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When Can I Turn My Baby Around to Face Forward in the Car?
To ensure the safest travel experience possible, you should keep your child in the rear-facing seat as long as you can.
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When Can I Turn My Baby Around to Face Forward in the Car?
By Alina Bradford
Senior Staff Writer, Safety & Security
Read More January 26, 2022 Share Article
Determining when a baby can face forward in the car is an important milestone for parents. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should remain in rear-facing car seats until they have outgrown car seat height and weight limits of the seat.1
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Understanding the guidelines for front-facing seats
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.
There are some situations in which facing backward may seem uncomfortable for a child—like long road trips where it seems like the little one’s legs are cramped up against the back of the seat. You shouldn’t let the baby face forward in the car simply because they seem uncomfortable or don’t like to be rear facing.
Tots are generally very flexible and even when they seem cramped up by adult standards, they can actually be quite comfortable.
Adding a mirror that allows your child to see themselves (and you) while you are driving can help alleviate stress and boredom. And taking breaks during long trips can give your little one time to stretch their legs.
Safely switching your child’s seat
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Once you make the switch, be sure you properly install the car seat in the new position, tightening all anchors and straps—including the extra tether if available.
You should place the forward-facing seat in the middle of the back seat. This will provide extra protection, as that is the safest spot in the vehicle.
When you're done, head to your local fire or police station. Often, there will be someone on duty trained to check the safety of car seat installation. You can also use the National Highway and Traffic Administration's car seat inspection site locator to find installation help in your area.
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American Academy of Pediatrics, “Car Seats: Information for Families," December 22, 2021. Accessed January 26, 2022.
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Share Article Written by Alina Bradford
Alina has been reviewing the latest tech for more than a decade and has contributed her insights to CNET, CBS, Digital Trends, MTV, Top Ten Reviews, and many others. She specializes in smart home and security technology, working to make gadgets less mystifying one article at a time. In the early 2000s, Alina worked as a volunteer firefighter, earning her first responder certification. Her activities aren’t nearly as dangerous today. Her hobbies include fixing up her 100-year-old house, doing artsy stuff, and going to the lake with her family.
When Is It Time for a Forward
When is it safe to turn a rear-facing car seat around? Learn more about using a forward-facing car seat, including types to choose from and the age, height, and weight at which you might be able to make that change.
When Is It Time for a Forward-Facing Car Seat?
Medically reviewed by Carissa Stephens, R.N., CCRN, CPN — Written by Catherine Crider on January 29, 2020
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You put a lot of thought into your newborn’s rear-facing car seat. It was a key item on your baby registry and how you got your little one safely home from the hospital.
Now that your baby isn’t such a baby anymore though, you’re starting to wonder if it’s time for a forward-facing car seat. Perhaps your little one has already reached the weight and height limit for their rear-facing seat and you’re wondering what’s next.
Or maybe they’re not at the size limits just yet, but you think enough time has passed and you’d like to know if you can flip them around to face forward.
Whatever your situation, we’ve got you covered with info on when it’s recommended to use a forward-facing car seat as well as some tips to make sure that you’re getting it installed properly.
When should you face your baby’s car seat forward?
In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new recommendations for car seat safety. As part of these recommendations, they removed their previous age-based recommendation that children remain rear facing in car seats until the age of 2.
The AAP now suggests that children remain rear facing until they reach their rear-facing car seat’s weight/height limits which, for most children, will leave them rear-facing beyond the previous age recommendation. This is based on research that rear-facing offers safer support for the head, neck, and back.
What does this mean for you? Well, until your child has met the weight/height limits of their rear-facing car seat AND met the requirements of any state laws, it is preferable to keep them rear facing. Once your child has reached the weight or height limits for their rear-facing seat — likely sometime after age 3 — they’re ready for forward facing.
Are there laws about rear facing?
Car seat laws vary by your location, depending on country, state, province, or territory. Check your local laws to ensure that you are in compliance.
What about their legs?
Many parents express concern about the fact that their child seems cramped or that their legs must be folded before they have reached the maximum height or weight for their rear-facing seat.
Children can safely sit with their legs crossed, extended, or hanging over the sides of their rear-facing seat. Leg injuries for rear-facing children are “very rare,” according to the AAP.
How long should my child remain in a forward-facing car seat?
Once your child has graduated to a forward-facing car seat, it’s recommended they remain in it until they reach the height and weight limit of their seat. This can be quite some time as forward-facing car seats can hold anywhere from 60 to 100 pounds depending on the model!
It’s important to also keep in mind that even after your child has outgrown their forward-facing car seat, they should still use a booster seat to ensure your car’s seat belt system fits them properly.
Children aren’t ready to use the seatbelt alone until they’re around 4 feet 9 inches
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— usually around 9 to 12 years of age.
What’s the best forward-facing car seat?
All certified car seats meet safety requirements regardless of the price. The best seat is one that fits your child, fits your vehicle, and is properly installed!
That said, here are some options available to choose from when selecting the best seat for your child.
Types of seats
Rear facing only
These are generally the bucket-style infant seats that most parents use for their newborns. These seats often come with a base that is installed in the car that couples with a removable seat portion. The seats can often be paired with strollers as part of a travel system. These seats are designed to be carried outside of the car so they typically feature lower weight and height limits.
Once your baby has reached the limit for their rear-facing only seat, often that’s 35 pounds or 35 inches, they can move into a combination convertible or 3-in-1 seat with a higher weight and height limit.
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.
These seats are larger and designed to stay installed in the vehicle. They feature 5-point harnesses, which feature straps that have 5 contact points — both shoulders, both hips, and crotch.
All-in-1 or 3-in-1
Taking the convertible car seat one step further, the 3-in-1 car seat can be used as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, and a booster seat. While purchasing a 3-in-1 can seem like you’ve hit the car seat lottery (no more car seat buying decisions to make!), it’s important to remember that you’ll still need to stay on top of the manufacturer’s height and weight requirements for each stage.
You’ll also need to properly convert the car seat into all of the different types of seats (rear, forward, and booster) when the time comes. For example, it’s important that when your child is rear facing the straps are set at or below your child’s shoulders, but once the seat is forward facing the straps should be at or above their shoulders.
When should I turn my baby forward facing?
Legally you can currently turn your baby forward facing once they weigh 20lb/9kg and they must also be sitting completely unaided for a minimum of 30 minutes
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When should I turn my baby forward facing?
Car seat knowledge
Monday, 15 August 2016
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It can be very confusing to know when you should move your baby forward facing, but this blog will help you know what the safest course of action is!
Child car seat groups can seem complicated at first as they go by weight and height, yet there is a crossover between each stage on the weight limit, and then there are age recommendations to top it off! What do you do with a baby who is the 9 months forward facing age but only 18 lbs? Do you have to turn forward? Is the rear facing seat not safe to use after 9 months then?
The best thing to do when researching car seats is to ignore age recommendations and choose a seat solely on your child’s weight and height. This helps to remove some of the ‘smoke’ and it makes the seat stages a little easier to understand. The seat stages have a crossover on the weight categories, and this is due to the chance that a child can outgrow a seat by height before they hit the maximum weight and so they will have to move up a stage.
This chart shows the categories for R44 seats:
*For maximum safety time you should keep your child in their rear facing car seat until it is fully outgrown
**Some seats may specify a different height limit - check instructions and follow carefully
If they are in a group 0+ infant seat this is at either 13kg, or when the top of their head is level with the top of the seat. Their feet are not in danger of being hurt if they are touching the vehicle seat back, and they will not be uncomfortable if they are ‘filling’ the seat. Child car seats are not unlike a crash helmet - a tight fit will provide better protection than having lots of room!
The 9 month age given on a group 1 R44 forward facing car seat is an approximate recommendation. The 9kg minimum weight limit is just that, a minimum. The best advice states to keep your child in each seat to the maximum limit, and then move them up. If you have an i-Size R129 seat then the minimum age to keep rear facing until is 15 months.
Babies can legally move to a front facing seat at the 9kg minimum weight, but they must fit in the harness correctly. Moving your child forward facing at 9kg is not just as safe as having them rear facing.
If your child has outgrown their baby seat by height or you want to move them up to the next stage before they have outgrown their seat, you do have the option of a combination 0+1 car seat. This will let you have them in a full size group 1 car seat, but it is rear facing. These seats can either rear face to 13kg or 18kg, and offer your baby the best safety of rear facing before you make the switch to front facing.
If your baby is 9kg and outgrowing their baby seat by height you can also use a rear facing group 1 or 1,2 seat as well as the option of a 0+1 seat.
Group 0+1: newborn - 18kg (newborn - approx 4 yrs)
Group 1: 9 - 18kg (mainly front facing, but rear facing seats available) (up to approx 4 years)
Group 1,2: 9-25kg (mainly rear facing) (Up to approx 6 years)
So… when can my baby move forward facing?
Legally you can currently turn your baby forward facing once they weigh 20lb/9kg and they must also be sitting completely unaided for a minimum of 30 minutes. If you are using an i-Size car seat, you must legally rear face until a minimum of 15 months. Eventually, all children will be rear facing to at least 15 months by law.
However, ideally you would not move forward facing until they are at least 18kg/4 years old. A rear facing group 1 (or group 1,2 seat) will provide much better protection for your child from the most dangerous and most common type of impact - a frontal impact. The younger a child moves forward facing, the less protection they have in a crash - it could be the difference between life and death. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore maximum outgrown limits on your seats however! If your baby has outgrown the rear facing limit of their seat, they will need to move up to the next stage, be that rear or forward facing.
Are forward facing seats dangerous?
Since child seats were introduced, car seats have gone a long way in helping to reduce death and injury in children. Forward facing car seats are designed to restrain a child in a collision, which when they are correctly fitted and used - they do very well. New technology and data does however show that children are much better protected by facing backwards when in the car.