Rear-Facing Car Seats for Infants & Toddlers (2023)

Rear-Facing Car Seats for Infants & Toddlers (1) Rear-Facing Car Seats for Infants & Toddlers (2)

The AAP recommends that all infants ride rear facing starting with their first ride home from the hospital. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat as long as possibleuntil they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear facing for 2 years or more. When infants outgrow their rear-facing–only seat, a convertible seat installed rear facing is needed. All parents can benefit from getting installation help from a CPST to ensure that their child’s seat is properly installed.

Types of Rear-Facing Seats:

Three types of rear-facing seats are available: rear-facing–only, convertible, and all-in-one. When children reach the highest weight or length allowed by the manufacturer of their rear-facing–only seat, they should continue to ride rear facing in a convertible or all-in-one seat.

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Rear-facing–only seats

  • Are used for infants up to 22 to 35 pounds, depending on the model.
  • Are small and have carrying handles.
  • Usually come with a base that can be left in the car. The seat clicks into and out of the base so you don’t have to install the seat each time you use it. Parents can buy more than one base for additional vehicles.
  • Should be used only for a child’s travel (not sleeping, feeding, or any other use outside the vehicle).

Convertible seats (used rear facing)

  • Can be used rear facing and, later, “converted” to forward facing for older children when they outgrow either the weight limit or the length limit for rear facing. This means the seat can be used longer by your child. Convertible seats are bulkier than infant seats, however, and they do not come with carrying handles or separate bases and are designed to stay in the car.
  • Many have higher limits in rear-facing weight (up to 40–50 pounds) and height than those of rear-facing– only seats, a feature that makes convertible seats ideal for bigger babies and toddlers.
  • Have a 5-point harness that attaches at the shoulders, at the hips, and between the legs.
  • Should be used only for a child's travel (not sleeping, feeding, or any other use outside the vehicle).

All-in-one seats (used rear facing)

  • Can be used rear facing, forward facing, or as a belt- positioning booster. This means the seat may be used longer by your child as your child grows.
  • Are often bigger in size, so it is important to check that they fit in the vehicle while they are rear facing.
  • Do not have the convenience of a carrying handle or separate base; however, they may have higher limits in rear-facing weight (up to 40–50 pounds) and height than those of rear-facing–only seats, a feature that makes all-in-one seats ideal for bigger babies and toddlers.

Installation Tips for Rear-Facing Seats:

Always read the vehicle owner's manual and the car safety seat manual before installing the seat.

When using a rear-facing seat, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Place the harnesses in your rear-facing seat in slots that are at or below your child's shoulders.
  • Ensure that the harness is snug (you cannot pinch any slack between your fingers when testing the harness straps over the child's shoulders) and that the retainer clip is placed at the center of the chest, even with your child's armpits.
  • Make sure the car safety seat is installed tightly in the vehicle with either lower anchors or a locked seat belt.Many car safety seats have an integrated lock-off to keep the seat belt locked. If your seat has one, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to use it. If you can move the seat at the belt path more than an inch side to side or front to back, it's not tight enough.
  • Never place a rear-facing seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an active front passenger airbag. If the airbag inflates, it will hit the back of the car safety seat, right against your child's head, and could cause serious injury or death.
  • If you are using a convertible or all-in-one seat in the rear-facing position, make sure the seat belt or lower anchor webbing is routed through the correct belt path. Check the instructions that came with the car safety seat to be sure.
  • Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your child's head does not flop forward. Check the instructions to find out the correct angle for your seat and how to adjust the angle if needed. All rear-facing seats have built-in recline indicators.
  • Check the car safety seat instructions and vehicle owner's manual about whether the car safety seat may contact the back of the vehicle seat in front of it.
  • Still having trouble? Check with a certified CPST in your area who can help. See If You Need Installation Help on page 16 for information on how to locate a CPST.

Common Questions:

What if my child's feet touch the back of the vehicle seat?

  • This is a very common concern of parents, but it should cause them no worry. Children are very flexible and can always easily find acomfortable positionin a rear-facing seat. Injuries to the legs are very rare for children facing the rear.

​​What do I do if my child slouches down or to the side in the car seat?

Rear-Facing Car Seats for Infants & Toddlers (3)

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  • You can try placing a tightly rolled receiving blanket on both sides of your child. Many manufacturers allow the use of a tightly rolled small diaper or cloth between the crotch strap and your child, if necessary, to prevent slouching. Do not place padding under or behind your child or use any sort of car safety seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer for use with that specific seat.

Why should I dress my child in thinner layers of clothing before strapping him or her into a car safety seat?

  • Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress in a crash and leave the straps too loose to restrain your child, leading to increased risk of injury. Ideally, dress your baby in thinner layers and wrap a coat or blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps if needed.​ See Winter Car Seat Safety Tips from the AAP.

Do preemies need a special car seat?​

​A car safety seat should be approved for a baby's weight. Very small babies who can sit safely in a semi-reclined position usually fit better in rear-facing–only seats. Babies born preterm should be screened while still in the hospital to make sure they can sit safely in a semi-reclined position. Babies who need to lie flat during travel may be able toride in a car bed that meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. They should be screened again while in the hospital to make sure they can lie safely in the car bed.

Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org:

Figure 1 from Bull MJ, Engle WA; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention, Committee on Fetus and Newborn. Safe transportation of preterm and low birth weight infants at hospital discharge. Pediatrics. 2009;123(5);1424–1429.​​​

Last Updated
2/28/2021
Source
Adapted from Car Safety Seats Guide (Copyright © 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics)

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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FAQs

What age do babies stay rear-facing in car seat? ›

Rear-facing seats provide significant safety benefits to a child if involved in an accident. The law intends that children should travel rear-facing until they are 15 months old. We would recommend that this should be the minimum age for a toddler to move into a forward-facing car seat.

Is a rear-facing car seat safer toddler? ›

Babies need to be carried in rearward-facing baby seats. This reduces the risk of death or injury in a crash by 90% compared with being unrestrained1. Rearward-facing seats provide greater protection for the baby's head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats.

What age can a child go forward-facing? ›

When height-based seats are used (R129), the child must travel rear-facing until they reach the age of 15 months. In other words, they can face forward after 15 months. When weight-based seats are selected (R44-04), the child may travel rear-facing until reaching a weight of 13kgs. Thereafter, they can face-forwards.

Can I put my 1 year old forward facing? ›

However, if you were to ask if your 1-year-old should sit in a front-facing car seat, the definitive answer to that is a resounding "No," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, who recommend keeping your child rear-facing until the age of two, or to the highest weight and height allowed by the carseat ...

What age does the 2 hour car seat rule end? ›

The advice is not to use car seats for longer than 30 minutes for babies younger than four weeks and not using car seats for more than two hours in one go for babies of all ages (The Lullaby Trust, 2016).

Can a 2 year old sit rear facing? ›

Infants & toddlers—rear-facing seats

All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat as long as possible until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear facing for 2 years or more.

Should a 4 year old be in a rear facing car seat? ›

The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend rear-facing seats for children until at least age 2. Now, the organization is updating its guidelines and wants parents to keep their children in rear-facing seats until they reach the seat's maximum height and weight limit — even if they're older than 2.

Why should a child rear face until 2? ›

A rear-facing car seat will absorb most of the crash forces and supports the head, neck and spine. When children ride forward-facing, their heads - which for toddlers are disproportionately large and heavy - are thrown forward, possibly resulting in spine and head injuries.

Should car seat go behind driver or passenger? ›

The car seat should always be installed in the back seat. That is the safest spot for your baby. If you can, put the car seat in the center seat. If not, it is fine behind either the driver or passenger side.

How much safer is rear-facing than forward-facing? ›

Car seat research has shown that children up to 23 months old are about 75 percent less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing one. That's because a rear-facing seat spreads the crash force more evenly across the back of the car seat and the child's body.

What weight is safe for forward-facing car seat? ›

Forward-facing car seats are designed to protect children from 20 to 80 pounds (about 10 to 36 kilograms) or more, depending on the model. All kids who have outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limit for their car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a full harness for as long as possible.

Can my 13 month old sit forward facing? ›

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.

How much does a toddler have to weigh to be forward facing? ›

Most convertible car seats can be used in the rear-facing position until a child reaches the weight limit, typically 40 to 50 pounds. At that point, the seat can be converted into a forward-facing car seat.

Should my 18 month old be rear facing? ›

All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat as long as possible until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear facing for 2 years or more.

Can I drive 8 hours with a newborn? ›

Take regular breaks

It is important for you and your baby to get out of the car every few hours and take a stretch to avoid restlessness. Try to take a break every 2 to 3 hours for a day trip and every 4 to 6 hours at night to change diapers or soiled clothes, or to feed your baby.

Is it illegal to turn the car seat around before 2? ›

The law previously required children to stay rear-facing until they turned 1 year old. But in recent years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics both addressed the issue, and now recommending children stay rear-facing until at least two years old.

How long can a baby be in a car seat on a road trip? ›

Lots of parents want to know "how long can babies stay in car seats?" The general advice is that your baby should sit/sleep in their car seat for no more than two hours at a time.

Do kids under 2 have to be rear-facing? ›

California Law

Children under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall. The child shall be secured in a manner that complies with the height and weight limits specified by the manufacturer of the car seat.

Can a 3 year old sit rear-facing? ›

According to the AAP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children up to 3 years old should stay in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the top height or weight limit suggested by the car seat's manufacturer.

Can 2.5 year old sit forward facing? ›

Car Seat Safety for Kids

Children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 who have outgrown their rear-facing safety seat must be restrained in a forward-facing safety seat. Learn how to properly install a forward-facing car seat and restrain your child.

How much safer is rear facing for a 3 year old? ›

At one time, the child passenger safety community relied on data from a major study that suggested that children were over 5 times safer when riding rear facing than forward facing. We followed that guidance, suggesting to many, many parents that keeping their children rear facing as long as possible is best practice.

What's the height limit for rear facing? ›

Rear-facing until reaching car seat's limits.

That usually means maxing out your infant car seat's height and weight limits, which tend to be about 30-35 pounds or 30-32" tall, depending on which infant car seat you're using.

Can I rear face my 1 year old? ›

Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12. Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing.

What age is considered an infant? ›

Infants (0-1 year of age)

What side of the car should an infant and toddler be on? ›

We recommend the passenger side in case you ever have to park on the street, you will be on the sidewalk side of the car putting baby in the car seat. Never install a rear-facing seat in the front seat in front of an active airbag.

Where in the backseat is the best place to put a car seat? ›

If you're placing only one car seat in the back seat, install it in the center of the seat — if a good fit is possible. Placing the car seat in the center minimizes the risk of injury during a crash.

Why is the seat behind the driver the safest? ›

The safest place for your car seat is the rear middle seat due to its maximum distance from passenger-side air bags and any potential impact.

Why is there a weight limit for rear facing? ›

Toddlers and babies don't have enough neck strength to support their heads in such a crash. In a rear-facing seat, the child is pushed into the seat itself during a head-on collision, which better surrounds the head, neck and spinal column and absorbs most of the crash forces.

Can my 18 month old sit forward facing? ›

While 1 year and 20 pounds used to be the standard for when to flip car seats around, most experts now recommend using rear-facing child seats until children outgrow the top weight and height recommendations of the car seat manufacturer. This means your child may be rear-facing until well beyond their second birthday.

Can my 2 year old sit forward facing? ›

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.

How much safer are kids rear facing? ›

Car seat research has shown that children up to 23 months old are about 75 percent less likely to die or sustain serious injury in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing one. That's because a rear-facing seat spreads the crash force more evenly across the back of the car seat and the child's body.

Can a 3 year old sit rear facing? ›

According to the AAP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), children up to 3 years old should stay in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the top height or weight limit suggested by the car seat's manufacturer.

How much should a child weigh before forward facing? ›

Convertible. Most convertible car seats can be used in the rear-facing position until a child reaches the weight limit, typically 40 to 50 pounds. At that point, the seat can be converted into a forward-facing car seat.

What is the weight requirement for rear-facing? ›

Current California Law:

Children under 2 years of age shall ride in a rear-facing car seat unless the child weighs 40 or more pounds OR is 40 or more inches tall.

What car seat should a 2 year old be in? ›

The right car seat for 2 years old is typically a rear-facing convertible car seat. While it's legal in many states for kids to forward face after their first or second birthdays, kids are much safer from serious neck and spine injuries if they stay rear facing longer.

How much weight should a 2 year old be? ›

Your 2-year-old child's growth

Most 2-year-old girls weigh 19½ to 32½ pounds and measure 31½ to 36½ inches tall. Boys typically weigh 21 to 33½ pounds and measure 32 to 37 inches tall.

What is the weight and height limit for rear facing? ›

Most convertible car seats have rear-facing weight limits of 35 to 50 pounds, so most kids can ride rear-facing until age three to five.

What is the safest rear facing car seat? ›

The safest place for your child's car seat is in the back seat, away from active air bags. If the car seat is placed in the front seat and the air bag inflates, it could hit the back of a rear-facing car seat — right where the child's head is — and cause a serious or fatal injury.

Is forward-facing safe at 3? ›

Sometimes this may not happen until a child is 3 or 4 — sometimes even older. The American Academy of Pediatrics guideline — since March 2011 — is to keep the children rear facing until they are a minimum of 2 years old. Using a rear-facing car seat longer reduces the risks of serious injury.

What weight can toddler be forward-facing? ›

Car Seat Guidelines

Convertible car seats: Have higher weight limits for rear-facing (up to 40 or 50 pounds) and then can be converted to forward-facing. All-in-one car seats: Can be used rear-facing (up to 40 or 50 pounds), forward-facing, or as a belt-positioning booster.

What if my child is too big for rear facing car seat? ›

When your child outgrows the rear-facing weight or height limit, they can transition to a forward-facing car seat. Keep your child in a car seat with a harness for as long as possible, at least until age 4.

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