Baby Stuff: Car Seat

Once upon a time, when one of my nephews was a baby, and we were still driving the tan Civic, we were taking him on an outing. His dad installed the infant bucket seat in our car, rear facing, and we discovered that, although the backseat seemed roomy enough, it only fit comfortably in the middle position of the back seat, between the front seats, and even that was tight. (Of course, in my research since, I find that's the safest spot for the car seat, anyway.)

So, now, fast forward almost 5 years, and we've got 2 totally different (bigger) cars- a Toyota Camry and a Volvo wagon. We've got to find a seat that fits in both fairly easily by the time we break out the cigars celebrating the arrival of this little boy. When toting our nephew, we discovered we don't really prefer lugging the awkward & heavy "baby bucket" around- I'm all about babywearing when it's feasible- so it's tempting to go directly to a convertible seat. People have told us, though, that we will want the infant seat, especially in the winter.

So, here's the options, as I see them:

  • Buy an infant seat and use it for this baby for as long as it lasts (from what I've heard, not-so-many months). Use it for the next baby, too, but beyond that, it will probably be expired (Seats expire in 5-6 years) Possibly get a "travel system" stroller with the seat.
  • Borrow an infant seat or use a hand-me-down seat from someone we trust (We've already got at least one offer for this.), and find a used stroller that fits the car seat on craigslist. If we decide we don't like it, we didn't spend anything on it, so it's OK. If we decide we do like it, we'll get a new one for future kids knowing it will get good use, and the stroller will be usable beyond the life of the carseat.
  • Go straight to a rear-facing convertible seat, skipping the infant seat. We're going to need a convertible seat anyway, and I'm all for buying this new since it will get so many years of continuous use. We'd have to find a stroller that can accommodate a newborn, or avoid using a stroller until the baby's a few months old. 

So, wise parents, what's the right answer? Can we get away without the "baby bucket," or is the convenience of the carrier and travel systems worth it?

Other Baby Stuff series posts: Changing table - The nursery, before - Everywhere!


Just Heather said...

You know when you'll appreciate the infant seat most? When the little one falls asleep on the way to or fro, and you can carry the seat in without disturbing the sleeping infant. Solid gold, and totally worth the money right there!

becca said...

Joanna! I am so far behind! Haven't been in touch or doing any reading this summer! Whoohoo! Congratulations. I'm so happy for you. :) How is Casey taking it all??

alissa said...

i was never crazy about the baby bucket, EXCEPT for (as Heather stated) when said baby falls asleep, and also, with a winter baby. You can just zip them up in the little j.j. cole fleecy thing and you're good to go. i am not sure how you'd keep a new baby warm in a convertible seat, unless you really didn't mind a bunting or coat or something...but they are kind of annoying to take on and off (at least last winter when Sam was almost a year old...having to put a coat on him was annoying).

and we did wear Sam quite a bit for grocery shopping etc. but it was those times when he did fall asleep that i felt having the baby bucket was worth it.

Sam was in his baby bucket until 5 months, and he outgrew the height requirement before the weight requirement (this is what happens when your kid is 22 inches at birth...)

One of my friends has a baby bucket with a higher weight limit (35 lbs verses 25 lbs) and she just transitioned her 9 month old to a convertible, mostly because it got to be too heavy to carry the baby in the bucket. I think the baby bucket she had comes with a travel system. so maybe that is something to consider for you.

so, in short, i think both are necessary, as annoying as it is.

Andrea Moberly said...

I have to say - having one snuggle bug and one independent woman, I would not count on your child loving baby wearing! As much as I wanted to cuddle Anna in a sling like I had done with Eli, she HATED the confinement. She definitely preferred to be carried in a car seat or at the very least a front carrier facing outward. She LOVED being put in the "baby bucket" and being held on my arm while I moved... each child has their own likes and dislikes - I'm sure you'll figure out what's right for you, but I think the pumpkin seat is a good investment personally!

jes said...

I think everyone has their own opinion, We had infant seats with both of ours, we got a cheap one with a travel system for Lexi, I don't think the huge strollers are worth it. We got a more expensive seat for Caylee (which the seat we got for Lexi actually wouldn't have expired until this december) but we chose a more expensive one because the cheap one just didn't meet my safety requirements. As you can tell, I totally think the infant seat is worth it, between sleeping babies, cold weather (those JJ Cole things are wonderful) and just having the ability to put the baby down without carting around a stroller or baby seat or swing.

And as far as the out growing thing, both of my girls would have still fit at 12 months, I also know plenty of people who have babies and do use the infant seat until they turn one. I know more who have done that than who have outgrown the seats before turning 1.

We did use a convertible with Lexi from around 6 or 7 months, and honestly it was NOT comfortable for her, nor did I feel like she was safe in there, it also didn't install very easily in our car rear facing. However, the cheap infant seat we got was on my nerves too which is why we switched.

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

I like having an infant seat for a variety of reasons. I had the whole travel system (received as a gift) and I'd say skip the stroller part. I used mine maybe 5 times, and every time was because we were wandering around a mall for several hours and it was nice to have a place to put our stuff. :-) I wore Savannah all the other times.

My reasons for liking the infant seat are mostly convenience. It was indispensable for anytime we went out to eat. It was nice for having a place to put the baby down when at someone else's house. When she would fall asleep in the car, I could bring her inside and transfer her to her bed with minimal disruption. And after they're moving around, it can be a way to contain the child temporarily while you're busy with other things like unloading groceries. :-) Infant seats are super handy for switching to other cars and also for bringing along when flying (they're easier to carry than a convertible and have a handy handle!). When shopping, I mostly wore her in the sling, but sometimes I had to run into the store really quickly, and those times it was nice to be able to just put the whole seat in the buggy, and not have to unbuckle her and all that jazz. To be honest, I rarely carried her around in her carseat like a lot of people do, but in my mind it was still worth it. Also, we'll use it for kid #2, and if we space things right then we might not ever need to have more than an infant carseat and a regular carseat (and we'll throw a booster seat in the trunk for when driving up to Indiana and going through states with stricter laws than Georgia).

Karen said...

A lot of the infant seats now will fit babies up to 30-35 pounds, which as some commenters have already said, will work with most babies for at least 12 months. So I wouldn't worry about not getting enough use out of an infant carrier.

Now you definitely won't want to lug the baby around in the bucket for that long. You'll be lucky to be able to carry him for 5 or 6 months in the bucket just because they get too heavy. But you should get at LEAST 12 months out of the seat. And by the time the baby is too big to carry in the seat, it'll be warm enough and he'll be old enough that it won't be as big of a deal to take him out of the seat and carry him inside.

We decided on an infant seat because of the whole winter baby thing. I can't imagine waking a 2-month-old up and carrying him out into the freezing cold. What a pain! I think it'll be much easier to just pick up the seat and lug him in, especially when he's that small.

I have struggled with the travel system thing, too. We've made the decision to skip it for now. When I REALLY thought about it, I couldn't really think of any circumstances when I'd want a stroller in the dead of winter. We'll probably be spending a lot of time at home in the beginning, and I want to babywear if we do go out. And the thought of lugging a giant stroller around does not appeal to me.

It's possible we'll want a stroller for walks outside and warm weather outings in the spring. But our babies should be old enough for plain, cheap umbrella strollers when they're 6 or 7 months just in time for summer. So that's kind of plan right now.

If the baby is a two months old and we realize that we really need a travel system, we can always get one later. But if we get one now and we don't use it, it'll just be taking up space and we'll regret it. So my advice is to wait until after the baby is born to make a decision about the travel system stroller.

I think the infant seat is a good idea for a winter baby, with or without the travel system. But I'm in the same boat as you. I have NO idea, and I'm only basing this on what I've been told by other moms. :)

Karen said...

Oh! And Kacie went straight to a convertible with her first, so she'd be a really good person to ask for advice. But she said the same thing that Ashley above me just said: she thought it would have been nice to have an infant carrier for restaurants or other outings where babywearing isn't really practical and you need a place to set the baby. That was also a big reason that we chose the carrier. It does seem pretty convenient.

But she also had a winter baby and survived just fine without a carrier. Definitely ask her for her take!

The Farmer Files said...
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The Farmer Files said...
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The Farmer Files said...

You need the baby bucket for all of the reasons everyone has stated. Second, do not get the travel stroller system. You have to really like the stroller, or you will end up chucking that, too at 5-6 months for a stroller you really like. Get a snap n go stroller off of craigslist. I bought mine for $40 and less than 6 months old. It only lasts you as long as the infant bucket. My eldest son was, and is, off the chart for his age as an infant, and now as a 6 year old. My other 2 sons were in the 25-50 and 50-75%, each. All three boys were different. When the baby is sleeping, and you get to church or the grocery store, you just pull out the lightweight snap n go and GO. You just drop the baby bucket in and you are off. No need to wake the baby. Needless to say, I sold the snap n go after 9 mo of use on Craigslist for $20. The stroller cost me $20. Trust me. I have had them all, the Peg Perego Pliko3, and Maclaren. I have had the Maclaren through my youngest 2 and I bought the cheapest one to use as an umbrella stroller. I cannot live without my B.O.B. stroller. I had a single, then a double, and now I have another single.We are an active family, and take that everywhere from the beach, to amusement parks, to trails, to walking around Boston, the 2nd most walkable city in the country. LOVE IT. It is spendy, but it is the ONE thing I cannot live without. It fits our lifestyle. That is my other advice to you. What works for one family will only also work for you if you lead a similar lifestyle. I never used a travel system because I am not a mall kind of mom. I do not take my kids to the mall for shopping. That is my alone treat. I have no need for a mall kind of stroller. I do LOVE LOVE LOVE the Ergo carrier and that will last you much longer than the Bjorn. I had that, too. For me, it was far more uncomfortable, limited, and more cumbersome than the Ergo. The other day I strapped my 3.5 year old on my back while walking around Boston in the Ergo on a whim when he refused to walk. I put the baby in the BOB stroller, and the preschooler in the ergo. I have never, ever worn any child at any stage other than as a baby. I am 5'1 and was able to lug around my 3.5 year old on my back, painlessly. So what I am saying is that if you get the Ergo carrier you will love it. I only wore my eldest until 4mo because he was too big for the Bjorn by then.

Kacie said...

I love that I got a shout out from Karen! So you know my story. December baby #1 went straight tithe convertible. It was fine but there were times when a bucket would have been nice, like restaurants. I wore him at restaurants but it is sorta awkward to eat. Dec baby #2 is getting a bucket because I will have 2 babies to wrangle. Plus it's winter. If this girlie was a summer baby I would consider skipping the bucket maybe. I say go for the bucket. Borrow one might be the best way to go!

Shady Dealin's said...

I'm probably going to repeat some of the things other posters have said and I apologize for that. Slings are terrific and we make good use of them. But they aren’t always the easiest thing to use. We’ve tried several and have definitely found some that worked better than others. Even the best ones, though, take some finagling and it’s hard to justify using one for short trips like running out the get the mail or from the car into a friend’s house. As a tentative parent, I liked the security of knowing the baby was strapped in vs. just carrying them.

As other people have mentioned, the buckets are a convenience thing. They’re especially nice when it's cold/snowy/windy/etc and you need to move from the house/store to the car. They're also useful in restaurants as many of them actually fit well on the provided highchair. We found them to even be handy in church. If the baby was sleeping or wanted to sleep the seat was useful for both us and the nursery volunteers. And, for those times we took our infants into church with us, the seat was a useful, well, seat.

Now--how do I put this… I love babies. And babies (and parents) need to have the tactile connection. But, having one in a sling can get hot and uncomfortable. And babies aren’t necessarily known for keeping their bodily fluids to themselves, either. There. I said it.

We used the infant carseat and have gotten the most out of it. Of course, we had 3 kids in 3 years so the seat didn’t get a lot of time off. It also doesn’t sound like there’s much to lose by borrowing a bucket from a trusted friend. If you don’t use it, no big deal. If you do…it’s there.

Teresa said...

This is probably another repetition of what other have said, but we bought our infant seat from a very trusted friend and used it for both our boys. We finally changed Timmy recently because the infant seat we upgraded Jer and passed Jer's down to Timmy. However, Timmy still fit perfectly well in the seat since he's so tiny. So, a lot will depend on the baby, but that's true of most baby things you buy. You won't really know if it works for you or not until the baby is there and lets you know! ;)

Matt said...

The "baby bucket" is convenient in that you don't have to unswaddle the baby to take them in with you. This is helpful in the winter when they are in multiple layers with blankets and also is nice in that you don't have to wake them up.

The upside in going straight to a convertible seat is it will fit in your back seat a little easier. The handles to the baby buckets have to be swung to the back of the car seat (towards the front seat) in carseat mode and this just adds to the amount of space required between the front and rear seats as you discovered when you were babysitting.


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