Car Seats for Small Babies – Key Features
- They must be suitable for use from 4 lbs and upwards;
- They must come with a high quality infant insert;
- They must have low shoulder and crotch strap settings;
- They must have good seat recline options.
It is a lot harder to find good convertible car seats for small babies than infant seats.
The main reason for this is that, whereas infant seats are designed to be used from birth until 30-35 lbs or so, convertible seats are generally designed to be used until a child reaches a weight of somewhere in the region of 65 lbs.
Obviously, it is more challenging for engineers to design a seat that is capable of accommodating children safely within a larger range of sizes than within a smaller range of sizes and many car manufacturers appear to have decided that it’s just not worth even addressing this issue.
Although there are not as many good convertible seats on the market that are suitable for small babies as there are for average sized babies, the situation is not hopeless. If you are sure that you want to buy a convertible car seat for your small baby instead of an infant seat, then I have some suggestions to make.
There are obvious financial reasons for choosing a convertible car seat over an infant seat, since you only have to buy one seat instead of two. In fact, some of the Diono convertible seats can be used from birth all the way up to 120 lbs! Unfortunately, the minimum weight limit is 5 lbs and so they cannot be considered the best for small babies according to the criteria listed above.
Before I discuss my recommended convertible seats for small babies, lets look at each of the characteristics listed above and think about why each of them is so important to consider when choosing the correct seat.
#1 Convertible Car Seats From 4 lbs and Upwards
Obviously, all babies are small … but some are much smaller than others.
An average-sized baby weighs more than 5 lbs at birth and would have a fairly good range of convertible car seats to choose from.
So, by small, I mean a baby whose birth weight is below 5 lbs and who will need to travel by car before they reach a weight of 5 lbs.
Even if your baby is only going to be travelling by car for a very short period of time while they weigh under 5 lbs, it is still not worth taking the risk of using a poor fitting seat during this time.
All of the seats that I have recommended below are rated as suitable for use from as low as 4 lbs.
#2 Infant Inserts for Convertible Car Seats
If you are going to manufacture a convertible car seat that is suitable for use from as small as 4 lbs and at that same time still be safe to use when a child weighs as much as 70 lbs, for example, you need to find some way of adjusting the size of the part of the seat in which the child sits.
The most common method for achieving this result is to use an infant insert that is specifically designed for use within the convertible car seat into which it is fitted.
It is not safe to simply find something soft and just stuff it around the gaps between your baby’s body and the car seat and hope for the best. You should always make sure that the insert that you use is made to fit perfectly into the make of seat that you have.
The infant inserts don’t just help to place your baby’s body into the correct position by boosting their body up higher, they also tend to provide extra support and padding to the most vulnerable parts of their body; namely, their head and neck areas.
All of the my recommended seats for small babies are supplied with infant inserts that must be used when your small baby first starts to use the seat. How long you will need to use it for will depend upon which seat is being used as they are all different.
#3 Low Shoulder and High Crotch Strap Settings
It goes without saying that small babies using convertible car seats should do so while they are in the rear-facing position. Rear-facing is much safer than forwards-facing, especially when small babies are concerned.
When a baby is using a rear-facing convertible car seat the shoulder straps must be positioned at or below their shoulders. Those shoulder straps must also be capable of being adjusted so that they are tight enough.
In order to check that the shoulder straps are tight enough, you can simply try to pinch the front of straps between your thumb and index finger. If you can’t actually pinch and trap the strap then it is tight enough.
You will also need to ensure that there is a good fit in your babies crotch area.
By achieving a good tight fit with well designed shoulder and crotch harness straps, your baby’s body will be positioned correctly and the risk of injury will be reduced to the lowest reasonable level.
The seats listed below all have low shoulder harness slots and crotch strap settings that can fit a small baby properly.
#4 Convertible Car Seats with Good Recline Options
Small babies shouldn’t be placed in car seats that are too upright because this can cause their heads to fall forwards and, since they do not have the strength to support the weight of their own heads, this can put pressure on their airways and cause serious injury or death in some cases.
In general, the angle of recline needs to be at least 45 degrees.
Of course, you probably don’t carry a measuring device around with you in the car. Fortunately, many car seat manufacturers have designed recline indicator systems to help you to ensuring that your child’s seat is positioned at a safe recline angle.
So, now that we know what features to look out for, which convertible car seats should you consider buying for a small baby?
Well, to save you spending many hours hunting for suitable seats, I have done this job for you.
3 Top Convertible Seats for Small Babies
I believe that the 3 top convertible car seats for small babies that are currently available in the US, and which all satisfy all 4 of my criteria, are as follows.
#1 Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with TinyFit Insert
The Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 is a mid-range seat that comes with some nice premium features, including One-click LATCH, washable and drier-friendly seat pad and harness, FlexTech Protection System, Air Protect Side Impact Protection, well padded seat for extra child comfort, and it is great for installing in smaller vehicles.
#2 Graco Extend2Fit
The Graco Extend2Fit boasts the highest extended rear-facing weight and height limits on the market. It has a unique 4-position leg extension tray for added rear facing space and comfort, steel reinforced frame; InRight LATCH System; 2 cup holders; machine washable cover. It is significantly cheaper than the other premium extended rear-facing seats.
#3 Graco Size4Me 65
After purchasing any child car seat, you should always read the User Manual thoroughly before using it. It is also advisable to visit your local Fire Department or NHTSA Child Car Seat Inspection Centre to ensure that the seat is definitely suitable for your child’s specific requirements and that you have installed it correctly. These services are usually provided free of charge.
You can find your nearest NHTSA Centre here.
Do You Need More Help?
If you need any further advice or assistance whatsoever, please feel free to contact me and I will do my very best to help.
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