How long to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat

How long to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat

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For safety's sake, keep your child in a rear-facing safety seat as long as possible. Follow these guidelines to find out the best time to switch your child to a forward-facing car seat.

When should I switch my child to a forward-facing car seat?

For safety's sake, keep your child in a rear-facing safety seat for as long as possible.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend that all infants and toddlers face backward – not forward – for as long as possible. Today's safety seats are designed with weight and height limits that make rear facing possible for a longer time than previously. Most kids can now ride rear facing until they are 4 years old.

How can I tell if a rear-facing seat is the right size for my child?

Always adhere to a rear-facing seat's height and weight limits. However, it's essential that you also examine how your child fits in the seat. Don't worry about how long your child's legs are (see "What if my child's legs seem too long for a rear-facing seat?" below). Instead, make sure that her head is at least 1 inch below the top rim of the plastic shell (not the padded area).

While rear-facing-only car seats (the type that you lift by a handle out of a detachable base) have traditionally been called infant seats, today many accommodate kids who weigh up to 40 pounds. Many kids will be too tall for the seat before they reach the weight limit, however.

Should I turn my child's safety seat forward when she outgrows an infant seat?

No. Your child needs a new car seat if he is over the height or weight limit, or his head is not at least 1 inch below the top rim of the plastic shell (see "How can I tell if a rear-facing seat is the right size for my child?" above). When he outgrows a rear-facing-only seat, replace it with a convertible car seat with a higher height and weight limit. (A convertible car seat may be used facing forward or backward.) Install the safety seat in the rear-facing position to allow your child to face backward.

Wait until he reaches the weight maximum for the rear-facing position and is at least 2 years old before turning the safety seat around to the forward-facing position.

There are also 3-in-1 seats that can be used rear facing, forward facing, or as a booster. They're usually big seats, though, so you'll want to make sure the seat you choose fits in your car before you buy it.

I already changed my toddler's car seat to forward facing. Should I switch it back?

Yes. Safety seats have improved in capacity during the past 10 years and now provide the level of protection children need by allowing them to face backward until at least age 2 and preferably much longer.

Approach the transition in a positive manner. If your toddler is unhappy switching back to the rear-facing position, reassure her that your job is to keep her safe. Let her know that some choices are negotiable, such as which music you play in the car, but safety is not.

What are the laws on age for rear- and forward-facing safety seats?

Many states have their own child-safety-seat laws that set specific minimum age and weight requirements for children, listing various ages and sizes.

States that require a child younger than 2 to be placed in a rear-facing safety seat include California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Visit AAA to access a list of child passenger safety laws for each state.

Why is rear facing safer than forward facing with safety seats?

Very young children are especially at risk for head and spinal cord injuries because their bones and ligaments are still developing. Their heads are also a larger proportion of their bodies than adults' heads are for their bodies, so children's structural support system is still a little wobbly. Rear-facing safety seats give the best support to your child's head, neck, and spine, and will help prevent your child's head from being thrown violently forward in the event of a car crash.

Research suggests that toddlers and preschoolers, as well as babies, benefit from staying rear facing. In Sweden, where many children remain in the backward-facing position until age 4, researchers found that rear-facing safety seats were the most effective type of child restraint for reducing the risk of injury among 3- and 4-year-olds.

What if my child's legs seem too long for a rear-facing seat?

Even when sitting in an extended rear-facing car seat, most toddlers have limited legroom. Their legs may even have to be bent or crossed to fit. Some parents worry that their child is uncomfortable or that his legs could be hurt in the event of a crash. But experts say that's not the case.

As long as kids are within the height and weight limits of the seat, they're safer and likely quite comfortable, too. Children's bones haven't formed fully, and, because they're more flexible, they can sit comfortably in positions that adults might find difficult. Lower-extremity injuries in car crashes begin to show up when children sit facing forward.

Rear-facing safety seats are not only far more effective at preventing fatal injuries (as well as those that could permanently disable a child), they're also much better at protecting your child's arms and legs.

"In a forward-facing car seat during a crash, your child's arms and legs fly forward and are more likely to be injured," says Ben Hoffman, a nationally recognized injury prevention specialist and pediatrician at the Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Oregon Health and Science University. "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."

Hoffman recommends keeping your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible, or at least until the age of 2.

Will my child be safe in a rear-end crash?

Rear-facing safety seats provide children with good protection in the event of a rear-end crash, according to a study by Ohio State University. The study team tested multiple types of rear-facing car seats. They found that all of the safety seats tested, when used correctly, were effective at absorbing the energy from a rear-end impact and at protecting a child's head, neck, and spine. Another factor is that most rear-end collisions tend to be relatively minor compared with average front and side impacts.

More information on extended rear-facing seats

  • AAP's car seat guide, including advice on how to install a car seat properly
  • AAP's comparison of car seats by weight and height limits, as well as price
  • our site Community's Extended Rear Facing group
  • BabyCenter's Extended Rear Facing Photos club

Learn more

Watch the video: Kiddo Stager ISOFIX All in One Κάθισμα Ασφαλείας Αυτοκινήτου. Group 0-1-2-3. 0-36 kg (July 2022).


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