We know it. It's a real bummer when your little peanut grows too big for the infant car seat. Oh, we can sing the praises of that cute little bucket seat. So light, so easy, snapping on to the stroller frame. But the convertible seats are different. And you have to understand why: these will protect your little one from 12 months (many can be used for babies as small as 7lbs) to 65 lbs. They need to be strong! They need to be robust. They are infused with so much technology, a SilCo engineer's head would spin.
First a couple questions that might be on your mind:
1/Do I really need one? I don't have a car. . . (city person conundrum)
Yes! You do. This is a long time that these are relavent and you will be traveling around and at some point you'll be in a car. Babies even at 12 months are teeny tiny and they most definitely are safest in a car seat. We hear all sorts of workarounds in the city (as these suckers are a pain) but we beg you not to take the chance. It only takes one wonky Uber or taxi. But rest assured, we've come up with a method that works and will make your life easier. Read on!
2/Why didn't I get a convertible car seat in the first place? If it works for babies I could have saved some Benjamins!
Yes, that's true, but consider this: The convertible car seat is much heavier and bulkier and will not click onto any stroller frame. Therefore, it's portablity is limited which means your mobility is limited. (though again we have some techniques, but none so easy-breezy as the infant car seat-stroller frame combo!)
3/Why's it called a 'convertible' car seat anyway?
A convertible car seat is one that can turn to be rear facing in the beginning (sometimes up to 4 years) and then can turn around to be forward facing. Ideally your child will rear face as long as they can before busting the height/weight limits of the seat. This is the safest way to travel!
Features you might look for/terms you want to know when shopping for a convertible car seat:
LATCH: LATCH stands for "Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children". You use lower anchors to secure the car seat to the vehicle (usually instead of hte seat belt). The Tether is to keep the top of the car seat secure to the seat. These are used on all forward facing car seats.
Rigid LATCH: This is a cool one but only one convertible car seat we know of features it and that is the Foonf (forward facing). This is great as the metal substructure of the seat can click into the hooks in the car. Metal to metal is the best, safest install. Best, safest!
Flexible LATCH: This is the alternative to rigid LATCH where the clip that will affix to your car (deep in the back seat where all the crumbs go) will be on the end of a seatbelt like fabric material. All car seats that we know use flexible LATCH when installing rear facing. Most car seats also use this for forward facing. The flexible latch will either be a click or a hook and you normally tighten by pulling the fabric strap.
Load Leg: This is a feature common to the infant car seat bases, but we only know of the Sirona S that features a base with a load leg. The load leg absorbs shock and decreases downward movement in the case of a short stop or accident. Note your ability to use it might vary per car: for instance, if you have a floor that has a bump in the middle or if you have a hollow floor /stow and go like in a mini-van). Check the seat's recommendation for installation. This is a great safety feature if you can use it you should! Like the anti-rebound bar, this will also limit rebounding.
Anti-rebound bar: Some car seats have an anti rebound bar to decreate motion of the seat in an accident. This prevents rebounding when rear-facing in a frontal collision and rotation in a side impact collision.
Side Impact protection: Headrests and sides are curved and infused with technology (often EPP foam) to absorb energy further protecting the child.
Sensor Safe: This is something supercool that Cybex offers on all their seats, where the chest clip features technology that can pair with your car and phone giving you safety messages regarding the temperature of the car, reminding you that the child is there, and even infomring you when you should turn from rear facing to forward facing.
Top Tether: This is the strap attached to the top back of a convertible seat that attaches to a tether anchor in the car. These are generally used in forward facing seats but sometimes for rear facing. They decrease motion and rotation, keeping the top of the car seat against the vehcle seat.
Seatbelt Lockoff: This clamps the seatbelt so it won't loosen so the installation is nice and tight. (you'd have to be super strong to do the same naturally!)
Fire Retardant Chemical Free: More companies are offering "Merino wool" options with car seat fabrics to eliminate the need for chemical fire retardants. Although this is a more expensive, premium material, it's great to have a chem-free option!
Of course, like everything in life, there are choices to be made and tradeoffs. However, we've tried to narrow down for you to some of the best choices available that we continually review. Our goal is not to give you two of the same but rather choices that are meaningfully different and better than others on the market for their ideal customer. So here goes nothing! The scariest decisions are the ones that it's worth it to lean into!
Our top picks are the following, depending on what your situation/need is. As many of our clients do not have cars, this is a frequent use case, so one of our first narrowing questions. Our goal is to come up with a car seat that matches your lifestyle and budget, with all the features you need considering how you anticipate using it. Don't pay for a feature you don't use, but always ensure that whatever you choose will be safe & practical! (and stylish to boot but that is (sigh) secondary!)
Install in your own car, and generally leave in your car:
Clek Foonf: The Foonf is generally referred to as “the mother of all car seats”. It’s kind of a tank which is what you want from a safety perspective. It’s got a steel and magnesium sub-structure that ensures that it’s super safe. There is a steel anti rebound bar that prevents rebounding when rear facing as well as prevents against rotation. It allows for extended rear facing (this is the safest way to travel) – suitable up to 4 years. There is advanced side impact protection due to the adjustable headrest, deep side wings and dual layers of EPP foam. This uses flexible latch rear facing and rigid latch forward facing (safest forward facing). Inside the chair is a patented energy absorbing crumple technology. This is FAA approved and is narrow enough to fit 3 across in many vehicles! We have this currently in the carbon black jersey knit and the pitch black premium C-Zero plus fabric (a premium fabric).
Cool thing: Safety-Great safety features and only one with rigid LATCH when forward facing. Also narrow so can fit 3 in a row in many cars!
But: Heavier than other options (which is why we suggest it’s great for people with cars who won’t be moving it around a lot. This being said, it is easy to move using a “Travelmate” which is an L-bracket with wheels that it can be strapped to and the child can ride sitting in the seat. This is a solution you would mostly see in airports but this makes it transportable.
Don’t have a car and/or have to carry it around, transport it frequently:
There are two we love in this instance:
Clek Fllo: The Fllo is the lighter little brother of the Foonf. It has a different energy management system but it is also a great choice. The Fllo is lighter than the Foonf making it more portable (though note that NO full convertible car seat is that portable and all require the Gogo travel mate as described above, as you can never click a convertible car seat onto your stroller frame. It uses flexible latch for installing it both rear and front facing (like most seats, other than the Foonf). This also has extended rear facing features, so child can use rear facing until their fourth birthday. It also has an anti rebound bar and advanced side impact protection. Similarly, you can fit 3 across in most vehicles as it is light.
Cool Thing: Similar to Foonf in terms of safety but lighter.
But: Flexible latch rear facing (again, all seats on the market feature this with exception of Foonf).
Sirona M by Cybex: This is similar to the Sirona S in terms of safety features but lacks the swivel feature. But, on the flip side, this one is much more portable as it’s lighter (though also needs the Go go travel mate for transport). It features comfort and safety with patented side impact protection, an energy absorbing shell and a 12 position height adjustable headrest with a no-rethread harness. It features sensorsafe as well- a technology built into the chest buckle that can pair with your car and phone to inform you if it’s too hot/cold, child has been in seat for too long or if you exit the vehicle without the child.
Cool thing: Light and easy, great safety, sensor safe
But: Doesn’t have all of the features of some of the other models
Knox by Uppababy: The UppaBaby Knox is a great option for this convertible. We like its intuitive safety features--something they call the "smart secure system" that offers a red/green indicator showing whether you did it right. It also uses crumple technology (developed in the base that is designed to absorb energy and minimizing energy transferred to your child. The Knox also has a multi-directional tether (reducing seat rotation- in this case being used while rear facing to keep it stable), and a no-rethread harness, 8 position headrest and 4 position recline. Here's one of the most awesome things about this seat as installation is notoriouslly hard with convertible car seats in general (though this one is not too bad!). When you're ready to install, you can count on the team of Child Passenger Safety Technitions at Uppababy to help you through the process.
Cool thing: We like this because it's quite intuitive and well thought out. And we love that Uppas team can talk you through installation!
But: Works from 14lbs and up, so requires an infant seat first (some don't). Note the first iteration of this seat in 2020 was voluntarily recalled due to lateral movements while rear facing. This was re-released when these issues were addressed for 2021 models.
Suitable for approximately 1–6 years old
Rear-facing: from 14–45 lbs, and using the included fit inlay from 14–25 lbs
Forward-facing: from 25–65 lbs
Height: up to 49″
Dimensions: 23.8” L x 18.8” W x 27.4–32.5” H (height reflects headrest in lowest and highest positions)
Don’t have a car and need for occasional taxi/travel use:
The Way-B Pico is a great portable option for the car seat-though it's not technically a "convertible". This is forward facing only, so we recommend it for ages 2+ in line with the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s super light and folds down with a protective headrest. It’s FAA approved.
Cool Thing: Lightest and easiest! You can really travel with this and can carry it with ease! Many people get one of these as well as their primary convertible car seat, so for quick taxi/Ubers, they leave the big ones in their “bigger” seats. Also for those who don’t have a car and using a convertible car seat is occasional!
But: Only forward facing, so not as ideal for a child under 2, as AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommend that children rear face until 2years. It is however “approved” for children 12M+.
Want to see these face to face? Schedule an appointment in store or via zoom and we can show and talk you through your options! Shop CONVERTIBLE CAR SEATS.