The rear-facing infant seat is always the best option for newborns and younger babies. But what comes after an infant car seat? My ideal toddler car seat is a convertible because I can switch it from a rear- to a forward-facing position. Knowing the weight and height limits of the seat determines when to move your child to the next position. You can keep your infant in the rear-facing position as long as possible.
Moving your child from one car seat stage to another can be challenging. With my firstborn, I opted for a rear-facing baby seat. Later, I converted to a forward-facing toddler seat. For my second child, however, I bought a convertible car seat. As a result, I just had to use one seat for the infant to booster stages.
In this article, I discuss the best toddler seats for transtioning your baby safely and the features you should consider before buying. I also review the safety guidelines and mention the five most popular brands.
Which Are The Right Toddler Car Seats?
- Separate stay-in-the-car base allows for easy transfer from home to car via the ergonomic easy-to-carry handle; Also available separately
- 5-point harness with 3 shoulder harness and 2 crotch buckle positions for better fit and longer use
- Auto belt guides for use without a base if preferred
So, what car seat comes after a newborn? You can choose between four types of toddler car seats, which I discuss below.
Convertible Car Seat
The seat allows you to convert it from a rear-facing infant seat to a toddler forward-facing seat. One of its added benefits is keeping your child in the rear-facing position for as long as possible. However, most states require children under one year to ride rear-facing, while some recommend two years.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA) advises that children ride rear-facing as long as possible. Another benefit of a convertible seat is that it contains a five-point harness.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children ride in forward-facing seats until they are at least 4 years old, starting when they outgrow rear-facing seats. Most convertible car seats have the LATCH (Lower Anchors & Tethers for Children) system, which provides your child with impact protection.
However, compared to infant car seats, most convertible car seats are larger and bulkier. They can’t attach to a stroller because of their size and weight, and you should refrain from frequently transferring between different cars.
Forward-Facing Only Car Seat
A forward-facing car seat only faces towards the front of the car and has an inbuilt harness. You cannot use it as a rear-facing seat. The seat provides impact protection by having a 5-point or 3-point harness.
The harness serves two purposes. The first is that it spreads the force of a collision across a child’s chest and pelvis. The second is to retain the shoulder straps on your child’s shoulders.
Ensure the harness’s top is 2 cm above your child’s shoulder. Only one or two fingers should fit between your child’s chest and the harness. Avoid the harness buckle resting on your child’s tummy.
Most forward-facing seats have an adjustable back, which you can raise or lower depending on your child’s height. The adjustable back lets you alter the harness height without having to unthread the harness from the seat.
Other seats have slots in the back to adjust the height of the harness. Remove it from one set of slots and insert it into the opposite set. However, some seats lack the internal harness. Instead, they have an impact shield or cushion.
Combination Car Seat
You can use this seat as a forward-facing seat for toddlers and a belt-positioning booster seat for older children. Until your child weighs between 40 and 65 pounds, you should use it with a harness. After that, remove the harness and use your car’s seat belts as a restraint.
The five-point harness with a top tether is the most suitable when using the seat. The harness secures the child at the hips and shoulders and buckles in the middle of their legs. The most common material for the harness straps is the webbing.
Standard Forward-Facing Seats With Travel Vests
You should consider travel vests if you’re using a traditional forward-facing seat and your child weighs between 22 and 168 pounds. Travel vests are helpful if your car only has lap-only seat belts in the back, if the child has particular needs, or if your child is heavier than what standard car seats can accommodate. If you wish to use travel vests, you need a top tether.
Which Features Should You Look Out For When Buying Toddler Seats?
Before buying any toddler seat, ensuring it has the features in the table below is essential.
|Standard Features||Extra Features|
|They should have a five-point harness with a top tether. A tether keeps your child from tipping forward in a crash.||A no-rethread harness that allows you to quickly readjust the seat without reconfiguring the seat belt.|
|You should consider the height and weight limits to avoid buying a seat your child will outgrow fast.||Headrest wings that make your child comfy when they nap if you’re on the road.|
|The seat should fit in your car. Measure how much available space you have in the backseat. Evaluate whether you can still fit another baby car seat. Try out the car seat in your vehicle before buying it. If you’re not fitting it immediately, ensure the store has a return policy.||An anti-rebound bar that prevents the car seat from moving forward in the event of a car crash.|
|Look for a toddler seat with some sort of added side-impact protection.||Attached is a cup holder to save you from having to pass water bottles and cups back and forth.|
|Check the date of manufacture, as baby car seats also expire. The date of manufacture (DOM) is usually on the same label as the serial number. Typically, the lifespan of a baby car seat is 6-10 years.|
|The car seat should be adjustable in height, adjustable in a reclining position, and still maintain space for the legs.|
Safety Guidelines To Consider When Transitioning Your Child From An Infant Seat
Most parents are still unclear about when to switch their baby to a toddler seat. Especially if it is their first child. Because children have different milestones, your second child might outgrow the infant seat much earlier than your first child did.
However, following the safety recommendations below, you can move your child securely from an infant seat to a toddler seat.
- Less than an inch separates the top of their head from the top of the infant seat. In the event of an accident, the distance serves as a “buffer” for upward movement. Even if you have tightly buckled your child’s belt, this movement can still happen.
- Your child has reached the maximum height (30-32 inches) or weight limit ( 30-35 pounds). Most infants grow to 30-32 inches between 12 and 19 months. Your child will likely exceed the height restriction of the seat before the weight restriction. So, between the ages of 9 months and 2 years, depending on your child’s growth, you can switch them from an infant seat to a toddler seat. Most manufacturers include a user’s manual for toddler seat height and weight limits.
- According to the laws in your state on child safety seats, when should you place your child in a forward-facing seat? Verify your state’s legal limitations on height and weight to avoid breaking the law.
- Just because your child’s feet reach the vehicle’s floor does not mean you must move them to a forward-facing seat.
- With 2 modes of use, this extra comfortable LATCH equipped Cosco car seat accommodates infants from 5 pounds up to toddlers weighing 40 pounds in rear facing mode and kids up to 65 pounds in forward facing mode. Its compact design also makes it easier to manage through airport security checks
- The 5 point harness adjusts easily from the front of the seat and features 5 heights and 3 buckle locations. Fits 3 across in the back seat of most vehicles
- Built in side impact protection keeps your little 1 extra secure; Designed to be just the right size, the seat takes up less space while rear facing so parents can have more leg room
What Are The Popular Toddler Car Seat Brands?
Everyone has a favorite brand of baby car seats. Knowing what toddler car seats are available from the competing brands would be beneficial. I mention five of the most well-known brands.
- Sturdiest: Graco Extend2fit Convertible.
- Best for small cars: Diono Radian 3RXT.
- Easiest to clean: Chicco NextFit Zip Convertible Seat (for the Chicco Brand fans wondering “what comes after Chicco Keyfit 30”.)
- Budget-friendly: Cosco Mightyfit 65 Review.
- Best Overall: Evenflo Revolve 360.
|Graco Extend2Fit convertible||Extendable leg rest, providing extra leg room.|
|5-point harness system to keep your child securely strapped in.|
|Side impact protection due to its energy-absorbing foam.|
|Multiple recline positions.|
|Diano Radian 3RXT||Can accommodate kids up to 45 pounds in the rear-facing position.|
|Headrest is adjustable to 12 positions.|
|A patented superLATCH system ensures a secure and easy installation in seconds.|
|More advanced side impact protection features.|
|Seat cover made from machine washable fabric.|
|Accessories include a cup holder, a tether for extra stability, detachable headrest for older children, a travel bag, and a built-in adjustable harness.|
|Chicco Nextfit Zip Convertible||9 recline and 9 headrest positions.|
|Easily adjusted no-rethread harness.|
|A dishwasher-safe cup holder that you can easily fold away.|
|SuperCinch LATCH system, with a Locksure belt system.|
|Zip-off padding that you can easily unzip and wash.|
|Cosco Mightyfit 65||2-way car seat– rear-facing and forward-facing with harness position.|
|Built-in side impact protection, FAA-approved for air travel.|
|Easy to install, LATCH system included or not.|
|You can adjust multiple heights and buckle positions while seated in front.|
|Has a slim fit. Hence, in most cars, the seat easily fits three side-by-side in one row.|
|Evenflo Revolve 360||360 degree rotational capability.|
|Secure fit with belt-tensioning lock strong bar and tether360 strap for additional stability.|
|Has an anti-rebound base design, which makes the seat stable in rear impact crashes while limiting its frontal crash rebound.|
|Energy-absorbing EPS foam, which can lessen any potential impact forces.|
I hope that after reading my insights in this post, you’re no longer concerned about what car seat comes after the infant seat. Your options are a traditional forward-facing seat with travel vests, a convertible, a combination, or a forward-facing one.
You can use the features I’ve listed to help you select the best toddler seat for your child. Ensure you have also checked the safety guidelines before switching your child from the infant to the toddler seat.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the recommended car seat options for babies after they outgrow an infant car seat?
The ideal car seat options for your baby after they outgrow the infant car seat are a forward-facing only car seat, combination, convertible, and the standard forward-facing seat with travel vests.
What features should I look for in a car seat that comes after an infant car seat?
A five-point harness, side impact protection, adjustable height, recline position, and adequate legroom are a few features you should look for in a car seat. Check the expiration date and that the seat size will fit in your vehicle.
Are there any specific safety guidelines for transitioning from an infant to the next stage car seat?
Yes, there are certain safety guidelines for transitioning from an infant to the next stage car seat. Let your child continue rear-facing even in the toddler car seat until two years, or they reach the maximum height and weight limits. Transition when only one inch is left between your child’s head and the top of the toddler seat.
What are some popular car seat brands or models that parents typically choose after using an infant car seat?
The most popular brands that most parents prefer after using an infant seat include the Graco Extend2Fit convertible, Evenflo Revolve 360, Chicco Nextfit Zip Convertible, Cosco Mightyfit 65, and Diano Radian 3RXT.