convertible. It can stay reverse facing until 40lbs so we liked that. She likes it and the fabric has worn nicely. The convertible carseats don't have bases so we ended up buying one for each car. Not exactly cheap, but more convenient for us. Also, the MyRide is fairly affordable compared to other convertible carseats.

    We have been happy with both our Graco Infant seat and the convertible one.

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  33. Lots of great advice here. It does all come down to preference and your own personal needs. With my first two I used a Graco that was part of a travel system. It was great for them. My kids tend to be long and skinny, so it made things hard the older they got. They weren't heavy enough to turn around, but were too long! I still don't have an answer for that problem, and will have to make a decision on what to do with my third. We have her in the Baby Trend infant seat. My kids are 5, 2, and 4 months, so we got the Baby Trend sit n stand stroller for the two youngest to ride in. I took the stroller to the store and tried all the seats on to see if any other brands would fit safely. Unfortunately only their brand fits it really well, but I have ended up loving their seat! My favorite features: the easy adjustable straps (turn a knob on the back to adjust the straps up and down instead of having to take straps apart as with most other seats) and the head pillow that wraps around their head. The only downside is it is a little more involved to buckle.
    Great blog idea, love hearing other's POV.

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  34. I wanted to mention, also, that if you are having a 2nd (or more) baby and are using your previous car seat, they are only good for 6 years. After that the plastic begins to break down and weaken. Also, even without a baby in it, a car seat always needs to be strapped into the car. A car seat floating around in the back of a moving vehicle can cause it to become unknowingly damaged and therefore insufficient at absorbing the impact of a crash. This goes for all car seats, from baby carriers and up.

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  35. we bought a baby trend flex-loc infant car seat and have loved it so far (2 months into using it). before buying we went to a store where they had samples out we could touch and play with. that really helped seal the deal and make us comfortable with our decision. one of the main reasons we chose this seat was the handle. it seemed like the most convenient, comfy handle out of all of them.

    but my main recommendation is to just go to a store where they let you play around with their samples, and test everything out! what works for one person won't necessarily work for everyone.

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  36. we had our baby at home and only installed the car seat after he was born, one my brother gave us that he used for his two girls. It is a convertable. To be honest I didn't even really know about the other type, but I prefered to get him out of his car seat and carry him in the sling after any trips. Now that he is bigger and doesn't nap as much (and wouldn't fit in an infant seat anyway) I sometimes stay in the car and do some knitting or reading until he wakes up.

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  37. We are now using the same Britax you have, Cowmoofalge FTW! When my son was a newborn though we lived for our travel system. We had the safety first and have no compalints. So easy to get him in and out of the car without waking and the added bonus of being able to snap him into the stroller was fantastic. I cant tell you how many hours we spent pushing that stroller around the house, singing and running it over the rug (to get the bumpy motion he so loved) to get him to sleep. Another bonus of the infant seat that I havent seen mentioned here is relief from infant reflux. Our poor guy was severly afflicted and sleeping in the angled seat rather than on his back really seemed to help with his symptoms. Good luck to all you new mamas out there and remember, you can read all the reviews you want and listen to all the advice in the world and youll probably find that the thing that works best for your family is something you stumble upon at 3 in the morning while you are dancing around the house to Justin Bieber on youtube because it seems to make the baby sleepy.

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  38. We never used an infant seat for my DD - I'd heard about the seats becoming detached from the base in accidents and the baby & seat being thrown, and it just made more sense to only buy one seat that would grow with my DD. Her seat had the option to recline while rear-facing, and whenever we had to bring her anywhere (to our 10th floor apartment or the doctors, a restaurant) we would put her in our Maya Wrap (ring sling) - certainly easier than lugging around one of those super heavy infant seats! She is now 20 mos, in the same car seat, and stays asleep when we have to carry her inside. =) I am all for convertible car seats!

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  39. What an interesting post! There are a lot of Carseatexperts website that can benefit us a lot in buying the best car seat.

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