8 Reasons You Should Leave the Infant Car Seat in the Car (or Forget it Altogether)

Beginning even before you find out you’re pregnant, parenthood is filled with decisions (which brand of pregnancy test to purchase??). Some simple, some difficult, all important… and although it can be overwhelming, I’m pretty sure there will come a time when our children are making their own choices and we’ll look back on these days wishing we could be as involved as we once were.

One of the first choices for parents-to-be is which car seat will safely cradle their sweet new baby in the car for their adventures into the world. It’s required by law to have a car seat properly installed and ready-to-go when you leave the birth center or hospital so this is something which must be decided well before baby is born (same for home birthing families as well – you need to be prepared should the need arise to transport baby). Most community fire and police stations offer free car seat safety checks to help parents be sure their seats are properly installed- just call and ask!

Walking into any store which sells car seats, you’ll see that there are SO many choices – where to even begin?? It can be helpful to do a little online research and talking to friends who have “been there” before venturing out to make the purchase. The AAP recommends that children face the rear until at least 2 years of age or until they reach the height and weight maximum allowed by the car seat manufacturer (usually listed on a sticker on the side of the seat or base). It’s highly advisable to stick to these guidelines as you want to be sure your child is as safe as possible when riding in a vehicle.

There are three types of seats which can rear-face: rear-facing only (those small infant seats with a handle), convertible (which should be used rear-facing and can be turned forward when the time is right, and 3-in-1, a kind that can be used the longest (the same as a convertible but can also be a booster seat).

It seems that most parents gravitate toward the “infant car seat travel systems,” including the car seat and stroller, which attach together securely. This makes sense and seems like a great idea. We used one of these for our first baby. The infant seat with handle securely buckled into a stroller when I wanted to walk or shop. It seemed to work out well for me during the early days of my first son’s life… I lifted that (big, heavy, awkward) car seat by the handle and lugged it into the grocery store and Target, setting it into the shopping cart, just like many parents I’d seen do the same.

This was OK for strolling around while my babe was asleep but when he cried and wanted to nurse, I had to awkwardly toss my blanket over my shoulder and stand there trying to help him latch on while simultaneously trying to not flash the other shoppers. As a new mom, this was extremely nerve-wracking and awkward, but soothing him came naturally and I stopped and nursed as needed.

Little did I know how unsafe the practice of resting a car seat on a shopping cart is. But that’s what everyone else did… what other option was there? At the time, I didn’t give a second thought to my system of carrying the seat in, resting it (securely, I thought) in my shopping cart and going on my way, hoping my son would sleep while I shopped. This is actually totally dangerous and NOT advisable.

When I became a mom for the second time, the whole scenario was different. I learned a lot between child 1 and 2 and came to feel differently about many things. This time, we bought a “convertible car seat” that matched my older son’s. I wouldn’t need to purchase another car seat at all, unlike the infant seat which only lasts until they outgrow it (maybe a year or so at most). Wyatt was born at home and we didn’t leave the house for a few weeks after his birth (but it was installed in the car, just in case).

I had no problems securing him in the car seat, with a little help from an infant headrest which cradled his head and neck. When we arrived at our various destinations I simply scooped him up into a wrap, held big brother Jack’s hand and went on our way. If Wyatt was asleep in the car, he rarely woke when I picked him up. If he was awake, I simply wrapped him up, lowered my shirt and helped him latch onto his milk. No lugging of the car seat and a happy, satisfied and calm baby (and mom!). It really was as easy as it sounds.

Related: The Best Infant Car Seats For Your Precious Cargo

I’ve found that avoiding the infant car seat altogether (and choosing another style), or at least leaving it in the car, has been awesome and something worth considering. Here are 8 reasons why…

1. Your hands are free if they’re not filled with car seat! (You can carry your bag, coffee, a tote filled with the contents of your children’s playroom or nothing at all.)

2. Your nursing babe has easy access to milk than if they were strapped in.

3. It’s easier on your back (those seats can feel SO heavy and awkward to hold!).

4. Baby is sweetly satisfied to be near mamas heartbeat, warmth and scent if you carry her in a baby carrier or in your arms instead (babies small enough to fit in an infant seat are still so fresh and new to the world – their mother is their “home base”).

5. Wearing your baby makes caring for your other child(ren) a LOT easier.

6. You won’t have to purchase an additional car seat when they grow out of the infant seat, that’s a big savings.

7. You’re into the store and back into the car faster (once you get the hang of “putting your baby on,” it becomes super easy and quick).

8. Your shopping cart is ready and open to fill with stuff (if you have an infant seat in your shopping cart…it’s much harder to pack in groceries).

My present-day shopping experiences look a lot different: My almost-five-year-old hops out and walks, sometimes rides in the seat portion of a cart, mostly stands on the front, pretending to be a train engineer, while my almost-two-year-old goes into my Ergo or sling but is starting to want to walk and be his big brother’s shadow. I prefer to wear my little one or let him walk, but we use the stroller sometimes- because we all know that the best part of a stroller is its ability to hold all our “stuff” (I love it for when we walk and jog too).

In terms of babywearing, there are so many additional developmental benefits- emotional, physical, and psychological- to babywearing in addition to the convenience. When your baby is a newborn and most likely to use the newborn car seats, your baby is going through what is called the “4th trimester.” During this time your baby is learning to transition from the warm, cozy comfort of your womb to the outside world. Babywearing, instead of putting your baby in a car seat, can strengthen the bond between baby and parent.

Additionally, babywearing also helps with your child’s cognitive development. Research has shown that baby wearing aids in a child’s developing speech and language because a child is held close to your face, able to better see your facial expressions and hear the words you are speaking. It also is a huge source of comfort for a child to be held close to his or her parent during those early months and even the first few years. Babywearing, especially in concern of a car seat, is significantly safer in terms of a sleeping baby and can even reduce the risk of SIDS when they are sleeping in a crib or bassinet.
Babywearing also helps to promote neural development, helps a child learn to hold their head up faster (there are so many neat things to see after all!), and even helps mom boost her breastmilk supply. It can also help a child’s respiratory and gut health (gravity helps everything go down instead of sitting flat).

There are also several different kids of baby carriers that you can try, so don’t be discouraged if the first one you try you didn’t like.

Related: Mothering’s Best Baby Carriers For Baby (And Beyond) Wearing

• Wrap carriers- These are one of the most traditional types of carriers and they have been used for centuries by different cultures and ethnicities. They are also one of the most difficult to master for a first-time wrapper so they often aren’t the choice of many new parents.
• Ring Sling- This fabric sling is easy to put on and easy to wear. Your child can easily sit against you or on your hip, and you tighten it by adjusting the straps on the sling. It is best used for an older child but it can also be used for infants if done properly.
• Soft Structured Carriers- These types of carriers have become the most popular in recent years. They hold your baby easily against your chest and are easy to put on without constant adjusting. They are also ergonomic and comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
• Mei Tei carrier- This is a cross between a wrap carrier and a soft structured carrier. Straps become loose after a long wear and sometimes have to be readjusted.
• Backpack carriers- These are typically used for long and prolonged use, like when hiking. They are only to be used for children six months and older, generally, but they are also often the carrier of choice for big toddlers.

Undoubtedly, there will be parents who read this and totally disagree with me and enjoy using the infant car seat. There may be moms who have tried babywearing and find it totally uncomfortable…or some who have never had the chance to learn how to wear their baby (search Facebook and Meetup.com for local babywearing groups to learn about and try out carriers). Like all choices, every parent should listen to their instincts above all other voices of advice. I urge you to take the time to research and explore your options, not worrying if your way of doing things differs from those around you.

I didn’t write this for the purpose of judging or debating anyone’s decisions; my goal is to show you another option. I didn’t know that I had choices like this when I was navigating motherhood with my first baby and I wish someone had told me. We all have so much to learn from each other!

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15 thoughts on “8 Reasons You Should Leave the Infant Car Seat in the Car (or Forget it Altogether)”

  1. Great advice, especially about the carseat on the cart trick I see a lot of. So dangerous! I personally love my Orbit Baby system cause I can easily wrap-up my little squish without killing my back. It is pricey, but so worth it

  2. I just got home with baby #2 (also a Wyatt 🙂 ) today. I intend on wearing him a lot more than I did with my first son, who is almost two. Which type of carrier do you find easiest for the in and outs of the car? I have a moby, ring sling, and ergo.

  3. I’m glad you had a positive experience with a child who slept well and nursed easily.
    My firstborn was that child.
    Kind of amazing for a child born at 32 weeks in 1988, but he nursed like a charm and slept like an angel.
    He liked cars, bikes, walking – long trips, short trips, and his own living room all fascinated him.
    Oh – he hated being in a baby wrap, didn’t like the front carrier but adored his baby seat and – later – the backpack carrier.

    My second refused to nurse, and I didn’t fight her.
    She LOVED the front carrier. Of course, she was on the 90th percentile for height and weight from birth straight on through (like her 6’3″ dad..) and when the front carrier became too painful on my back she acted as if the the sling and the wrap were personal insults akin to a blanket over the face.
    She didn’t like the baby seat at ALL and barely tolerated it in the car.
    I think I still have back pain from that kiddo…

    My 3rd was the kid you hear about and think must be an exaggeration.
    He didn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes in any 4 hour period for the 1st two years of his life.
    (Yes, there were doctors , yes, we were all concerned, no, I’m not kidding.)

    And when he wasn’t nursing, he was either staring at something or crying.
    He liked the sling, and the swing, and anything that made noise.
    But if he fell asleep in the car seat, he wasn’t as quick to wake up – the vibrations, I guess.
    And when he woke to find the car seat in a grocery cart- as long as it kept moving, or jiggling back and forth at least- he was…ok.
    I *lived* for a few moments of silence and those precious minutes he slept.

    We all have different kids, different lives, and different experiences.
    When I think back to the pompous @%% I was as the first time mom of a miracle baby who slept through the night at 3 mos and made parenting look like a breeze?

    I *cringe*.

    Thankfully, only my close friends had to put up with my ‘how to parent the RIGHT way’ crap- and I have apologized to all of them since,lol!

    ‘This worked for me so EVERYONE should do it’ just isn’t true.
    And more so – it isn’t kind.

  4. We skipped the baby bucket seat and used a convertible for both of our kids. It was rarely an issue. The only time I wished for an infant seat was when they fell asleep (though when they were tiny they usually fell back asleep quickly when worn), and two or three occasions when I went to see a doctor and didn’t have a place to set them down.

  5. We actually really liked using our infant seat with our baby carriage. Being able to transition baby from vehicle to carriage was overall seamless and helps a lot when they are still so small. Carrying is also a great option for securing your baby – our son just was not comfy sprawling his hip joints until 7 months, and the pin drop risk is often cited for babies. Knowing more about baby wearing now, I’d also nestle any pending infants in a sling style more, while I could (if he or she does not gain as quickly as their older brother… seems like a lot of pressure along the neckline, but of course plenty of long wraps out there, and techniques to integrate strength of back.) Still, the carriage is a good option, even for light shopping trips. For a bulk box of diapers in the odd case you run out before a restock – LOL! Yes that happened. Once. Appreciate this highlight a ton, as we determine how to test the durability of our infant seat before reuse.

  6. Nice list! We also just left it in the car most of the time. I never once brought it into the store. I disagree with #7 though. It’s much faster to *not* take the baby in and out of the carseat and into a carrier, that’s for sure. Even still, I ALWAYS wore my babies in the store! LOL. 😉 I think it would also be nice to add that a baby really should not be in the carrier if the carrier is not snapped into the base of the carseat. The angle is just not safe for baby’s airway when placed on the floor or into a shopping cart. The base of the carseat makes the angle better for baby’s airway. If baby’s airway gets pinched (head slumped forward), it could cut off their airway. Maybe it would be a nice thing to add! 🙂

  7. Hello from NE Ohio not far from Pitt! My first 2 children were 20 months apart and I too struggled with lugging the heavy carseat around, particularly in the grocery store. I could barely shop because I didn’t have room in the cart. Although I knew it wasn’t recommended for safety reasons , I still did it because I felt like I didn’t have a choice! Today, 6 years later, I’m expecting my 3rd in a less than 3 weeks and realized how insane I was for never wearing my baby when I had a toddler to care for! It would of made life SO much easier! I have a couple wraps that seem complicated but I’m determined to learn how to use them when he arrives so that I can more easily care for my 4 and 6 yr old. The benefits of wearing baby seem almost endless! I just hope that I don’t struggle too much with figuring it out. I really regret not wearing both of my children because it would of made my life so much easier.

  8. I always hated those stupid infant carseat/stroller combinations. Someone gave us used one with my daughter, I did use it for trips to restaurants so she could sit in the booth with us or long long walks, but this time around I’m going to be using our convertible carseat that we bought for the second car and I’m ordering a wrap carrier pretty soon so I can use it as soon as my second kiddo is born. With my daughter I didn’t start babywearing until after the first couple of months. I think parents would have a lot less trouble babywearing if they started as soon as possible so their bodies muscles grew with the weight of the baby.

  9. I don’t understand why there are so many bloggers who think it’s a baby wearing OR bucket seat decision. There is no either/or IMO. Nothing beats a bucket seat for being able to move a sleeping baby around (and my child fit the bucket seat through 18 months, far past the tiny newborn sleep stage). That includes to the stroller, restaurant, or wherever else since the child will often NOT stay asleep if taken out of the seat. I advocate all my friends get travel combos because it’s so incredibly convenient if you want to be able to take your child on the go a lot. I also recommend baby-wearing and when practical choose that option (especially wonderful when they are small but I use it now with a toddler). I find being told eight reasons I (cause the title says”YOU”) should not use a bucket seat to be unnecessary if not pompous, as a previous poster implied. Why can’t bloggers write “Why I chose…” instead of “Why you should…”?

    1. Well, yes, the ‘you should’ is telling people what to do, so I expected to see things about safety, including the danger of having the car-seat on top of the cart (IN the cart is safer, but even that still seems like it would be risky to me in the parking-lot), & about development, which I didn’t see. Developmental problems are discussed by Dr McKenna at Notre Dame in his FAQ on the ND site (I linked my name to it above; it’s question 11). ‘You should’ is totally appropriate for such things, so we can keep our babies as safe as possible.

      BUT you say ‘nothing beats’ the infant seat & you tell all your friends to get the combo. Isn’t that the same kind of thing you’re complaining about, only regarding the opposite decision? I don’t think that kind of seat had been invented yet when my 1st baby was born, but I do remember thinking when I 1st saw one, ‘My baby NEVER would have tolerated being carried in that.’ (Also, ‘It looks terribly unwieldy, heavy too.’) My baby just tolerated riding in the car-seat probably only because there was a lot of novelty to it since we didn’t make many trips, almost all were short, & someone would sit next to her. But other than that, she needed to be held practically all the time until she was walking. It seemed she was terrified if she couldn’t see or feel me; if she could, she was perfectly happy. No possibility of using a stroller. So she went from being carried everywhere to needing a harness even before age 1, when she wiggled out of my exhausted arms, to keep her out of traffic, out of the way of shopping-carts, & from disappearing in crowds. Another baby is on the way now & I’ll be glad to carry this one around too (will try a sling though). So for some people, nothing beats a convertible seat, carrying or using a sling or the like, & eventually a harness. : )

  10. This is a magnificent post! An auto seat is something that the money needs to run towards with a newborn child youth, since they are in them to such a degree! I have totally never obtained one that was modest.my most loved is Jessica King Best Infant Car Seats however after I attempted every one of them. My daughter is in every practical sense 2 and has the Diono Radian and I am exuberant to say that we LOVE it! She has each one of the stores of being so fulfilling in it!

  11. I do agree with you- Sara. Yes, it is pivotal to leave the infant car seat behind. I think it is the most appropriate way to protect the infant from the injury in the event of a car crash. Many motorists usually do several mistakes while selecting and installing an infant car seat. Wait! You should not be in a hurry while going to make any selection for the infant seat. In my opinion, you must comprehend the seat weight ranges(how much weight it can support), as well as the difference between the infant and convertible car seats. It is a bit tricky affair. Better, you should take the help of an auto professional who can help you in selecting and installing the right infant seat that will ultimately keep your infant safe throughout the ride.

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