Updated: Feb 3, 2021
Carseats, strollers, joggers, carriers....and on and on and on. There are so many options to choose from so I'm here to share a few of my favorites with you!
Infant Carseat or Convertible? This is a question a lot of new parents have. The answer is...either! It just depends on your goals.
An infant carseat is a great option if your main goal is flexibility and ease of use. If you have multiple cars, you can purchase just one seat and multiple bases for each car. The carriers are fairly lightweight (even if they may not seem like it as baby grows) and easy to transport in and out of the car, into the home, restaurants or on outings. Infant carseats often can snap straight onto strollers at your destination or on walks around your neighborhood.
So what are the drawbacks? Infant seats only fit for about 1 year, give or take a couple months depending on the size of your infant. After that you'll need to upgrade to a convertible seat anyway. It's also easy to forget that an infant carseat is NOT a safe sleep space and many parents will let their sleeping infants remain in the carrier once asleep, risking positional asphyxiation. If you do choose an infant carseat, make sure you always move your infant to a safe sleep space once out of a moving vehicle or stroller, like a crib or bassinet.
A convertible seat is a seat that can be used straight from the hospital well into toddlerhood, and can be used both rear facing and forward facing (though not until at least 2 years of age!). Many convertible seats now have a low enough weight requirement that they can used straight from the hospital even for preemies or low birthweight babies! If your top goal is watching the finances, this may be the route you want to go. You'll likely need more than one if you have multiple vehicles you use regularly, or you can just choose one vehicle as the "baby car" and negate the need for an additional seat. If you choose a convertible seat from day one, just make sure you have one with a very low weight limit. You'll also want to get an infant carrier, like an Ergo or a Tula, for when you are out and about and need a hands free way to carry your infant. More on that later!
The drawback of the convertible seat is that it's not as convenient as the infant carseat. It must remain in the car and is harder to transfer back and forth between multiple vehicles. It doesn't snap into a stroller and it is harder to clean if you have a baby prone to spitups.
*Important Note: Regardless what seat you choose, remember to never add anything to the seat that is not specifically approved by the seat manufacturer. No fun strap protectors, no winter linings, no seat pads, no seat protectors underneath. Also remember never to put your infant in a seat wearing anything thicker than a thin fleece jacket and always keep the straps tight and the chestclip at armpit level. Contact a local CPST for more information on carseat safety!*
Best Overall Seat
This is a great overall seat. It will fit your infant from 4lbs-30lbs and up to 30" in height. The seat itself weighs only 9 lbs (base weighs 7 lbs) and is a super easy install with LATCH system. The seat comes with an infant positioner for your newborns up to 11lbs and a single base for your car. It's also easy to wash! You can get additional bases here.
Best Transitional Infant Seat
This is the updated version of the Keyfit 30 and comes with a few extra goodies. This seat fits from 4lbs-35lbs up to 35" and has a Stage 2 setting for toddlers that is slightly less reclined. Depending on the size of your infant/toddler this seat could last up to 24 months. It's a bit heavier at 11lbs for the seat but also comes with a few additional safety features, like an anti-rebound bar in the base. It's also a bit more cushy and comfy with plusher fabric and a few extra infant size adjustment settings. Of course these extra features come with a bit higher price tag, about $80 more. Both seats are great, the choice is up to you! Seat comes with an infant insert and base. You can get additional bases here.
The Luxury Option
The UPPAbaby MESA is your luxury option. It can be used seamlessly with the UPPAbaby Vista travel system. At only 15.5" wide it is great for compact vehicles. The install is idiot proof with lots of extra features to make sure you get the perfect recline regardless of vehicle. There is side impact protection and merino wool fire resistant (and sweat resistant) fabric. There are also handy little spaces to store the crotch clips to hold them out of the way while placing your infant in the seat. Biggest drawbacks? The canopy is small and doesn't provide much sun protection and the price is 30%+ higher than the Keyfit30. But if you are looking for luxury, the UPPAbaby is the place to go!
The Forever Option
Whether looking for your infant or your toddler, this is by far my favorite convertible seat, and the only one I've chosen to include here. You can also purchase the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit 4-in-1 without the extra DLX features, but at writing of this blog they are the same price, so why not go for the fancier version?! This seat will last from 4lbs to a whopping 120 lbs!!! You can use it for up to 10 years before it expires, at which time your child should be old enough to sit in a backless booster or without a carseat at all. There are 6 reclining positions, ample comfort features, built in cup holders for the older child and an easy Graco specific InRight LATCH install. It will look like a monster with your tiny newborn inside, but will be just as safe as any of the other seats listed above. It also comes with a 60 second rapid remove cover for easy washing of seat due to urps, spills or snack crumbs. It really is a great all-in-one option if you choose to forego the infant carseat altogether.
If the above seats look great but are simply out of your price range, check out some of these budget friendly options! They all reach standard safety ratings, but you give up some safety and comfort features along with ease of install.
What is the difference between a Stroller and a Jogger and which is best for your needs? Let's start with the differences.
A stroller is usually more lightweight, is smaller and easier to push on flat surfaces and easier to maneuver through smaller spaces, like clothing aisles in a store. Strollers often have multiple reclining options, some laying completely flat for newborns and infants. Many strollers come as full travel systems, with infant car seats included. Strollers typically fold smaller and are easier to fit in smaller cars. They also tend to be more lightweight.
In simple terms, a jogger is made for jogging! This means that it is easier to push, has better suspension for a smoother ride, moves more easily over hills and rugged surfaces, has a fixed front wheel option and often has an attached safety strap. They usually have a brake on the push handle and have better balance and larger wheels, often two large back wheels and one or two smaller front wheels in a triangle shape for balance. Joggers usually need an extra attachment to be compatible with an infant car seat and tend to not recline as fully as strollers, keeping your infant in a more upright position. This means for the first couple months you will need the attachment to use with your newborn, as they will not have the head strength or body strength to sit in an upright seat.
*Important Note: A jogger should not be used for jogging or running with your infant until your infant has full neck support and can sit unassisted or mostly unassisted, usually around 6 months of age*
Best Overall Jogger/Stroller
This is my all time favorite jogger and stroller! It is as easy if not more easy to maneuver even in tiny spaces. It pushes seamlessly over almost all terrain including hills and dirt paths. It has a top-notch sunshade with multiple options for coverage. It is extremely lightweight at only 21.4 lbs and can be folded almost completely flat only using one hand. It will fit your child up to 65lbs. It isn't perfect, though. The brake, while easy to use once you're familiar with it, takes some getting used to as it is on the side, not by the wheels. It isn't my favorite for jogging because it has smaller wheels than some joggers, though it manages just fine. It also doesn't have a huge storage compartment on bottom, though this is true of most joggers, and you have to buy a cup/key holder separately. You can find that here. The G2 is a newer model and is quite expensive, but it will last you years. You can buy the older model City Mini 2 2019 here for extra savings. You can also buy a complete travel system here that includes a City Mini GT2 and a CityGo 2 infant carseat with base (sadly I have no experience with this carseat so can't offer an honest review either way).
If your main goal is jogging, you can't go wrong with a BOB! The BOB comes with heavy duty large tires that can take on any terrain. It comes with a good size cargo holder underneath. The recline lays almost completely flat so can be used with infants as young as 8 weeks old (but remember to wait to jog/run until they've mastered the neck support!) and it will fit your child up to 75 lbs. BOBs are a tried and true jogger and many mommies and daddies swear by them! So why wouldn't you choose a BOB? Like the City Mini GT2, it doesn't come with a cup/key holder. You can find that here. It also weighs in at 28.5 lbs and doesn't fold flat so you will need a large trunkspace for storage. Because of the large wheels, it can be hard to maneuver through doorways or in tight store aisles, but not impossible! If space isn't a huge concern, the BOB is a great option. Want to save a few dollars? You can buy the BOB Gear Rambler here.
Best Traditional Stroller
Like the City Mini GT and GT2, the Chicco Bravo has one handed folding technology and folds small for easy trunk storage. It also has a removeable snack tray, easy attachment for the Chicco Keyfit30 and Fit2 seats and the option to completely remove the traditional stroller seat and use as a simple travel system with just the infant carseat. It also comes with a cup/key holder built in and easily excessible, ample storage underneath.
The only real drawback is that it isn't a jogger so is not made to move over rough terrain, hills or at jogging/running speeds. This stroller will fit your infant well into toddlerhood and is rated up to 36 months. The carseat attachment is sold separately, but fear not! You can purchase the entire travel system here, including the Chicco Keyfit30, a single base and all needed attachments! All the best in one place, for only a few dollars more than either of the joggers above.
The Luxury Option
The UPPAbaby Vista V2, like the MESA, provides you the top of the line in comfort, safety and ease of use, but it'll cost you triple what any of the other systems will. What do you get for the extra cost? Better 5 point harness, luxury ride, ample storage space and a fancy bassinet that can be used both with the stroller and as a safe sleep space outside of the stroller, something none of the other strollers or joggers offer. It's easy to fold, has multiple different modes, performs well as a jogger (though not as well as the BOB) or a stroller and looks...fancy! You'll be the envy of the town if you choose the UPPAbaby! The UPPAbaby weighs in at 27 lbs and will fit your child up to 50lbs. You can buy the complete travel system with the MESA carseat here.
Budget Travel Systems
My favorite budget option is the Chicco system above. But if that's still out of your price range, check out these inexpensive options. You will sacrifice comfort, ease of use, storage capabilities, safety and other features, but sometimes that's necessary if you have a limited budget! The links below are full travel systems, including carseats. If you go with a budget system, you'll likely want to choose the compatible infant carseat as well as it can be difficult to get the appropriate attachments.
Infant carriers are a must have for parents of newborns and infants, even up to toddlerhood! You will find the need for them from day one during long days and nights walking baby up and down the hall, traveling through grocery stores and department stores trying to avoid winter germs, out on walks through the neighborhood, on weekend hikes, etc. There are a variety of options, but I'm only going to cover 2 in this blog: Wraps and soft-structured carriers.
Most Comfortable Soft-Structured Carrier
The Tula is a well known name in the parenting world, and for good reason! It is by far the most comfortable soft-structured carrier out there for front carries. It has an easy learning curve and can fit your infant from 7lbs to 45lbs. You can also wear it as a back carry, where it is also very comfortable if worn correctly. You can even upgrade to a Toddler Tula Carrier to fit your infant from 20lbs to 60lbs. Tulas come in a variety of patterns, many made from woven wraps and specially commissioned. Those can run you upwards of $1000! However, this simple Tula will provide you all the support you need for only around $150.
Best Overall Soft-Structured Carrier
The Ergobaby and the Tula are similar both in style and in price, but there are a few differences. The Tula offers the best overall comfort for wear, but the Ergo is pretty comfortable as well. Where the Ergo shines, is in flexibility. While the Tula offers only front and back carries with the infant facing towards you in both positions, the Ergobaby Omni 360 offers the additional options of side carry and outward facing carry. While you shouldn't face a young infant out due to overstimulation and immature body support, once they have solid neck support they may enjoy facing out during a front carry so that they can see the world! The side carry is a great option if you have lower back or knee pain. And of course, the Ergobaby can do a back carry as well! The Ergobaby will fit your infant/toddler from 7lbs to 45lbs. For a more budget conscious option, you can choose the Ergobaby Adapt, which offers front, side and back carries, but doesn't have an outward facing option.
Best Budget Friendly Soft-Structured Carrier
While not as ergonomic and comfortable as the Tula or Ergobaby, the Catbird is a great choice as well. It offers padded straps and an unpadded waistband, which saves you from a sweaty lower back that is common with the other two carriers. It cinches at the crotch to grow with baby and provide safe hip support. It has multiple strap adjustments to provide a safe and secure fit for baby and will fit from 8lbs to 40lbs. You may find, however, that it is uncomfortable to carry an infant more than 18-20 lbs in this carrier because it has less support around the waist.
*Important Note: While you can find soft-structured carriers for $25-50, they often get negative reviews across the mommy boards. When using a carrier like this, comfort for both adult and infant is very important. If you want to avoid repeated trips to the chiropractor for lower back pain, invest in one of the higher quality brands above. You won't regret it!*