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There are three basic types of car seats for infants and toddlers: rear-facing, forward-facing and convertible, which convert from rear to forward-facing.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should ride in a rear-facing seat (or a convertible seat that is installed to face the rear) until they are at least 2 years old or until they meet the car seat’s maximum height or weight specifications.
Once these requirements have been met, the child should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness until they outgrow it (usually around 4 years old) before moving up to a booster seat.
The safest place for your child to ride is in a rear-facing seat! Rear-facing car seats are available as either infant-only carriers or convertible seats.
Infant-only seats are generally lighter in weight and designed to be portable.
Many parents prefer the convenience of an infant carrier because the seat can be removed from the car without having to unstrap and possibly wake a sleeping baby.
The car seat base remains strapped into the vehicle; the carrier simply snaps in and out of the base.
Infant-only seats are also convenient because they can click onto a stroller base. So when shopping for an infant carrier, make sure to look for one that is also compatible with your stroller.
Convertible seats are a great option if you want a product that will last throughout the years since they can be installed as either a rear or forward-facing seat.
They generally have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, which will allow you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.
However, convertible seats are not designed to be portable, instead they remain fixed in the car.
There are three different types of forward-facing seats: forward-facing only seats, convertible seats and combination seats, which can be used forward-facing OR as booster seats.
When your child outgrows their rear-facing car seat, they should continue to ride in a forward-facing seat with a harness until they reach the car seat maximum height and weight specifications.
Make sure to refer to your actual car seat manual for maximum height and weight specifications! These recommendations are not universal for all car seats.
Once your child outgrows their forward-facing car seat, they should remain riding in a booster seat until they are big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.