Upgrading to a Larger Car Seat

One of the perils of being tall parents — I’m 5’9″ and Joe is 6’2″ — is that we have ourselves one very, very tall baby. When we got the exact measurement at her 6-month checkup, we were a little startled to realize that she was only half an inch away from outgrowing her infant car seat, which was rated for a maximum height of 30 inches. Not that we hadn’t noticed it was getting a little tight:

A baby in a carrier car seat that is getting to be too small.

Lillian in her old car seat, right before we left to go shopping for a new one.

I think the above photo really illustrates how her legs were already overlapping the edge of it, and how her head was nearly reaching the top, but I guess it took the doctor’s measurement to really give us the wake-up call that it was time to upgrade.

So last weekend, we headed out to Babies R Us in search of a bigger car seat. We knew that the replacement wouldn’t be the carrying kind, which is just as well — at almost 20 pounds, using a car seat as a baby carrier was getting to be a little impractical anyway. But aside from that, we didn’t really have an exact idea which brand or model we were looking for.

I think I’ve written before about the multitude of baby products available and how overwhelming it can feel while trying to sift through them all, and car seats are certainly no exception. The Babies R Us location by our house has no less than three aisles of car seats, ranging from the small rear-facing kind for newborns all the way up to booster seats for older kids.

An aisle of car seats in a Babies R Us store.

One section of car seats at Babies R Us.

So our strategy was to stumble into the store on a Sunday afternoon, look at the various car seats in person, compare prices, and read online reviews of any we liked right there thanks to the magic of smartphones. Once in the store, we were drawn to the S1 by Safety 1st Alpha Elite 65 Convertible Car Seat, since it offered functionality as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, and a booster seat for kids up to 100 pounds. It wasn’t the cheapest car seat in the store, but it seemed like it would be nice to pick one that wouldn’t just have to be replaced again in another six months.

This particular model of car seat came in two colors: black and pink. I thought the black one had kind of a boyish look, while the flowery pink one was obviously designed for a baby girl:

Flowery pink car seat in the store.

The pink version (left) and the black version (cut off on the right).

I’ll admit it, I thought the pink one was really cute. And while the black one would be easier to re-use for any future child(ren) regardless of gender, I have my doubts about whether we can realistically expect any baby product to last that long. What with the recalls and the planned expiration, not to mention all the trials and tribulations a baby, toddler, or child will naturally put it through.

Anyway, we read the reviews in the store, and it had good ratings — the biggest customer complaint seemed to be that it was difficult to install — so we went ahead and got it. And… oh man, those reviewers weren’t kidding. The instructions were garbage, and we spent over two hours struggling to get this thing in the car, during which time Joe repeatedly suggested that we just return it and get a different one.

Most frustrating, the car seat is supposed to be reclined at a certain angle for smaller babies, except in some vehicles it can’t reach that angle unless you roll up some towels and cram them underneath. (It actually directs you to do this in the manual, so I guess it must be safe.) In our case it took four layers of towels, carefully rolled into a log, to do the trick. But the end result was every bit as solid and stable as you’d expect, and Lillian seems to approve of how it turned out:

A baby girl in a rear-facing car seat.

Lillian enjoying the new car seat.

The padding in the car seat is just the right size and shape for her to lean her head against, and she settled in and took a really long nap the first time we went out shopping. So, it seems like it should be good and comfy whenever it comes time to take our next road trip!


  1. Wow! I don’t think they had that many car seats to choose from when Hayley and Alex were little! It looks like you chose a good one. I like the convertible car seats, too. They put those really great head rests in them so the baby’s head doesn’t fall over to one side. I felt so bad when that happened. They look so uncomfortable! Of course, Lillian is old enough to hold her head up now. She looks very comfy in the car seat, and, as always, she looks pretty in pink! She also looks very happy to be facing forward. Now she can see everything! Hug that baby for us! Love you all!!!

  2. That trip will involve visiting Max and I right? :-P! I like the choice you guys made in terms of the seat, it seems to suit Lily.

  3. Oh, and Happy Belated Mother’s Day. I hope there will be a post discussing how yours went. I hope it was wonderful.

  4. She does look happy (but she always does), it seems to hold her higher as well as facing forward. I worry about the towel thing being actually in the instructions (we know it won’t fit but we charge top dollar anyway), but I also recall STANDING in a sort of playpen in the back of mom’s car when we were little, and I am still here, so congrats on finding one Lilian can grow with.

  5. Well, yes, we did have a playpen in the back. Actually, there was no back seat. I think it was considered a “salesman’s model” with the back for samples, etc.! We had a car seat, but y’all had outgrown it, and the next up was a “booster” seat. Neither was particularly safe (shudder). Somehow you survived, thankfully no car wrecks!

    Big Hugs to Lillian and Family!

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone! Although I should have mentioned since I think that last photo was a little unclear, the new car seat is still rear-facing — that seems to be the recommendation for a while longer, until their neck muscles are strong enough to withstand the forces involved in a collision and such. Sorry for any confusion!

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