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Can you install an infant car seat without the base? (Usually, yes!)

baby asleep in infant car seat

While most convertible car seats are designed to carry your baby from birth onward, most babies take their first car rides in infant car seats. This is because the classic “baby bucket seat” makes your baby so much more portable: if you can click the car seat off of the base and just carry your napping baby into the house, car seat and all, you may be able to avoid waking her. (This is also why our lightest infant car seats are so popular!) Plus, if you can click your infant car seat onto your stroller using an infant car seat adapter, you can make the same transfer to the stroller minus the tears (for both your baby and you).

The magic component that makes infant car seats so convenient is the base, which is installed long-term in your car while the seat itself comes and goes. But: what if you’re traveling with your baby and don’t have your own car, and thus the base, on hand? Luckily, most infant car seats can be secured in the car without the base – it’s just a little more complex.

As we covered in our article “How Do You Install a Car Seat In A Taxicab?”, there are a few different ways to install an infant car seat seat without the base, and the experts prefer the European-style belt path.

You can see how the European style installation works in this video featuring the Nuna Pipa Infant Car Seat, starting at 3 minutes in:

 

The steps, summarized:

  • Place your car seat carrier, positioned correctly, rear-facing, in the vehicle seat.
  • Pull out the seat belt; thread the lap portion through the lap belt guides on the carrier.
  • Thread the shoulder belt through the guide on the back of the carrier.
  • Buckle the safety belt.
  • Pull the shoulder belt all the way out to activate the locking mechanism.
  • Tighten the installation as much as possible while pushing the seat and pulling on the safety belt. It should be tight enough that it won’t move more than one inch if you try and wiggle it.
  • Check to make sure the seat is level.

The installation for the Chicco KeyFit 30 Infant Car Seat and some other American models is a bit different: as you’ll see in the video below, it doesn’t have that belt path that secures the shoulder belt around the back of the seat.

Either way, instructions for this process will be in the manual for your infant car seat; there are also plenty of great instructional videos on Youtube that can be really helpful (I personally prefer instructional videos to written instructions, and I bet you do too!).

This process isn’t as simple as clicking on and off a base, but, barring any complications, it isn’t that difficult and shouldn’t take you that long. If you’re preparing for a voyage where you’ll be using taxis, Ubers, or a rental car, though, it pays to practice! It will help you to feel more confident that you’re protecting your baby as well as possible in the car, which will help you enjoy your trip and worry less.

While we don’t do professional car seat installations here at Magic Beans, we’re always here with product advice, so if you’re looking for a seat that will make it easier to take your baby along, ask us! We’ve got lots of great suggestions.

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