Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Combination or 3 in 1 Seats

Combination seats are sometimes called 3 in 1 seats. Unfortunately this can be very misleading to a lot of parents because they think it will be the only seat they'll need. Combination seats DO NOT rear face. The three modes of use in a combination seat are forward facing 5 point harness, high back booster and no back booster. Some people call these "harnessed boosters" as well. Since this seat can't rear face it is not appropriate for babies and young toddlers. A combination seat should be used from a minimum of age two but preferably closer to four. Children are much safer rear facing and should do so as long as possible.

A combination seat is #therightseat for your child if they are between 2 and 12 years old.

Combination seats fill a gap between outgrowing a convertible and being too young to booster. Not all children will need a combination seat. Some kids will fit in their convertible car seat until they are old enough and mature enough (minimum of age 5) to ride in a booster seat. Some kids find the larger dimensions of a combination seat more comfortable than a convertible seat. Like convertible seats there are several choices on the market. If you are looking for a narrow harnessed seat to fit three across, the Harmony Defender is your best bet. It's also a great pick for a budget seat as it is only around $100. If you need a seat with a high weight or height limit on the harness the Britax Frontier will harness until 90 lbs. In between these extremes, the Evenflo Transitions, the Graco Nautilus and the Britax Pioneer are all great choices that will harness your child until they are ready to move to the booster mode of the seat.

The harnessed mode of the combination seat is for children weighing about 25 lbs- 65 lbs and age 2-6 (depending on the seats specifications). There is only one belt path on a combination seat and you should always use the tether whether you install with lower anchors or the seat belt. The harness straps should always be above your child's shoulders.

One important thing to remember with older children in harnessed seats is that the lower anchors have weight limits. It varies by seat and car. A car seat made after 2014 will have the weight limit on the side label. If you are using an older seat, contact a CPST to help you determine what the weight limit on LATCH is for your seat and vehicle. After the lower anchor weight limit is reached, you reinstall the seat with the seat belt and the top tether. 

After your child has outgrown the harnessed mode for the seat you remove the harness, following the manufacturer's instructions in the manual and use the seat belt to secure your child. Make sure that you thread the shoulder belt through the belt guide on the seat and put both the shoulder and lap belt under the armrest. 

Finally, when your child outgrows the high back portion of the combination seat, remove the back and use just the no back portion of the booster. This should be used until your child passes the 5 Step Test and can use just the seat belt- usually between 10-12 years old.

To ride safely without a booster a child needs to pass the "5 Step Test":

  • Lap belt fits low on the hips, not the abdomen
  • Shoulder belt lays flat on the shoulder
  • Butt all the way back and back flat against the seat back
  • Knees bent at or beyond the edge of the seat, feet flat on the floor
  • Child is mature enough to stay in position the entire trip, even when sleeping

I hope this helps you determine if a combination seat is #therightseat for your child. If you have any questions, as always, please comment or send me an email!