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Car seat safety is a topic that is constantly evolving, especially recently. It can be difficult to keep up with the latest information. Let’s start with the most recent (and important) changes:
- Children will remain rear facing until at least 2 years of age (previously kids turned to forward facing at either their 1st or 2nd birthday), but will now remain rear facing until they maximize their height and weight on their current rear facing car seat.
- Older children who have outgrown their forward-facing car seats will remain in an appropriate booster seat until they are big enough for the seat belt to securely fasten, which is typically when the child reaches 4 feet 9 inches (which can happen at age 9-14 or beyond).
Let’s break down the types of car seats, and the age ranges to which they apply.
Rear-facing car seats (infant carrier and convertible car seats) – Infants will start at rear-facing infant carrier, then will move on to a rear-facing convertible car seat once they have reached the maximum height and weight of the infant carrier, usually by 9-12 months of age. A convertible car seat can be used once your child has outgrown the infant carrier, and will be maxed out at the rear facing configuration based on the manufacturer’s maximum height and weight requirements. This usually occurs between the ages of 2-4.
Remember that rear facing is by far the safest position for children – so keeping them in this position keeps them safest the longest. That might even mean that their legs are either straddling the seat or maybe sticking up in the air, but that’s ok. Kids have very flexible joints – it is not uncomfortable for them to sit that way.
Forward facing car seats – This is the direction the car seat will face when the rear facing position has been outgrown. This has a 5-point harness. Most children will remain in this car seat until about 5-7 years of age depending on their weight and size.
Booster seats – This is the last step before your child can wear the standard seat belt without support. This seat just helps to maximize the safety of the seat belt until a child is tall enough to wear the seat belt effectively.
If you have any questions about a car seat for your child then please ask your pediatrician at your child’s next checkup.