Let’s start from the beginning: what are infant car seat adapters, and why do you need one? To answer this question, we need to talk about the two kinds of car seats:
- Infant car seats: Suitable for use from birth; click on and off a base in your car, and have a carry handle, so you can tote the seat with your baby in it. Rear-facing only.
- Convertible car seats: Usually suitable for use from birth; installed directly into the car; not meant for carrying. Called “convertible” because they can be installed rear-facing or forward-facing. (You want to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible, but that’s a whole other article.)
The advantage of the infant car seat is convenience: you can click it off of the base with your child still in it, and carry them into the house or transfer them, car seat and all, to the stroller. This saves you from the agony of waking a happily sleeping baby from a nap, which can be a godsend during the early months of parenthood. You’ll only use the infant car seat for about a year, but it will save you tons of trouble. So you CAN skip it and just get a convertible car seat, but that’s not what we typically recommend.
The infant car seat adapter, then, is the tool that lets you click your car seat safely onto your stroller. It’s a variation on the popular “travel system” strollers, which you’d buy with the car seat and stroller in the same box, generally with no need for a separate adapter. There’s a lot of convenience to getting everything at once, but what if the stroller or car seat that you love best doesn’t come packaged this way?
The emergence of Bugaboo in the early 2000s initiated a sea change that encouraged a lot of companies to specialize in one kind of product, concentrating on making the best car seat or the best stroller, respectively. The last fifteen years have been full of innovation from new and old companies alike in both of those fields, but from the experience of working in a specialty store, I can tell you that there’s a difference in quality, consistency, and durability between the companies that focus solely on one thing (Bugaboo, Clek) than the ones that spread themselves thin with multiple different product lines. Not that every seat and every stroller we sell isn’t excellent; it’s more that if you want to get the very top of the line for either product, you might not find a car seat/stroller that clicks right on, so you’ll need infant car seat adapters.
This means that in order to determine which car seat you can use with your favorite stroller, you’ll need to navigate a maze of options (or, if you come to Magic Beans, have us do it for you – it’s our job!). For instance, if you want an UPPAbaby Vista Stroller, your options will include the most common car seats that are in a comparable price range to their lineup. So your most affordable infant car seat option will be the Chicco Keyfit, or you can choose from a variety of European brands that are frequently associated with specialty stores like ours (Nuna, Cybex, Maxi-Cosi). On the other hand, Bugaboo makes it easier for you with adapters that fit almost every major brand, including Graco and Britax. But then you have options like the Nuna Tavo Stroller, which I would call a “true travel system” since only the Nuna Pipa infant car seat works with it (but you won’t need to buy any additional adapters, either).
With that said, there are three kinds of infant car seat adapters:
- Ring Adapters: A big circle.
- Peg Adapters: Two small pegs that click into the stroller.
- Universal Adapters: A variation on Ring Adapters.
The most common kind of Peg Adapters are Maxi-Cosi infant car seat adapters, since smaller European companies needed to piggyback off of these adapters to transition their businesses to the US. Nuna and Cybex use these adapters, but Nuna has recently started making a Ring Adapter for their Pipa car seat, and it’s a little more expensive but more efficient.
Here are the pros and cons of each kind of infant car seat adapter:
- No lining up your car seat when putting it in the stroller (quicker, easier)
- When it clicks into place, you’ll hear it much more loudly, giving you the reassurance that your seat is safely attached
- You tend to be able to remove mostly one-handed
- Bulkier, which can interfere with the fold – if you need to fold your stroller fast to get onto a busy or subway, this can be rough
- Removing from stroller a lot easier (Peg Perego/UPPAbaby exception). You use one hand on the bar, one hand on the back, pull the clip on the back, and remove by lifting up.
- Line up the holes in your car seat with the pegs on the stroller – tougher to get in
- Remove from stroller two-handed (Peg Perego/UPPAbaby exception)
- Easier to take off/store when folding stroller in a pinch
- Likely able to keep on when folded, without making folded stroller much bigger
- Looks cleaner
- Usually uses a simple backpack strap/clip to secure into a Ring-esque base
- Use the two clips on the front of your car seat, the ones used for taxi installation, to secure it.
- Allows you to put your car seat on many strollers that people don’t necessarily use with car seats often (Thule Urban Glide, Bumbleride strollers)
- Incredibly secure, since it’s manually tightened to your car seat’s specifications
The above is just a quick summary – there are countless combinations of car seats and strollers that you can mix and match at Magic Beans, and we encourage you to do so. Both your car seat and your stroller should match your lifestyle perfectly, and there’s no reason to settle for less!
But we also know that infant car seat adapters can be confusing, so let us help: come into any Magic Beans store and we’ll help you evaluate your options, or sign up for a free consultation to get dedicated one-on-one help. Don’t go it alone!