Car SeatsYour child's height and weight determines the type of car seat needed
Rear-Facing Car SeatsNewborn to 2-Years
For a newborn to a child two years of age, a car seat must be able to be rear facing. This means the car seat is designed for the child to face the trunk of the vehicle at an inclined angle. Often, the first seat parents buy is called an “infant carrier.” These often have low height and weight maximums and become too small to be safe for your baby at or before they turn one year old.
Another option is to start with a “convertible” seat, which can be a rear-facing seat, then become a forward-facing seat as your child gets older/bigger. Convertible seats have larger weight and height limits for rear facing and will allow your child to be rear facing for a longer period. Learn more about child safety in cars from the CDC.
A child under the age of two does not have the neck strength to handle a car crash while forward facing; rear facing protects their neck and spinal cord from major injury or even death.
If you start with an infant carrier as your first car seat, then a convertible car seat is the second car seat you will buy.
In rear-facing car seats only, shoulder straps should start at or below the shoulder level from the adjustable strap slots.
It is safest to keep your child rear facing in the convertible seat until they reach either the height maximum or weight maximum (even if past two years old). Your child can become too tall or too heavy, depending on how they grow, and then it is time to have the car seat forward facing.
Front-Facing Car SeatsAfter 2-Years-old
When your child is over the age of two, forward facing is the next step. This is when you turn your convertible seat “forward” and adjust the angle and positioning the seat to face toward the front or hood of the car.
A forward-facing car seat will NOT be at the same angle as a seat that is rear facing. Read the owner’s manual for your car seat to see how to adjust the angle and install the seat for forward facing.
As always, with a car seat using a harness, the chest clip goes at armpit level and the strap is secure to shoulder. However, the shoulder harness should be at shoulder height or above the shoulder, not below, to keep your child safe in an accident when forward facing.
In general, a rear-facing car seat will have a seat belt path at the bottom of the seat, while a forward-facing car seat will have the seat belt path towards the middle near your child’s back rest. A convertible seat will have both belt paths.
A car seat belt path must be “switched” to a locking mode or a belt clip must be used to secure the seat.