You want to keep your little one safe. And we’re here to help. So when can a baby’s car seat face forward? Here’s the lowdown on making the switch.
Cruising the streets with your tiny passenger is a recipe for adventure.
And keeping them safe while you do so is, of course, top of mind.
So when can a baby’s car seat face forward?
Is it time to make the switch?
The American Academy of Family Physicians tells us that all infants and toddlers should be in a rear-facing car seat.
After that, they can swap over to a seat that faces forward until they outgrow that one.
Here’s the lowdown on when to turn that car seat around — and why it’s important that you don’t do it too soon.
In this article: 📝
- When to switch car seat to forward facing — the lowdown
- When can a baby car seat be forward facing?
- Your quick guide to car seat types for your little one
When to switch car seat to forward facing — the lowdown
It’s horrific to think about it, but car accidents happen.
Luckily, there is so much you can do to help keep your little one safe.
According to the United States Department of Transportation:
- Using car seats correctly saved 325 children in one year
- 35% of children killed in car crashes in 2018 weren’t restrained
The problem is, as that same department tells us, 46% of car seats and boosters are used incorrectly.
Okay. Scary, yes.
But if you follow the guidelines for car seat installation and maintenance, you can go a long way to ensuring your little one is as safe as possible.
When can a baby car seat be forward facing?
Your child should be in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible.
That’s according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There’s no hard and fast rule as to when you should make the switch to forward-facing.
But the official guidelines are that they should stay rear-facing until they outgrow the recommended height and weight given by the manufacturer of the specific seat.
Rear-facing seats can now take as much as 50 pounds.
Considering the average four-year-old weighs around 40 pounds, that could mean keeping your little one in their rear-facing seat for quite a few years.
This research, for example, recommends rear-facing seats until your child is four years old.
And there’s a good reason for this.
Restraining your little one in a rear-facing seat reduces fatalities by about three-quarters for children up to the age of three and almost half for children aged four to eight.
That’s because if you do happen to get into a crash, the force will be absorbed by the seat, meaning your baby will be more protected.
Rear-facing seats also give added support to the head, neck, and spine.
And because babies sport impressively large heads, this added protection can go a long way to prevent spine and head injuries.
Your quick guide to car seat types for your little one
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s The Right Seat campaign offers this basic guide to seat types:
- Rear-facing seat. Keep your child facing the back as long as possible, usually until they’re about four years old.
- Forward-facing seat. Now onto the next step. Use the front-facing seat, complete with harness and tether, until they outgrow the weight and height specified by the manufacturer. This will usually happen at around seven years old.
- Booster seat. Keep them on a booster seat until they are big enough to use the seatbelt without it. For them to go booster-free, the seatbelt should lie snug across the upper thighs (not the stomach). It should also fit cozily across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck. Because childhood is not a one-size-fits-all affair, different children will need booster seats for different lengths of time.
- Seat belt. Once they no longer need their booster, they will still need to be strapped in. And it’s safest for them to stay in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
It may suit you to invest in a convertible car seat that grows with the needs of your baby.
These are also sometimes referred to as “second stage car seats” and can be used for rear and front-facing positions.
And regardless of the seat you choose, watch out for the expiration date.
Yep, sadly, car seats don’t last forever.
Happy journeying with your little travel buddy.
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