Use this guide to learn when and how to graduate from your infant carrier. To get started, let's take a look at the differences and benefits of infant carriers and convertible car seats.
While convertible car seats are suitable for new-born passengers, it’s common practice for parents to choose an infant carrier for those very first journeys. Many make the choice because of convenience; an infant carrier attaches to the vehicle via a base that stays installed all the time. The carrier simply “clicks” in and out of the base while baby stays harnessed in the carrier. Many infant carriers are also part of a travel system which includes a stroller.
In comparison, a convertible car seat stays installed in the car while baby is buckled in and out of the harness when the car ride begins and ends. This is a great option if you want to baby wear and it can save you money over time because you can start with a convertible car seat and skip the infant carrier. If you decide to start with an infant carrier, it’s important to remember that they have height and weight limits and expiration dates just like convertible car seats. But how do you know what they are?
The answer will be found in your car seat manual, which should be read and understood before using your car seat. Whether it’s your first or fifth, car seats are often updated and reengineered, meaning their usage limits may have changed since you last checked.
Safety tips to remember
Before we go any further, let’s be reminded that it is always recommended by experts that new-born passengers travel rear-facing for as long as possible. While convertible car seats can be used in rear and forward-facing modes, graduating to a convertible seat doesn’t strictly mean that you’re switching to forward-facing. The American Academy of Pediatrics and Diono recommend that you keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible until they reach the full height or weight capacity of their car seat. Some states have laws requiring that kids ride rear-facing until the age of two. Diono seats offer the advantage of extended rear-facing to 50 lbs so don’t be in a hurry to turn them forward-facing!
How long will my infant carrier last?
Truth is, there’s no way to predict how long your baby will be able to ride in their infant carrier. However, let’s say your child has outgrown it at nine months, and you know this because they’re at the maximum weight, does that mean it’s time for a forward-facing seat? Nope! It simply means it’s time to switch to a rear-facing convertible seat and remain rear-facing until they’ve outgrown the weight or height limits of that. Most children aren’t physically ready to ride forward-facing until they’re at least two years old. Why? To put it simply, this is because they’re bones aren’t strong enough to withstand the forces exerted on them in a crash when forward-facing.
When is it time to switch?
Infant car seats range in height and weight limits, so it’s super important to familiarize yourself with the limits of your own seat. Remember rule number one, read the manual. No two kiddos grow at the same pace, which is why they can transition to a new seat if they meet the height or weight limits, you don’t have to wait for both of them to be met. In fact, if your child is over the height but within the weight limit, their car seat is not suitable anymore.
Diono always recommends keeping your child rear-facing until they’ve reached the rear-facing height or weight limit of their car seat because it’s the safest way for them to travel. While your child might be in a hurry to turn around, you can’t hurry safety!