Best toddler car seats
  • Best Toddler Car Seats: Pampers Parents Help You Pick!

    July 15, 2019
    24 min read

    There are so many car seats to choose from, and it can be bewildering to pick the right one when your little one reaches the toddler stage. Choosing a comfortable and safe car seat that’s easy to get your toddler in and out of isn’t always easy. Pampers Parents know this from experience!

    To help, more than 3,000 Pampers Parents voted on the best car seats for toddlers, which you can browse below.

    You’ll find plenty of convertible car seat options that can last as your little one grows as well as some great budget-friendly options. When it comes to car seats, safety comes first, but we’ll also take you through some other factors to consider when buying a car seat for your little one.

    What's in this article:

    When to Switch to a Toddler Car Seat What Types of Toddler Safety Car Seats Are There? What to Consider When Buying a Toddler Safety Car Seat Tips for Using Your New Toddler Car Seat Convertible Car Seats Budget-Friendly Car Seats

    When to Switch to a Toddler Car Seat

    There’s no fixed time when you’ll need to shift to a different car seat. The key point is that your child needs to stay in a rear-facing infant car seat until he is at least 2 years old or until he reaches the maximum height and weight limit allowed by the manufacturer of the infant car seat. Keep in mind, your little one may not reach this limit until well after his second birthday. That’s OK. Keep him in a rear-facing car seat until he does reach the limit, because the back-facing position is the safest for a young baby or toddler.

    There is actually no such thing as a specific car seat solely for the “toddler” stage. From the time your baby is born until early toddlerhood (when he’s 2 or older), you’ll need to use a rear-facing seat. As your toddler gets older and reaches the weight and height limits of the rear-facing seat, you can safely switch to a front-facing seat.

    You’ll notice that all the car seats chosen by Pampers Parents in our lists below are convertible car seats. These car seats can transform from a rear-facing to a front-facing style to suit your little one as he grows.

    Some convertible car seats can even transform into a belt-positioning booster seat and be safe for your child as he reaches school age.

    Sometimes, other factors may need to be considered when choosing a car seat, such as if your toddler has certain developmental needs. If in doubt, it’s best to ask your healthcare provider.

    What Types of Toddler Safety Car Seats Are There?

    There are several car seat styles on the market that are suitable for a toddler:

    • Convertible car seat. These car seats can be used for the infant to toddler stage because they can be placed in both a rear-facing and front-facing position. If you go for a convertible car seat, use it in the rear-facing position until your child has reached the manufacturer's height or weight limit for this position or until he turns 2. Keep in mind, convertible car seats are often bulkier than those car seats designed to be only rear-facing or front-facing. These car seats often don’t have carry handles.
    • 3-in-1 or 4-in-1 car seat. These car seats are also called “all-in-ones” and they work as rear-facing, front-facing, and belt-positioning booster car seats. These car seats are often larger, so if you have a smaller car, check that the seat fits before purchasing. Like a convertible model, this kind of car seat doesn’t come with a carry handle, so it’s best if you want to leave it in your car instead of taking it in and out all the time. These car seats can get you through the infant to toddler years, and a few years beyond, too.
    • Rear-facing car seat. Some car seats are designed to only work facing the back of the car. You should use a rear-facing car seat or a convertible car seat in the rear-facing position until your child is 2 years old, or until he’s reached the weight and height limit set by the manufacturer.
    • Front-facing car seat. Once your little one has outgrown the rear-facing car seat, he can be placed in a forward-facing one. Again, although some styles are designed to only work when facing the front, convertible car seats can be turned around to work both ways.
    • Reclining toddler car seat. Some car seats that suit the toddler stage can be manually reclined. Follow the manufacturer’s advice about the safest angle for your toddler.

    “Babies outgrow the car seats so fast. Consider looking for one that can grow with them.”

    Pampers Parent

    It can be tricky to know which car seat is best for your child. This visual helps you see your options at a glance:

    Types of baby and toddler car seats

    What to Consider When Buying a Toddler Safety Car Seat

    There’s no one best or safest toddler car seat. The right one for your toddler is the one that is right for your toddler’s size, is installed and fits properly in your car, meets current safety standards, and is used correctly each time your child rides.

    When deciding which toddler car seat is best to buy, consider these questions:

    • Does the car seat meet safety standards? Safety always comes first. Before settling on your choice, check that it hasn’t been recalled with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Don’t use a car seat that is past the expiration date the manufacturer provides, or that has any cracks or missing parts. Never use a car safety seat that doesn’t have a label with the date of manufacture, product name, and model number. Only use a car seat that comes with its original instructions. Avoid using a secondhand car seat unless you’re confident you know its history and that it still meets current safety standards. Because it can be tricky to be 100 percent sure a secondhand seat has never been in a crash or is not defective in some way, it’s typically safest to buy new.
    • Is the car seat right for your baby’s size? Your toddler must be within the weight and height range provided by the car seat manufacturer. It’s best to put your child in the seat to try it out before you purchase it. If you’re buying online, maybe there’s a floor model of the car seat you like at your local retailer, or perhaps a friend has a car seat like the one you’re considering that you could try out with your little one.
    • Do you need a rear- or front-facing car seat? Your child should be in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible — which means until she reaches the weight and height limit set by the manufacturer of her infant car seat. If your little one is still in early toddlerhood, she will likely still need to be in a rear-facing car seat. Once she’s big enough, it’s time to buy a front-facing car seat. Of course, if you buy a convertible or all-in-one car seat, the car seat can simply be turned to face the front when the time comes.
    • How can the car seat be installed? You can either install a car seat using the car’s own seat belts or a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system. Both are safe. You may want to consult a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician about the safest way to install the car seat you’re considering buying.
    • Will the seat be comfortable? Look at things like the material, the cushioning, whether the harness is comfortable, and what back and neck support the car seat provides. You know your little one best. You might also like to check whether the car seat’s recline can be adjusted.
    • Do you have a small car? Some car seats take up less room than others, so if you have a smaller car, you might need to go for one of the smaller models to make sure it will fit. You might also need a more compact car seat if you’ll need to fit more than one car seat in the back seat of your car.
    • Is the car seat easy to install? This is especially important if you’ll have to regularly move the seat from one car to another. If you do, consider not only how easy it is to install but also the weight and transportability of the car seat.
    • How easy is it to clean the car seat? Many car seats come with machine-washable seat covers. Some, however, are easier to remove than others, and some require you to rethread the harness through the cover each time you take it off to clean.
    • Does the seat have added features you might want? Some car seats come with cup holders or extra removable pillows, for example.
    • Is the price right? Some car seats can be quite expensive. Know that a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean the car seat is better. For budget-friendly options, check out these more affordable options.

    “Parents should consider everything from size, brand, safety features, reviews, recalls, down to the materials used to make the product. Your child’s safety is of the upmost importance, period, but especially so in a car seat!”

    Pampers Parent

    Tips for Using Your New Toddler Car Seat

    These are some of the things to keep in mind when installing and using your car seat:

    • Follow the manufacturer’s installation and usage instructions carefully.
    • It’s safest to place the car seat in the back seat.
    • Position the car seat in the correct direction based on your toddler’s size and age.
    • Check your baby’s head doesn’t flop forward when she's seated. If it does, the car seat may not be reclined enough.
    • Buckle your child in properly each time she’s in the car seat — even when the car isn’t moving.
    • Check that the harness fits snugly against your toddler’s body. Adjust the harness so that it sits correctly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • If your baby rides in anyone else’s car, make sure the car seat is properly installed and she’s properly fitted, even if it’s only going to be a short trip.
    • Make sure your toddler can’t wiggle out of the car seat when the car is moving.
    • There may be times when your toddler complains about having to ride in her car seat. Explain that you can’t take off until everyone's seat belt is fastened. Set a good example by always wearing your seat belt. During the drive, talk to your little one so she feels included.
    • If it’s hot weather, cover the car seat in a towel to keep it cooler for the next time you want to use it, and check that any plastic on the car seat and the buckles aren’t hot before placing your little one in the seat.
    • Never leave your toddler alone in the car — not even for a moment.

    “Safety, safety, safety. Buy your toddler’s car seat based on which one has the highest safety rating.”

    Pampers Parent

    Convertible Car Seats

    Below are the best car seats for toddlers based on the votes of more than 3,000 Pampers Parents. Each seat is a convertible seat, so you can adjust the direction it faces as your little one grows.

    1. Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

    Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

    Why pick this one? This car seat converts to four different seat styles to accommodate your baby as he grows and develops. It can transform from a rear-facing seat to a front-facing seat, a high-back booster seat, and finally a backless booster seat to keep your baby safe for years.

    The Simply Safe Adjust Harness System and 10-position headrest are both adjustable to help your baby fit properly and sit comfortably. Its six-position recline allows you to adjust the way your baby or toddler sits.

    This seat can be installed in your car using either the car seat belt or the LATCH system.

    Some parents have noted that the product labels on this car seat can get very hot. Car temperatures can rise very quickly (and not just during the warmer months), so it's always wise to make sure that not only the car seat but the car itself is cool — such as by turning on the air conditioning for a few minutes before putting your baby in the seat. This helps protect against burns and also helps prevent heatstroke.

    Highlights: This car seat can be used from the infant to toddler stages and beyond. Plus, the seat cushion is removable and machine washable. This seat also has two built-in cup holders.

    Details:

    Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
    Item size20 x 21.5 x 24 inches
    Item weight22.8 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight4 to 40 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight22 to 65 pounds
    High-back belted booster child weight30 to 100 pounds
    Backless belted booster child weight40 to 120 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child heightYour child’s head must be at least 1 inch below the handle
    Front-facing seat child height27 to 52 inches
    High-back belted booster child height38 to 57 inches
    Backless belted booster child height40 to 57 inches

    Price*: about $269.99 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: Buy a baby car seat that can change into a toddler car seat and then to an older child’s booster like this convertible Graco 4Ever 4-in-1. It is so much better, and it will save you some money.

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    2. Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

    Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

    Why pick this one? This car seat is built to convert for extended use as your baby grows. It works for weights ranging from 5 to 100 pounds. The five-point QuickFit Harness helps you easily adjust both the harness and the headrest in one simple step. The three-position recline not only helps keep your baby comfortable but makes the seat easier to install in your car.

    The seat comes with two integrated cup holders. The seat pad is machine washable and dryer safe for easy cleaning. Be aware that you might need to take a bit of extra time to get this seat fitted to your vehicle.

    Highlights: The easy-in, easy-out harness holders keep the five-point harness in an open position, so you might find it easier to get your baby in and out of this seat. This car seat comes with two grow-with-baby pillows, which are easily removable once your child outgrows them.

    Details:

    Safety 1st Grow and Go 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat
    Item size37.8 x 37.8 x 47.24 inches
    Item weight19.5 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight5 to 40 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight22 to 65 pounds
    Belted booster child weight40 to 100 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child height19 to 40 inches
    Front-facing seat child height29 to 49 inches
    Belted booster child height43 to 52 inches

    Price*: about $149.99 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: The harness straps on most car seats can get twisted if you don’t pay attention when you’re getting your child in and out of the seat. It’s worth taking an extra two seconds to keep the straps untangled, and the harness holders on this seat make it so much easier to manage.

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    3. Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat

    Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat

    Why pick this one? You might find the Chicco NextFit seat easy to install and, with the ReclineSure nine-position leveling system, it might fit better in a wider range of cars.

    The nine reclining positions can accommodate your baby as he grows into a toddler and even into school age. This car seat also has two Ride Right bubble levels to indicate the correct seat angle when the seat is in either the rear-facing or front-facing position. The Super Cinch LATCH Tightener helps you get a secure fit in the car with less effort.

    This car seat comes with a padded insert to accommodate babies from 5 to 11 pounds. This insert can be removed as your baby grows. Keep in mind that although the fabric on the seat is removable and washable, it might take a little extra time to figure out how to remove it.

    Highlights: This car seat has a six-position headrest and a no-rethread harness with a one-pull tightener for easier adjusting as he grows. It comes with removable cup holders.

    Details:

    Chicco NextFit Convertible Car Seat
    Item size20.5 x 19 x 26 inches
    Item weight25.1 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight5 to 40 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight22 to 65 pounds
    Child heightUp to 49 inches

    Price*: about $359.99 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: Some car seats can be tricky to tighten, so try to stay calm and give yourself plenty of time to figure it out. This Chicco seat has an easy LATCH system that makes getting the seat into the car much easier.

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    4. Evenflo EveryStage DLX All-In-One Car Seat

    Evenflo EveryStage DLX All-In-One Car Seat

    Why pick this one? The EasyClick LATCH system helps ensure that the seat can be quickly and securely installed. In other words, you can have a wiggle-free seat without having to wrestle with it. The seat converts for use starting in early infancy and on through early childhood.

    This seat offers more rear-facing seat space, so your baby might be able to stay in the rear-facing position longer, without being cramped. (Just make sure you check the manufacturer’s instructions about the maximum weight and height limits for this position.)

    The seat pad is machine washable, and the two cupholders are dishwasher safe. Be aware that the cupholders are removable, so your baby may be able to take them out.

    Highlights: The Evenflo EveryStage has a proprietary in-seat recline to provide enhanced support and minimize head slump.

    Details:

    Evenflo EveryStage DLX All-In-One Car Seat
    Item size22 x 19 x 26.5 inches
    Item weight22 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight4 to 50 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight22 to 65 pounds
    Belted booster seat child weight40 to 120 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child height17 to 48 inches
    Front-facing seat child height28 to 49 inches
    Belted booster seat child height44 to 57 inches

    Price*: about $199.99 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: Think about whether or not you’re going to be moving your car seat from car to car all the time. The ratchet system on this seat is great if you have to move your car seat between cars regularly!

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    5. Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

    Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat

    Why pick this one? The Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat has a patented ClickTight installation system that allows you to install the seat in three easy steps. It also features an extra layer of side-impact protection.

    The harness quickly adjusts to 14 different positions to accommodate your growing baby. The seat has premium padding and seven recline positions for comfort as he grows.

    Highlights: This car seat comes with a Click & Safe Snug Harness, which makes a clicking sound when the harness is secure.

    Details:

    Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat
    Item size23 x 18.5 x 23.5 inches
    Item weight24 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight5 to 40 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight20 to 65 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child heightYour child’s head must be at least 1 inch below the top of the head restraint
    Front-facing seat child heightUp to 49 inches

    Price*: about $299.99 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: A user-friendly car seat is priceless! If it comes with features that make it clear how to install and secure your baby, you’ll love it even more. The Britax seat makes installing it and getting your baby in it super easy.

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    6. Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Special Edition Convertible Car Seat

    Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Special Edition Convertible Car Seat

    Why pick this one? The Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 is a 2-in-1 car seat. You can use it in both the rear- and front-facing positions. The patented Air Protect advanced cushioning system was designed by car safety experts to provide extra protection for your baby’s head.

    The seat pad and five-point harness have premium, machine-washable fabric covers. Plus, you don’t have to uninstall the car seat to remove the covers. The harness and headrest adjust easily with just one hand.

    Keep in mind that this car seat isn’t suitable for a baby under 14 pounds or a child over 85 pounds, a smaller weight range than some of the other car seats on this list.

    Highlights: This super plush car seat comes with harness holders that help make getting your baby in and out of the seat much easier. Plus, you can make micro-adjustments to the five-point harness to provide just the right fit for your baby.

    Details:

    Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Convertible Car Seat
    Item size37.8 x 37.8 x 47.24 inches
    Item weight23.7 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight14 to 40 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight22 to 85 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child height)Up to 40 inches
    Front-facing seat child height (when reclined)29 to 43 inches
    Front-facing seat child height (when upright)43 to 52 inches

    Price*: about $299.99 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: Be prepared to return a car seat if your baby doesn’t fit into it well. Getting the perfect car seat may take time, but it’s worth the effort when you find the right one! The harness adjustments on this seat are great for getting a custom fit for your toddler.

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    7. Clek Fllo Convertible Car Seat

    Clek Fllo Convertible Car Seat

    Why pick this one? This unique car seat comes with a steel anti-rebound bar — Clek’s patented Energy-Absorbing Crumple Technology. The anti-rebound bar is designed to improve stability by limiting the rotation of the seat, which helps protect your baby’s head in case of a collision. Plus, this seat has advanced side-impact protection with deep side wings, deep foam layers, and an adjustable built in headrest.

    The GREENGAURD Select Certified Crypton Super Fabric protects against moisture, stains, and odor-causing bacteria, which is great for when there are spills and dribbles. The downside is that if big spills happen, they might leak down into the padding or plastic base. In that case, you’d have to remove the cover to deep-clean the seat.

    Highlights: Because it’s less than 17 inches wide, the Clek Fllo works well in most vehicles when you want to seat three people in the back seat.

    Details:

    Clek Fllo Convertible Car Seat
    Item size37.8 x 37.8 x 47.24 inches
    Item weight25 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight14 to 50 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight22 to 65 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child height)25 to 43 inches
    Front-facing seat child height (when reclined)30 to 49 inches

    Price*: about $299.99 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: Be sure to check how the seat is constructed and make sure it meets all industry safety requirements. They usually all do if they’re new, but it’s nice to know you have one of the safest seats possible. Comfort is also important when it comes to how the seat is constructed. The materials the Clek Fllo seat is made of are great.

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    Budget-Friendly Car Seats

    Here are some of the best inexpensive car seats that Pampers Parents voted for. These convertible models work well for a baby, a toddler, and beyond.

    1. Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

    Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

    Why pick this one? The Quick Connect Latch System makes moving this seat and installing it quick and safe. The proprietary e3 Side Impact Protection helps guard against side-impact crash forces. The Infinite Slide five-point harness easily slides to adjust for a proper fit, so your toddler can be put in and taken out more easily. This seat has two integrated cupholders.

    It also offers multi-position recline to help keep your baby comfortable. This seat is convertible, so you can change it from a rear-facing to a front-facing position.

    Be aware that when this car seat is in the rear-facing position, you may have to make adjustments to get the seat to recline enough to ensure there is proper support for your baby’s head and neck.

    Highlights: The Evenflo Triump LX has an easy-slide, five-point harness system that you can easily tighten with one hand. Plus, the easy-off, machine-washable seat pad doesn’t have to be rethreaded each time you remove it for cleaning.

    Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat
    Item size20.5 x 19 x 19.4 inches
    Item weight19.37 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight5 to 40 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight22 to 65 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child height19 to 37 inches
    Front-facing seat child height28 to 50 inches

    Price*: about $299.99 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: This seat has a pretty big weight range so it can suit your growing child for longer. Always check the minimum and maximum weight and height limits before buying a car seat.

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    2. Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat

    Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat

    Why pick this one? The Safety 1st Guide 65 seat is convertible for both rear-facing and front-facing positions. The LATCH system helps make installing it easier. Side-impact protection is built into this seat to keep your baby extra secure. This seat comes with removable body pillows and an adjustable headrest.

    According to some Pampers Parents, the fabric cover on this seat may absorb heat if the car seat is left in hot temperatures. This could be uncomfortable for your baby unless you cool the car a little first.

    Highlights: This car seat is not only budget friendly, it’s great for smaller cars or when you need extra space in a larger car. If you’re carpooling or have a growing family, you'll appreciate knowing that three of the Safety 1st Guide 65 car seats can fit side by side in most cars.

    Details:

    Safety 1st Guide 65 Convertible Car Seat
    Item size30 x 18 x 14 inches
    Item weight15 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight5 to 40 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight22 to 65 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child height19 to 40 inches
    Front-facing seat child height29 to 49 inches

    Price*: about $95.99 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: This is a great seat if you don’t have too much room in the car. Because of the design and the dimensions of the seat, it doesn’t take up as much space as many car seats do.

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    3. Cosco Scenera NEXT Car Seat

    Cosco Scenera NEXT Car Seat

    Why pick this one? The Cosco Scenera NEXT seat is the most inexpensive car seat on this list. If you’re looking for a safe car seat while sticking to a budget, this is a great seat to consider. This convertible seat can be used in both the rear-facing and front-facing positions. The five-point harness adjusts to provide the best fit for your baby. The seat pad is machine washable.

    Highlights: Because of the light weight of this car seat, it’s more portable than some of the other car seats on this list. This car seat could be one of the best if you want to move it between cars, or take it with you when you travel.

    Details:

    Cosco Scenera NEXT Car Seat
    Item size17 x 22 x 23.5 inches
    Item weight7.65 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child weight5 to 40 pounds
    Front-facing seat child weight22 to 40 pounds
    Rear-facing seat child height19 to 40 inches
    Front-facing seat child height29 to 43 inches

    Price*: about $54.13 on Amazon.com

    Pampers Parents tip: Use this car seat if you sometimes need to give it to the babysitter or your toddler’s grandparents for use in their car because it’s so light to carry and easy to transport.

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    We hope you’ve found the perfect car seat for your toddler on this list. By using the right car seat for your little one, and installing it and using it properly each time your child rides, you've helped ensure that your tiny traveler is safe and comfortable. While you’re here, check out more tips for keeping your little one safe in the car.

    Recall Notice

    Before buying a product, always check that it’s approved and hasn’t been recalled on sites like the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

    *Prices are correct at the time of writing.

    How We Got These Results

    We surveyed thousands of parents in the Pampers Community and asked them to choose the products they love the most, and to share their views on specific products and product categories. We have taken the top product picks based on the survey responses and added our own research to create this article. The aim is to help you choose the right product for you and your family. We might receive commissions on purchases made from the links in this article, but the products featured are the Pampers Community’s top choices.

    See all sources
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    Safety First: Grow and Go-3-in-1 Car Seat

    Book: Caring for your baby and young child birth to age 5, Sixth Edition Paperback – November 2, 2014 by American Academy of Pediatrics (Author)

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