When To Turn Around Your Baby’s Car Seat
Picking the right car seat can be confusing, and knowing when to turn it around can feel downright baffling. But thankfully, some tried-and-true guidelines can help parents keep their baby safe.
Above all, rear-facing car seats are the gold standard for safety, and parents should keep their child in them as long as possible, says Ben Hoffman, M.D., FAAP, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention.
“It all comes down to physics,” Dr. Hoffman says. “Car crashes involve a tremendous amount of energy and force rear-facing, the head and neck are cradled by a car seat and not thrown forward. It specifically protects the most vulnerable parts.”
When you turn a car seat around depends on a number of factors, including your child’s weight and length, as well as the type of car seat you choose. Here’s everything parents need to know.
When To Turn Car Seat Around
It can be difficult to know when to turn a car seat forward, but weight is perhaps the best indicator. You should take a look at your car seats specifications on weight for rear-facing infants and children.
If your child weighs less than the highest weight listed for rear-facing, then you shouldnt switch your car seat forward. If your child weighs more than that upper weight, it may be time to make the switch.
Typically, your child will be around 22-35 pounds when they outgrow a rear-facing only seat. This weight is higher, at 35-40 pounds, for convertible seats. For 3-in-1 seats, the limit is usually around 40-50 pounds.
Always check your specific car seats instructions prior to turning your child forward.
Children should switch forward if their head comes close to the top of the seat. If their head reaches within an inch of the top of the seat, they are at risk of head injury. In a frontal crash, internal parts of the car could hit your childs head. Ideally, your babys head should rest 2 inches below the top of the seat.
Some car seats that have larger height ranges can safely seat children rear-facing over 40 inches! Its essential to monitor your childs growth and their fit in the seat, as well as your car seats guidelines.
Your child should be at least 2 years old before you consider turning the seat forward. According to the AAP, all infants and newborns should ride rear-facing no matter what the circumstances are.
Why Should You Keep Your Child In A Rear
Keeping your child in the rear-facing seat for as long as possible ensures they are as safe as possible.
Here are a few reasons why rear-facing seats excel in safety:
- Young children are more at risk for head and spinal cord injuries because their bones and ligaments are still developing. Because of this, their heads are typically larger than their necks, which means they need extra support. Rear-facing car seats give the best support to a childs head, neck, and spine.
- If you are in a front-end accident , a rear-facing car seat allows your childs head, neck, and spine to move evenly into the seat, not away from it, which could cause damage.
- Rear-facing car seats are also better at protecting a childs arms and legs. Ben Hoffman, a nationally recognized injury prevention specialist and pediatrician at the Doernbecher Childrens Hospital, Oregon Health & Science University explains, In a forward-facing car seat during an accident, your childs arms and legs fly forward and are more likely to be injured. In a rear-facing car seat, the chance of injuries to the arms and legs in a crash is less than 1 in 10,000.
It is also interesting to note that children in Sweden are required to stay in a rear-facing car seat until they are four years old. The child death rate from automobile accidents in Sweden is nearly zero!
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Keeping Your Baby In A Rear
Many parents ask how long their child should stay in a rear-facing car seat. Actually, there’s not an exact timeline. The rule of thumb is that children should be in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, to the height or weight limits of the car seat .
Riding rear-facing until the limit allowed by your child’s convertible seat has big safety advantages that parents should strongly consider. Turning a car seat around isn’t a milestone to rush. It’s actually a step down in safety, so don’t be in a hurry to make the big switch.
How Do I Use A Booster Seat
- A booster seat positions your child so that the seat belt fits across the strong bones of the hips and pelvis and not the abdomen, to protect your child from injury.
- While seated in the booster seat, the lap belt should fit low and snug across your childs hips, and not up on their belly.
- The shoulder portion of the seat belt should be positioned over the chest and collarbone, staying between your childs neck and shoulder so that it does not touch the neck.
- Follow the directions for the booster seat to know how to route the seat belt under any armrests or through any belt guides, as directed.
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Risk Of Spinal And Neck Injuries
According to Dr. Garbi, rear-facing car seats are especially effective at protecting the spine, which reduces neck and spinal injuries. Moreover, when a child sits rear-facing, their head, neck, and torso all move together in a straight line, helping them avoid the whiplash motion.
In contrast, when a child is prematurely facing forward during a crash, their disproportionately large head is thrown forward, potentially causing severe injuries to the neck or spine.
What Can You Do With Your Old Car Seats
If you are someone who is ready to make the switch but unsure about what to do with the old car seat, then theres nothing to stress about. There have been many cases in which people get so confused about what to do when they do not need it anymore.
Anyhow, it is important for you to note that there are certain things to keep in mind before you decide as there are parents who make mistakes only because they were never told what to do with the car seat after purchasing it.
Use It For Other Child
If you have more than one child, then it is only appropriate for your other child to use it when its time as it will save you so much money spending on a new car seat. Moreover, it is also a good option to give the car seat to someone you know, such as a friend or relative, as they can rely on you.
Nonetheless, though, it is important for you to keep in mind that there are certain rules that you should follow before making these decisions for the safety of your child and others.
It is important to always provide with the full requirements of the car seats, such as the manufacturers information, the instruction manual, all the parts of the car seat, etc. as these are the first thing that you should gather if you are planning to give it to someone or even use it for your other child.
What about buying an old car seat? You can read this blog about it whether if its a good idea or not.
Do Not Use If The Car Seat Is Involved In An Accident
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Why Your Baby Should Not Sit Forward
Lyndsey Garbi, MD, the chief of pediatrics of the telehealth platform Blueberry Pediatrics and a member of the Verywell Family review board, stresses that rear-facing car seats better protect young children, especially those two and under, from severe injuries.
Dr. Segura agrees, adding, ” consistently demonstrate fewer injuries to all body parts, including the head and spine, when kids ride rear-facing compared to forward-facing.”
How Long Should My Child Remain In A Forward
Once your child has graduated to a forward-facing car seat, its recommended they remain in it until they reach the height and weight limit of their seat. This can be quite some time as forward-facing car seats can hold anywhere from 60 to 100 pounds depending on the model!
Its important to also keep in mind that even after your child has outgrown their forward-facing car seat, they should still use a booster seat to ensure your cars seat belt system fits them properly.
Children arent ready to use the seatbelt alone until theyre around
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The Car Crash Detective
Ive written before about the importance of keeping young children rear-facing as long as possible, but am always keen to write more on the topic. Its why the only car seats I recommend and review are those with the highest rear-facing and forward-facing limits currently available in the United States. The Frontier G1.1, pictured above, is the best forward-facing and booster seat you can buy today.
However, another area where most parents arent following best practices involves the transition from forward-facing children in 5-point harnesses to using booster seats. When should this be done? When is too early? What makes it too early? This post is designed to answer these kinds of questions and to serve as a reference to be shared.
I Thought My Child Could Turn Forward
This is NOT correct. Many years ago, in the days before the iPhone was invented, the minimum to turn forward facing was 1 year and 20 pounds.
In 2011 both the AAP and NHTSA updated their recommendations to reflect the latest research in child passenger safety. The AAP now recommends that kids sit rear-facing until at least age 2 and for longer if possible. NHTSA now recommends: Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seats manufacturer.
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When Is The Right Time To Transition
Parents know that having a baby car seat is a requirement. However, the laws surrounding them and their placement can be quite daunting and sometimes unclear. One of the most confusing things that parents never seem to know is when exactly to switch from rear-facing to front-facing.
You have possibly heard that children can ride facing forward after one year or after weighing 20 pounds. This had been the standard for a long time, but recommendations have changed. As of now, its recommended that children remain rear-facing at least until the age of 2 .
In an updated report, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children remain rear-facing for as long as possible.
Your child should remain in that seating position until they reach the highest height or weight allowed for that seat. This new recommendation doesnt place a specific age for a child and it can go well beyond 2 years, possibly up until 4, depending upon the size of your child.
To Secure Your Child In A 5
- For your rear-facing child, make sure the harness straps are in the slot level with or just below your childs shoulders.
- For your forward-facing child, make sure the harness straps are in the slot level with or just above your childs shoulders.
- Tighten the harness straps. You should not be able to pinch the harness at the shoulder. The harness should be flat with no twists.
- Place the chest clip at armpit level.
- Bulky clothing or snowsuits should not be worn in the car seat. They can interfere with proper harness tightening and placement.
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Consequences Of The Violation
- Troopers began issuing warnings for violations of the booster seat provision of the Child Passenger Safety Act on July 1, 2006.
- Troopers began issuing citations for violations of the booster seat provision of the Child Passenger Safety Act on July 1, 2007.
- The $60 fine will be waived if proof is provided to the court that an appropriate child safety seat has been acquired. Court costs still apply.
My 20 Month Old Is Too Big For Rear
Imagine its November and your 20-month-old has outgrown all of their winter clothes from last year. Would you not buy them new winter clothes because it will be warmer in four months? Of course you would buy them the clothes! The same should go for the car seat!
The car seat is one of the only products you will ever buy for your child that has the potential to save their life! Just like your child needs new clothes frequently, they may need a new car seat sooner than you thought. If you are in a crash, you will be relieved knowing that you gave them the best protection possible.
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Its Really Up To You And The Maturity Of Your Child
On one hand, Swedish kids start forward-facing when theyre 4 or 5, and they have the best records of child auto fatalities on the planet. However, you know your child best, and its all right to keep forward-facing until the seat is outgrown. Most forward-facing seats allow you to do so until at least 65 pounds, and thats the equivalent of a 9-year-old 50th percentile child .
However, ignoring seat fit questions and focusing on age for the moment, will a 7, 8, or 9-year-old be able to be taught to sit maturely in a booster seat with a seat belt? Yes! Is the same going to be true for a 2, 3, or 4-year-old?
I doubt it. To be honest, I doubt itll be true for most children in the US under 5, which is where I think the average child will be ready to transition into a booster seat. So in general, Id recommend waiting until at least 5 for many kids, with 4 as the absolute minimum.
The NHTSA recommendation is to forward-face until 8 if possible. But to draw the line at a real-world absolute minimum point, Id draw it at age 5, for both physiological, developmental, and practical reasons. Physiologically, their bodies simply arent ready before 5. Developmentally, they arent nearly mature enough before 5. Practically, there are seats that can keep them rear-facing until 5 or even beyond.
When Should Carseat Be Forward
Since kids can stay rear-facing until they are two years old, the answer to this question is a bit more complicated.
Generally speaking, though its recommended that you keep your little one forward-facing for as long as possible because the bones and muscles in their neck arent strong enough yet to support them properly while remaining safe from injury or paralysis if there were an accident.
The longer you wait before switching over to a front-facing car seat, the better off everyone will be!
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When Do I Turn The Car Seat Seat Around
With the massive amount of literature thats out there about car seat safety, its easy for parents to start to feel a little overwhelmed about what type of seat to use when, and how it should be installed. Some parents see turning their childs seat to forward-facing as a milestone to complete around her first birthday, but the most recent recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to keep their children rear-facing until theyre at least 2 years old.
Why are parents making the switch sooner?
Though the current recommendation is to keep car seats rear-facing until at least the childs second birthday, the AAP recommendation that came before said that childrens seats shouldnt be turned until the child was at least a year old and weighed 20 pounds at least. For parents with older children, this may be the recommendation they heard first, or that sticks in their mind. Beyond that, most state laws only require children to be rear-facing until their first birthday. Only four US states require that childrens seats be rear-facing until age 2. Between the language of the previous recommendation and minimum age laws in most places, its easy to see why many parents decide that one year is the right age to turn the car seat around so young children can face forward like the rest of the family.
How long should my child stay rear-facing?
What are the advantages of keeping my childs car seat rear-facing?
What Car Seat Should My Child Be In
Car seats for infants and toddlers
From the moment you leave the hospital, your bundle of joy should be safely strapped into a rear-facing infant car seat with a five-point harness. A five-point harness has two straps that go over your childs shoulders and snap into a buckle around their waist. The five points are the two shoulders, two hips and in between the legs. Mount infant car seats in the backseat of your vehicle, facing the rear window.
Dr. Mudd recommends parents try to prepare for their first car ride home from the hospital by having the car seat installation checked by a local fire station or childrens hospital. Also be sure to read the car seat manual or try watching a YouTube video of how to use that specific car seat. Having the car seat set up correctly and ready to go ahead of time can reduce stress and help parents feel more confident about taking their little ones home for the first time.
Choose: Rear-facing-only car seats with a five-point harness or rear-facing convertible car seats with a five-point harness
When to switch to a forward-facing car seat: Its about weight and height, not age. Look at the height and weight limits on your infant car seat. Rear-facing-only seats typically range from 26 to 36 inches and 22 to 35 pounds.
Convertible car seats tend to have higher limits. Thats because you can eventually turn them around to be forward-facing when your childs ready, so they grow with your kid.
Car seats for toddlers and preschoolers