My baby is outgrowing their car seat (aren't they?)!
Is your child outgrowing their infant car seat? Possibly not! To check if they’ve outgrown their car seat, remove all of the infant padding that you can and if their head is still above the top of the car seat or they’re over the weight limit, then yes, the dreaded day has arrived—your child has outgrown their car seat*.
But not all parents are unaware of this and many tend to graduate their child six to twelve months earlier than they should. A lot of parents mistakenly believe that their children have outgrown their infant car seats because their child’s legs were touching the vehicle seat or they seemed uncomfortable in their car seat. We’ve debunked these misconceptions and have compiled the relevant articles you can look at! PS. You can also take a look at what your next option might be below...
Misconception 1: My child has outgrown their car seat because their legs are touching (or they are kicking) the vehicle seat.
My firstborn, Pete, in his Maxi Cosi Pebble at nine months old.
The length and the position of a child’s legs in any rear-facing car seat are never important indicators of, 1) when the child has gotten too big for the car seat, 2) whether the child is comfortable or, 3) whether the child is safe. From about 6 months old, your child’s legs will be touching the back of the vehicle seat and that's completely normal and completely safe. As your child gets older, they can either cross their legs, straighten their legs up the back of the vehicle seat or bend their legs. All of these options are completely safe and comfortable, and none of these mean that they’ve outgrown the car seat.
Check out this article (and podcast) about Nadia, who thought that her son had outgrown his Maxi Cosi Cabriofix because his legs were sticking out and touching the vehicle seat. We also compared the Cabriofix with the Cosco Scenera NEXT in that article (spoiler: because infant seats like the Cabriofix have the vehicle seat belt going over the child's legs it may be a little trickier as their legs grow, but it's never a deal breaker).
Misconception 2: My child is uncomfortable in their car seat and this means they’ve outgrown it.
Pete's getting a little grumpy here... Can you tell?
Your child seems unhappy and uncomfortable in their car seat; they start to cry and resist their car seat, and when they’re in their car seat, they try to Houdini their way out of the harness straps. Unfortunately this is every single child in the world. As children go through developmental leaps, it’s normal and natural for them to resist being restrained because their body is learning new physical abilities and they want to try them out. It may not be that they’re uncomfortable in their car seat—it could be that they don’t want to be restrained.
Here’s a blog article about Jan, who’s looking for a portable car seat for Chase (10mo) who looked like he’s about to grow out of his Doona infant car seat.
Also if you’re interested, find out more about crying in car seats in this article about Martha and her 3 month old son James, and also this tear-jerking video (it's coming!) about Bianca and her 4 year old daughter.
Misconception 3: It’s time to move my child out of their infant car seat because their shoulders are wider than the seat.
Your child looks uncomfortable because their shoulders seem too wide and you have to (kind of) squeeze/shoehorn them into the car seat. Fret not—children’s bodies are vastly different from ours, they’re not just small adults! They’ve a lot more bones and cartilage in their bodies and hence they can be very comfortable in what would be an uncomfortable position for an adult; just because you’d be uncomfortable if you looked the way they looked doesn’t mean that they’re actually not comfortable in their seats.
Outgrowing the car seat by width is not something that affects the safety of the car seat, but it can definitely make babies sweatier and more agitated! The two most important factors are: 1) whether their head is contained inside the top of the car seat shell and 2) whether they’re within the weight limit.
Misconception 4: My child has outgrown their seat because they’ve passed the recommended age limit for their infant car seat.
Your child's not out of their car seat so long as their head doesn't stick out like an opened lipstick and they are within the weight limit.
Ahaa this is an easy one! Car seat manufacturers will often give a 'maximum' age guidance on a car seat for the sole purpose of letting you know approximately how much life you can expect from the car seat. A child will never outgrow a car seat by age, only by size. As mentioned previously, the only two factors that matter are: 1) whether your child’s head is contained within the shell (an inch of gap between your child’s head and top of the car seat if you’re using a US car seat) and 2) your child’s weight.
If you’re still not sure, take a look at these real kids whose parents thought they were outgrowing their car seats and this is Elise’s professional recommendations on these exact cases:
1. Xander's outgrowing the Cosco Scenera NEXT soon but he's too big for a car seat, too small for a booster. Mama doesn't have a car and is looking for a lightweight and portable car seat. Click here to read.
2. Twins about to graduate the Doona at thirteen months and mama's looking for extended rear-facing car seats for her seven-seater VW Touran. Read now.
3. William's almost out of his Joie I Gemm at nine months old! Mom doesn't have a car and wants a light and compact car seat for use in taxis/ride-hailing apps. Scoot over now.
4. Alia and Xavier seemed to have grown out of their Nuna Pipa, mom's looking for portable and convenient car seats because she relies on taxis to get around. Read now.
*DISCLAIMER: All car seats are different and you absolutely have to check the manual of your car seat to confirm when your car seat is outgrown. If you can’t confirm, just grab a micro-consult from us and we’ll do it for you.