If your child is older than 2, they can sit in a car seat that faces forward.
I have spent the whole day researching car seats and their safety features. I have gone through many websites like government sites, car seat companies’ websites, and parenting blogs.
From what I have understood, many parents believe that they need to wait until their child is at least a year old before they can turn the car seat around and have it face forward.
However, that isn’t always the case.
Depending on your child’s weight and height, they might be able to sit in a car seat that faces forward, as long as they are over the age of 2.
Here’s a detailed guide to help you answer the question, “When can a baby’s car seat face forward?”
When should you turn your child’s car seat around?
You should turn your child’s car seat to face the front of the car when they reach the following milestones:
Reach the Height or Weight Limit Allowed By Manufacturer:
When you child reaches the height limit of their rear-facing infant car seat (usually between 30 to 35 inches), or the weight limit of the car seat (28 to 35 pounds), they will remain to sit in the rear-facing position. [As per AAP and NHTSA guidelines]
But remember, many children gain height faster than they gain weight, so it’s important to always check the car seat’s height limit before turning the seat around.
If your child has not yet reached the height or weight limit of their car seat, it is safest to keep them in a rear-facing position.
But once your child outgrows their rear-facing infant car seat, they will need to sit in a convertible car seat in a rear-facing position until they reach the height or weight limit for that seat, which is usually from 40 to 50 pounds and it depends on the car seat manufacturer.
So, it is highly recommended to check the maximum height and weight limits from the car seat manufacturer’s instructions before making the decision to turn the car seat around.
Reach the Age Limit: Older than 2 Years:
The general rule of thumb is that a child can sit in a forward-facing car seat once they reach the age of 2.
However, as we have seen earlier, it’s not always about the age, it is also about the height and weight of your child.
So, if your 2-year-old child is small for their age and hasn’t reached the height or weight limit of their car seat, it is best to keep them in a rear-facing position.
On the other hand, if your 2-year-old is taller or heavier than the average for their age, they might be ready to sit in a forward-facing car seat.
So, your child can sit in a forward-facing car seat when they have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their convertible car seat, which usually happens at the age of 3 or 4 years and should be allowed in car seat manufacturer’s instructions.
It is important to keep in mind that your child should remain rear-facing for as long as possible.
What Are Car Seat Guidelines?
Following are the car seat guidelines for different types of car seats:
Rear-Facing-Only Car Seats:
Use rear-facing-only car seats from birth until your child reaches the highest weight or height limit allowed by the manufacturer of their particular seat.
Most rear-facing-only car seats have a maximum weight limit of 35 pounds and maximum height limit of 35 inches.
However, there are a few seats with higher weight and height limits, so it is important to check the car seat’s instruction manual for more information about the maximum weight and height limits.
Convertible Car Seats:
Most convertible car seats have a maximum weight limit of 40 or 50 pounds for the rear-facing position.
Your child can sit in a forward-facing position when they reach the maximum weight or height limit for the rear-facing position.
All-in-One Car Seats:
All-in-one car seats can be used in both the rear-facing and forward-facing positions.
Most all-in-one car seats have a maximum weight limit of 40 or 50 pounds for the rear-facing position and a maximum weight limit of 65 to 80 pounds for the forward-facing position.
How long should my child remain in a forward-facing car seat?
Forward-facing car seats can hold up to 60-100 pounds, depending on the model.
It is strictly advised to use a booster seat once your child reaches the manufacturer’s maximum weight or height limit for their forward-facing car seat.
Most children will need to use a booster seat from the time they reach 4 years old until they are big enough to use a seat belt without a booster seat.
It is important to note that your child should not use a seat belt alone until they are at least 4 feet 9 inches tall which they usually gain at the age of 9 to 12 years.
This is because a seat belt alone will not provide proper protection for your child’s head, neck, and spine in the event of a car crash.
Why Your Baby Should Not Sit Forward-Facing Too Soon
Many doctors and experts suggest keeping your child in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, as it is still the safest way for them to travel.
Here are a few reasons why your baby should not sit forward-facing too soon:
Spine and Neck:
In the event of a car crash, the force of the impact is spread evenly across the back of the car seat, which is better for your child’s spine and neck.
If your child is sitting in a forward-facing car seat, the force of a car crash can be concentrated on their neck and spine, which can lead to serious injuries.
In addition, a child’s head is much larger and heavier than their neck and spine, so it is more likely to be injured in a car crash if they are sitting in a forward-facing car seat.
Body Structure of Child:
A child’s body is simply not built to handle the force of a car crash in the same way that an adult’s body is.
Their bones are softer and their muscles and ligaments are not as developed, which means they are more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash.
The baby’s head is 25% of their total body weight, which is much higher than an adult’s head, which is only 6% of their total body weight.
This means that a child’s head is much more likely to be injured in a car crash than an adult’s head.
So, it is important to keep your child in a rear-facing position for as long as possible to help keep them safe in the event of a car crash.
Breath Taking of Child:
Another reason to keep your child rear-facing is that it is easier for them to breathe in a rear-facing car seat.
This is because their head and neck are not bent forward at a 90-degree angle, which can block their airway.
So, if your child is in a rear-facing car seat, they are less likely to experience breathing problems in the event of a car crash.
These are some of the reasons why your baby should not sit forward-facing in a car seat too soon.
Of course, you should always consult your child’s doctor for their specific car seat recommendations as well as read the manual of instruction that comes with your car seat.
What Are Safety Precautions While Turning Baby To Forward Facing?
Following are some safety precautions you need to take, when you do turn your baby to a forward-facing position.
Proper Installation of Car Seat:
Fix and install the car seat in the proper position and according to the user manual of your car seat, when you are turning your baby to a forward-facing position.
While installing, you should take care of the most important safety features like, the car seat should be placed at the back of the car in the middle and not close to any door.
If you are installing the car seat with the LATCH system, then also follow all the instructions given in the user manual properly. The LATCH system is actually lower anchors and tethers for children.
Tether is a strap, which is attached to the top of the car seat and then to an anchor point in the vehicle. This helps in reducing the forward movement up to 8 inches, during a crash.
After installing the car seat, you should also make sure that the harness system of the seat is tight enough, so that it doesn’t let your baby move too much inside the seat.
The harness system actually holds your baby in the car seat and thus, it needs to be tight enough.
Your Child Should Not Sit on Passenger Seat:
Until age 13, it is better if your child does not sit on the passenger seat.
You should not allow your child to sit on the passenger seat, even if he is in a forward-facing car seat.
This is because, during a crash, the airbags can cause serious injuries to your child and can even be fatal.
So, it is always better to place your child in the backseat in a forward-facing car seat and never on the passenger seat.
Always Choose Middle of The Back Seat:
The safest place to install a forward-facing car seat is in the middle of the back seat.
If you are installing the car seat on one side of the back seat, then also make sure that there is no other passenger sitting at that side.
This is because during a crash, the person sitting at that side can put pressure on the car seat and can cause serious injuries to your child.
As per study of Paediatrics, the middle of the back seat is 43% safer than the side of the back seat for children in a forward-facing car seat.
If you have more than one child, then place your forward-facing child in the middle of the back seat and rear-facing child in the side of the back seat, behind the driver.
This will help in protecting both the children, during a car crash.
So, it is always better to install the car seat in the middle of the back seat for safety purposes.
Use of Lap And Shoulder Belt:
When you are using a forward-facing car seat, you should also use a lap and shoulder belt.
Use a lap belt in a low and tight position, so that during a crash, it doesn’t slide up over the abdomen of your child.
And the shoulder belt should be placed across the chest and shoulder, away from the face and neck of your child.
What’s the best forward-facing car seat?
All car seats that meet the federal safety standards are considered safe.
The best car seat is one that fits according to your child’s, fits according to your vehicle model and is easy for you to use correctly every time.
Here are some of the best types of forward-facing car seats:
Convertible Car Seats:
Convertible car seats can be rear-facing when your child reaches a limit of 40 to 50 pounds and then you can convert it into a forward-facing car seat.
These types of seats are larger in size and use 5-point harnesses which means, there are 5 straps, 2 at the shoulder, 2 at the hips and 1 between the legs.
All-In-One or 3-in-One Car Seats:
These seats can be used as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat and also as a booster.
So, you can use this seat for your child, from the time he is an infant until he no longer needs a car seat.
But remember, you also need to make sure that the height and weight limit of the seat is appropriate for your child at every stage.
Additionally, it is important to convert this car seat from rear-facing to forward-facing to booster.
For example, if your child is still in the rear-facing position and you are using straps below the shoulders, then you need to make sure that you do not convert it into a forward-facing position.
This is because in the forward-facing position, the straps should be at or above the shoulders.
So, it is important to read the instructions properly and follow them correctly, in order to keep your child safe.
Combination seats are also known as harness-2-booster seats. These types of seats first use a 5-points harness system for smaller children and then convert into a belt-positioning booster for larger children.
So, these seats can be used for children who have outgrown the 5-points harness system but are not ready for a seat belt alone.
Booster seats are used for children who have outgrown the forward-facing car seat with 5-point harness.
Your child needs booster seats when he is at least 4 years old OR until he is 35 inches tall.
And when using a booster seat, you should always use the lap and shoulder belt with it.
Never let your child use just the shoulder belt, as it can cause serious injuries to your child during a crash.
So, these are some of the best forward-facing car seats that you can use for your child.
Tips for installation and use of Car Seat
Follow these tips for a successful installation and use of your car seat:
- Do not use, If your car seat is expired or has been recalled. Bring it to a certified technician to have it inspected or disposed of.
- Secure the car seat using either the LATCH system or the seatbelt. Make sure not to use both the LATCH system and the seatbelt at the same time.
- Make sure the car seat is properly installed. There should be no movement when you shake it.
- If using the LATCH system, make sure the top tether is properly installed and tightened.
- If using the seatbelt, make sure it is properly routed through the car seat.
- Always use a lap and shoulder belt when using a booster seat. Do not just use a lap belt.
- When installing a car seat, it’s important to angle it correctly. You should be able to recline the car seat enough so that your child’s head remains fixed and doesn’t flop forward, but not so much that they could slide out under the seatbelt in a crash.
- Bring it to a certified technician to have it inspected or disposed of if necessary. And also you should watch or read the user manual that comes with the car seat for more specific instructions.
- You should also register your car seat with the manufacturer, so that you can be notified of any recalls or safety updates.
- Don’t use a big, heavy coat when you’re buckling your child into their car seat. It’s important to make sure the harness is tight against their body, not bulky and loose. A winter coat can make it difficult to get a tight fit, so put your child in a thinner jacket or blanket instead. Drape the coat over your child once they’re buckled in.
- Do not use a car seat outside of a car. It is not made for that purpose.
Are forward facing seats dangerous?
Yes, forward-facing seats are dangerous. They can cause serious injuries in a crash.
However, many experts feel that it is generally safer for children to ride in a rear-facing seat until they are at least four years old.
Additionally, some states have laws mandating that all children under the age of four must ride in a rear-facing seat. You should check with your local laws to see if this applies in your state.
What About Air Bags?
Airbags protect adults in a crash, but they can be dangerous to children.
For this reason, it is important that all children ride in the back seat of a car.
Additionally, child safety seats should never be placed in front of an active air bag.
Air bags open with a force of up to 200 mph. They can cause serious injuries, even death, to small children. Airbags protect adults or bigger kids having weight at least 165 pounds (75 Kg) and sitting upright in a car.
The Bottom Line:
As you can see, there are many different factors to consider when deciding when to turn your child’s car seat around. Ultimately, you want to make sure that your child is safe and comfortable while riding in the car.
If you have any further questions, be sure to consult with your child’s Paediatrician or a certified car seat technician.
In this guide, we have discussed everything you need to know about turning your child’s car seat around. This includes when you should do it, what the car seat guidelines are, and what the best forward-facing car seat is.
I hope you have found the answer to your question, “When can a baby’s car seat face forward?”
If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below.