My baby is outgrowing her infant car seat. What should I look for in a convertible seat? Gear You Didn't Know You Needed

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toddler girl in convertible car seat
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Convertible car seats are the necessary step between an infant car seat and a booster seat for an older child. They get their name from the fact that they convert from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat as your tot grows -- chances are, you'll have one in your car for at least several years! Here's the scoop on what you should consider when making this important safety purchase.

Size & Safety Are Key

"Once your baby's past the maximum height and weight for their infant seat, then they need the next size car seat. It may be around 30 or 35 pounds, but it's really dependent on the brand and model of car seat that you have.

"The car seats on the market in the US are regulated, so they're all pretty good. When shopping for a car seat, it pays to understand the type of car you have and how many kids you need to fit. For example, if you want to be able to say 'I can fit all three' in the back,...

"Once your baby's past the maximum height and weight for their infant seat, then they need the next size car seat. It may be around 30 or 35 pounds, but it's really dependent on the brand and model of car seat that you have.

"The car seats on the market in the US are regulated, so they're all pretty good. When shopping for a car seat, it pays to understand the type of car you have and how many kids you need to fit. For example, if you want to be able to say 'I can fit all three' in the back, size is important to research. I like to go to The Car Seat Lady site and look at reviews.

"Kids should sit rear-facing until at least age 2; that recommendation changed just a few years ago. I understand it's hard for some parents because you can't see the child, but if you look at the crash safety data, comparing forward-facing vs. rear-facing in crashes, it's not even close. It's just safer to be rear-facing." -- Lauren Levine, MD, pediatrician at ColumbiaDoctors and assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY

Make It Long-Lasting

"We wanted a car seat that would grow with our son, so we didn't have to buy another. It had to have a high weight limit. We had big kids and wanted to make sure they wouldn't grow out of it too quickly."

Toddler-Friendly Features

"I looked for comfort -- and a cup holder!"

Consider Portability

"I'm shopping for a convertible car seat now. I'm looking for one that can stay rear-facing as long as possible -- ideally until age 4 -- and hopefully isn't too hard to transfer between cars. Also needs to be pretty comfy, because we spend a lot of time in the car."

Research the Model

"I looked for a brand that hadn't recently made the news for recalls. I also breed tall kids, so I needed one that can adjust with their growth spurts."

Easily Adjustable Straps

"I wanted it to have straps that didn't need to be rethreaded when adjusting the headrest."

Installation Without Aggravation

"I wanted it to be easy to install, and also narrow enough to fit in my husband's car with a booster seat and a gigantic teen also in the back seat!"

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The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.