Can You Use a Baby Carrier in a Car? A-Z Guide on Babywearing vs. Car Seat Carrying

If you are a first-time parent or a parent-to-be, you are likely to find yourself overwhelmed by too much information – and more times than not, differing from one another. And when it comes to baby products, you will notice that there’s a sea of them on the market, but – do you really need to buy all of them? The answer is NO – there’s a lot of useless stuff out there that will only empty your wallet and consume the space in your home. Today, we’ll answer all your questions about babywearing vs car seat carrying and offer useful advice, in case you were thinking of skipping the infant car seat purchase. So, let’s go!

Is a Car Seat the Same as a Baby Carrier?

What is the difference between a baby carrier and a car seat? This is a good question that many parents ask. The difference between the two is that once a car seat is fixed into the car, it stays permanently in the car. It is suitable from birth until the child is 4, some are even suitable for children up to 12.

An infant carrier, on the other hand, can be fixed in the car both front-facing and rear-facing, but also taken off for baby carrying or to be fixed onto a stroller. It can last for 6-12 months, depending on your infant’s growth. It’s important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics says car seats for babies under 12 months should always be kept in a rear-facing position.

Can You Use a Car Seat as a Baby Carrier?

This is what many parents want to know. And the answer is – YES, you can! Infant car seats are very versatile, you can fix them on the car, stroller, or just use them to carry your baby. You might even buy an all-in-one stroller with an infant seat. Just don’t place them on the shopping cart even if it clicks and feels good – there’s a risk of injury or worse as they’re not designed for that.

 Other than that, infant car seats are very versatile and many parents love them for their convenience, even though they don’t last as long as other car seats. Infant car seats should be replaced when your baby reaches the maximum weight or height allowed. And once again – don’t forget that an infant seat should always be placed rear-facing in the car!

How Not to Use the Infant Car Seat 

Buying an infant seat can be a great decision and many parents love theirs. If you choose to get your own, there are some things you should know about safety. So, here are the don’ts of infant car seats:

  • Don’t put your infant seat front-facing or in the front seat. There is a high risk of injury or even death in the event of a car crash. An Infant car seat or any other car seat should always be rear-facing for kids under 12 months old.
  • Don’t put it on a shopping cart, even if it seems to fit – it’s dangerous as it wasn’t designed for a cart.
  • Don’t fix your infant car seat too upright or too reclined – it can cause head injury or block airways. It’s especially dangerous in case of a crash. Follow the manual and choose the right angle.
  • Don’t hang toys on the hanger – this can be dangerous in case of a car crash.
  • Don’t put your baby in an infant seat while wearing a winter jacket – choose a light jacket instead and place a blanket on top of the harness or seatbelt. 
  • Don’t use an infant car seat instead of a crib – your baby should sleep on a flat surface such as that of a crib. That will reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Don’t leave your infant car seat (or any car seat) on a soft or elevated surface such as a bed or sofa at home. Your baby’s movement can cause it to fall or your baby’s head can fall forward and block its airways with its weight.

Can I Skip the Infant Car Seat?

While convenience and portability are the biggest reason why people love infant car seats – cost is something that deters them from buying. As we said – there are so many things on these sites for kids and babies and the market, and parents-to-be don’t want to waste their money on unnecessary items. And, because infant carriers can only be used for a short period of time, many parents opt to skip buying them and choose to buy convertible car seats or to carry their babies in cars. So, if you want to save money – you can skip the infant car seat.

What Is a Convertible Car Seat?

Convertible car seats are designed to be the all-in-one type of car seat that can be used from an infant to toddler to a ‘big kid’. They can be rear-facing for infants and the first car seat period and then they can be turned into front-facing car seats with seat belts for toddlers. Sometimes, convertible car seats even allow booster use. That’s why many people invest in this type of car seat instead of switching from one car seat to another as their child develops as a way to save money. If you want to skip the infant car seat – this is your best alternative.

Are Baby Carriers Bad for Babies?

Let’s get this one out of the way first as a lot of parents and guardians are worried about this. And for good reason – child safety is the top priority. When it comes to carriers and slings, you should know that they’re perfectly safe if you follow the recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend baby carriers for babies younger than 4 months and newborns (babies that can’t hold up their heads yet). 

However, there are special carriers and slings that are designed for newborns that protect them from head and neck injuries, and they are perfectly safe for them. There are sooo many benefits of babywearing for both mother and child, so if you are interested in it, don’t be discouraged or scared of it. Just make sure you familiarize yourself with baby carrier safety and how to choose the right baby carrier for you and your child before you buy one.

Are Baby Carriers or Slings Better?

The battle of the titans – carriers vs. baby slings. Who wins? Well, the answer depends on who you ask – some parents prefer carriers, others baby slings. It’s good to know that both are safe. Generally speaking, baby slings are more suitable for newborns as they offer head support. And you can adjust them on the front, back or side. They can also grow with your baby – up to 35 pounds weight.

Carriers, on the other hand, can be front or back-facing and can be used on much older children and offer comfort and ease. You can also carry infants with a special infant pad or you can buy a special carrier for newborns and infants. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose which one works best for you and your baby. We recommend trying out both and different kinds before you decide which one is the right one.

Can You Use a Baby Carrier in a Car?

This is a tough one. You’ll often hear comments from parents about how they carry their babies in their arms or slings in cars or other vehicles. They make it sound like it’s no big deal as child car seats or infant car seats carry a lot of weight and getting children in and out of one can be a time-consuming and strenuous task. Your pediatrician or favorite website may not advise against it and recommend caution and putting the seat belt over your child. 

An infant car seat and other child car seats, however, are the safest way to travel in a motor vehicle. In case a crash happens, things inside a car will take on much more weight, and the weights combined with the speed will make your child feel heavier and harder to hold in your arms. While we are big fans of kangaroo care here – we wouldn’t recommend it as an exchange for an infant car seat. Even though it sometimes feels like an easier choice especially when in taxis and you don’t expect a crash – safety should come first and you can never be too cautious.

Is It Illegal Not to Use a Car Seat?

YES. Of course, exact rules and regulations vary from state to state, but most states require babies to be in a rear-facing infant car seat in the back of the vehicle under the age of 2. Forward-facing and booster car seat vehicle requirements vary from state to state and so does the transition to the vehicle seat belt system, but it’s usually at the age of 8.

Can You Wear a Baby Carrier in a Taxi?

Under the current law, taxis aren’t required to provide or use child restraint systems. That’s why some drivers get grumpy and impatient if you ask for it or want to install your own infant seat on site. It may seem that’s easier to just put your baby or toddler in your lap or a sling as it’s not against the law when in a taxi or an Uber. However, once again – it’s not safe in the event of a crash. That’s why it’s always better to bring your car seat or choose a bus for safety purposes instead.

How Long Can You Carry a Baby in a Carrier?

There’s no strict rule regarding the maximum amount of time you can carry your baby in a carrier or sling, so there’s no need to turn on the stopwatch. It’s all up to you and your baby. The more your child develops, the more strength it will have and the more time it will be able to spend in the carrier. Follow your child cues and if you need a time frame – don’t carry newborn babies for more than 2 hours.

Benefits of Babywearing vs. Car Seat Carrying

How should you carry your baby? Short answer – use the seat for transport when you’re riding in a car and outside the car, go with babywearing. Why? It’s better for their physical and neurological development. 

Your newborn’s spine is in a C shape when your son or daughter is firstborn. Over the first year of your child’s life, they’re able to hold their head up and their spine develops more and more into a proper curve. But, until it does, babywearing will help them properly develop and it has numerous other neurological and emotional benefits. Laying flat for prolonged periods of time can halt a baby’s development and even cause defects.

On the other hand – a car seat is a must when in a car. None of the carriers on the market can compare with a car seat, properly chosen according to your child’s weight and height. Safety-wise, these 3 are incomparable. Also, an infant seat is very versatile and you can carry your baby in it even outside of your car or attach it to a stroller. 

Some Final Thoughts

We hope you’ve found our advice and tips useful. All in all – a car seat when inside a car and babywearing for prolonged periods of time. If you like your seat to be practical and versatile, so you can get it out of the car, put on a stroller, or carry your child in it to the doctor – choose the infant seat. If you want to skip the infant car seat – you can, and you can opt for a convertible car seat instead and opt for a sling or carrier when carrying your baby outside. Do you have something to add? How do you prefer to carry your baby? Tell us in the comments!