Car Seat vs Carrycot


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Buying a car seat is a rite of passage for most parents, and it can be an exciting one too. But with so much information regarding various models including some that can be used as carrycots, it can be confusing. So what’s the difference between a car seat and a carrycot? Let’s settle this debate and pick the travel system that serves your needs and budget best. 

First things first, let’s define what a car seat and carrycot are.

What is a carseat?

Sometimes referred to as a safety seat or booster seat, these seats protect your child from potential impact while travelling in a vehicle. You can find them in three different groups, categorised according to your child’s age and size. There’s group 0+, rear-facing seats for babies up to 12 – 15 months. Group 1, forward-facing car seats for children aged 9 months to 4 years old. Then Groups 2 and 3, booster seats for children up to 11 years old. 

Check out the government’s advice on picking a car seat according to age and height here and find NHS advice here. 

What is a carrycot?

These portable cot options often come attached to the body of a stroller, and can easily be detached from the frame if you’d like to carry it around or, for some models, strap it into the backseat of a vehicle with your baby asleep inside. With a lifespan that lasts a little longer than a Moses basket, a carrycot can support your newborn until they’re aged 6 months or so. 

baby sleeping in car seat

Is a carrycot the same as a car seat?

The main difference between a carrycot and a car seat is that a carrycot is suitable for overnight sleeping, while a car seat is not. Unlike a car seat, which usually contains contoured foams to absorb impact and protect your baby during a car accident, a carrycot has a flat surface, with cushion-like interiors designed for their comfort. 

Additionally, most carrycots can be used as an add-on to a stroller, while a car seat is built to be used in a vehicle. There are three-in-one strollers that come with both a carrycot and a car seat, which could be ideal if you’d rather save time shopping around and have a pretty penny to spare. 

Where the confusion lies is that some carrycots can be used as a car seat aswell e.g. the Maxi-Cosi Jade. For these type of models, your baby can lie flat whether they’re attached to a stroller or used as car seat.

Can you use a car seat instead of a carrycot? 

While a car seat is essential for your baby, especially when travelling around, it cannot be used in all the ways a carrycot can. You can’t allow your baby to fall asleep overnight in a car seat. Most car seats also don’t come with a suitable option for your baby to lie flat, which could be harmful for your baby if they’re in one for longer than a couple of hours. 

Why do babies have to lie flat until 6 months?

During the first few months of your babies’ life, their lungs are growing at a fast rate. In order to ensure this development takes place as efficiently as possible, having them lie flat until 6 months is highly recommended. 

There are also some health threats that come with keeping the baby in an upright or ‘scrunched up’ position for too long. Less air will reach the lungs if they’re slightly bent in this way for several hours, causing a gradual decrease in levels of oxygen in the blood. Oxygen could also be prevented from reaching the lungs when the baby’s chin falls towards the chest, causing asphyxiation. As your baby grows, their body weight can put pressure on their hips and leg joints, so keeping them lying flat is a way to prevent this. 

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Source: Sean Freese | Licence

Car Seat vs Carrycot

As with any product, there are negatives and positives to each of these baby products. Have a look at some of them below, to understand how both the car seat and carrycot measure up to your needs and lifestyle: 

Pros of a car seat

Unlike a carrycot, which only works best for newborns and small babies, car seats can be used for babies, toddlers and for young children. There are also lie-flat options for car seats.

Cons of a car seat

Unfortunately, you might have to spend a few more to get one that meets more than the basic requirements, such as stroller compatibility and lie-flat options. As the main purpose of a car seat is to protect the baby from both front and side-impact collisions, this means that most can be on the heavier side, which makes it quite difficult when transferring out of a vehicle. 

Pros of a carrycot

As they usually come as a stroller attachment, a carrycot is a much easier and time-saving option for parents due to the multi-purpose design. Your child can safely fall asleep in a carrycot for long periods, which conveniently saves the effort of having to transfer them out of a car seat.

Cons of a carrycot

Much like a Moses basket, carrycots can’t be positioned on a stand, making it harder to reach from a height – ie. your bed – when placed on a low surface. Also, the lifespan of a carrycot only lasts six months, which means you’ll have to look into other buying options as your child eventually learns to sit upright. 

Should I buy a lie-flat car seat?

While lie-flat car seats can be pretty expensive, they are a sustainable investment. Most lie-flat car seats also come with a stroller attachment, which means you can transfer your baby from a vehicle to a stroller with ease, and as they’ll be lying down, they’ll barely notice the change. Lie-flat car seats also have the ability to recline at different points, which means that when your baby can sit up, you’ll be able to adjust your car seat to accommodate the change.

Are lie-flat car seats safe?

Lie-flat car seats are a newer breed of car seats that keep your baby’s health and development at the forefront of their design. In this regard, they are very safe. It is recommended that babies’ do not stay upright in car seats for longer than a couple of hours, so having the option for them to lie flat certainly makes things easier. Having said this, upright car seats are also safe for use – you’ll just have to be a bit more wary about how long you’re keeping your baby in them for. 

How long can a baby stay in a lie-flat car seat?

Car seat groups indicate that you may have to change car seats as your child grows. However, some combination car seats can be used up until your child reaches four-years-old and sometimes older. There are a few baby seats that can hold your baby until they reach 12 months, but these options tend to take up more space in a vehicle and might be slightly heavier than the Group 0+ designs. 

Is it safe to recline a car seat?

Reclining a car seat is unsafe when not done properly, or if you don’t follow the instructions. It’s important to get it right. If not, it could cause injury or severe harm to your child. Also, if you go too far with the recline, it could make the car seat redundant, and prevent it from protecting the child at all in the event of a crash. If the seat is positioned too upright, your baby’s head may tilt forward and affect their ability to breathe. 

Do you really need a carrycot?

Unless your stroller comes with a seat that allows your baby to lie as flat as possible, a carrycot is the safest option for your newborn in their first six months of life, making it a popular baby essential. While it may seem like your baby won’t be in it for very long, there’s no denying its importance in ensuring the healthy development of your baby for the future.

How to put your baby in a carrycot?

1. Place your baby in the carrycot in a reclined position. Secure the harness straps around their legs and torso to ensure they’re snug and comfortable in their area. When they’re firmly settled in, adjust the sides so that your baby is able to lie completely flat on their back. At this point, you may want to lift the canopy and lift from the handle to test that everything is working appropriately.

2. If you’re using a stroller that’s compatible with a carrycot, ensure that the brakes are locked and you’ve removed the seat unit. This is because carrycots are usually fixed directly onto the chassis or through adaptors that attach straight to the frame of the stroller. 

3. Finally, just attach your carrycot to your stroller using either the adaptors or setting it straight onto the chassis. Now, you should be able to move your baby around in their carrycot through the stroller system, or alternatively, unhook the carrycot and carry it about freely on your own. 


Is a carrycot suitable for overnight sleeping?

Yes, A carrycot is suitable and safe for overnight sleeping.

When should a baby stop using a carrycot?

At just over six months old.

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Author: Dad Racket

Graham runs the place around here. He likes making a "little noise" about all things to do with tennis and parenting. Check out his about page to learn more.

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