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Convertible Car Seat 101: When to Switch to a Convertible Car Seat

Convertible Car Seat 101: When to Switch to a Convertible Car Seat

Switching from an infant carrier to a convertible car seat is the first graduation in your child’s car seat journey. But when is the right time to switch? Our CPST explains everything you need to know

Throughout your car seat journey it’s likely your kiddo will travel in more than one seat. From infant carriers, to convertible car seats, to backless boosters. The choice is yours! But many parents and caregivers using an infant carrier find themselves asking “when can I switch to a convertible car seat?”. We’ve got the answers!

First thing’s first: car seat safety best practice is for children to travel rear-facing until they reach the height or weight limit of their car seat. This is backed by child passenger safety experts, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Whether you choose an infant, convertible or all-in-one car seat for your baby, they are all equally as safe as long as you install them correctly and follow the instructions for proper use in the manual.

Infant Car Seats

This is typically where most journeys begin as caregivers often feel they’re the most convenient choice; more on that later! Rear-facing only, infant car seats are installed using a fixed base in your vehicle. The base stays installed, and the seat can be removed for transporting your baby. Infant car seats can also be attached to a stroller, which is known as a travel system.

Although it’s super convenient to be able to transport a sleeping baby out of your vehicle in their car seat, it should be remembered that it is not recommended for a baby to sleep in their car seat for any extended period of time.

What are the disadvantages of infant car seats?

There are no major disadvantages to choosing an infant car seat for your baby other than cost efficiency. All car seats have height and weight limits, but most infant car seats have lower limits than convertible seats. The maximum weight limit is usually 30 or 35 lbs. Most infants will transition to a new seat, such as a convertible or all-in-one, before they reach the maximum weight or height of their infant car seat.

Convertible Car Seats

Unlike infant car seats, convertible (and all-in-one) car seats are suitable for use in rear-facing and forward-facing modes. However, there is no rush to transition from rear to forward-facing. As per expert recommendations, your child should only switch to forward-facing when they have reached the maximum rear-facing height or weight limit. You’ll find this information in your car seat manual. Convertible car seats are also installed differently, and typically do not attach to a base. This means that they are not very portable, like infant car seats.

There’s no guarantee how quickly your child will grow, so it’s best to look for a seat with a good rear-facing range. Lots of car seats are suitable for rear-facing up to 40 lbs, with Diono Radian® car seats supporting rear-facing up to 50 lbs.

Convertible car seats are engineered to protect your child as they grow, and usually have a different set of features specifically designed for rear-facing and forward-facing. Diono SafePlus™ convertible car seats provide advanced protection for growing children, with Radian® 3QXT® models offering the most infant protection.

When should I switch to a convertible car seat?

As mentioned previously, you should only switch seats (or modes) when your child exceeds the weight or height limit of their seat or mode. If you are switching from an infant car seat to a convertible or all-in-one car seat, it is likely your child will need to remain in the rear-facing position.

Changing seats does not mean changing modes!

To put it simply, you should transition from an infant carrier to a convertible car seat when:

  • Your child exceeds the car seat’s height limit
  • Or
  • Your child exceeds the car seat’s weight limit

Other Top Tips!

  • Always read both your car seat and vehicle manual before installing your car seat. If you’ve upgraded your seat, refer to the vehicle manual again.
  • Check your installation before each journey. You can do this easily with the 5-Point Checklist, found in our Diono Journal
  • You can’t hurry safety! There’s no rush to transition your child between seats or modes.