Lugging around a baby in an infant car seat is simultaneously convenient and awful. Those things weigh a ton, and when you add a baby, it might as well be your weight session for the day. But when should my baby switch to a convertible car seat? As much as you may love being able to bring the baby in the store or your home without unbuckling them or waking them, you also want them to be as safe as humanly possible.
First things first: no matter what seat your baby is in, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all babies remain rear-facing in their car seats until at least age 2, or better yet, until they max out of the height and weight requirements of their rear-facing convertible car seat. The reason for this is that, according to expert The Car Seat Lady, rear-facing car seats are up to five times safer in a crash than forward-facing. That's a significant difference, and totally worth whatever hassle it may cause.
It's also important to make sure your baby is strapped in properly, and that your seat is installed properly. If you aren't sure about your car seat installation skills, if you call your local fire department, most are more than willing and happy to help you. Also, check with your local baby supply store like Babies R' Us, as many have an expert on hand or offer workshops. When I had my first, I made my best girlfriend's husband, an FDNY lieutenant, check it five ways from Sunday, even though my husband was a police officer and therefore his sworn enemy. (Not really enemies. More like frenemies.)
But, when should my baby switch to a convertible car seat? Consumer Reports tests found that it should be sooner than you think. According to the research, your baby should be moved before they are 1 year old or 22 pounds, but after they have head and neck control, as the infant car seats are easier for parents to position for optimal neck support.
The reason is that convertible car seats offer better protection against head injuries and better impact protection overall. While it may seem like a heavy expense to buy both an infant and a convertible car seat so close together, it's one that's very much worth the cost. And don't forget, if you're using a car seat for the second time around (or more), car seats have an expiration date, so look closely, and remember that it's all in the name of safety, and Buy Buy Baby loves a coupon. (Or register for both.)