Keeping Your Baby in a Rear-Facing Car Seat
A common question parents ask is, “How long should my baby stay in a rear-facing car seat?” While there are a ton of resources online that’ll give you differing responses, the truth is that there’s no specific timeline! In fact, Child Passenger Safety experts will recommend that you keep your child in the rear-facing car seat for as long as possible, until they reach the height and weight limits of the seat you purchased. Even when your child outgrows a rear-facing seat, you can purchase a convertible seat and then install it rear-facing.
While you may have heard that babies can start riding forward-facing at 1 year old or 20 pounds heavy, this is an old standard! These days, rear-facing seats have a higher weight limit, and riding rear-facing until age 2 and beyond is a huge safety advantage. And while it may be a milestone in your child’s life to turn the seat to a forward-facing position—don’t rush to have your little one grow up so fast! Especially when it concerns maximizing his or her safety.
Why Stick with Rear-Facing Car Seats?
The standard adult seat belt system protects a passenger by distributing the force of a crash to the strongest areas of the body, namely the hips and shoulders. Since infants don’t have body parts strong enough to absorb great amounts of force, rear-facing car seats are specifically designed to distribute the force along larger areas of the child’s body. This puts less stress on any one part of the child’s body, thus minimizing injury.
Young children, as their bones aren’t completely hardened yet, are also at greater risk for spinal cord injuries. This is especially true for infants, as their large heads are still quite heavy for their delicate necks to carry. Rear-facing seats completely support the neck and head of your child, and riding rear-facing for longer will guarantee the safety of your child from spinal cord injuries and crash incidents.
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Types of Rear-Facing Car Seats
There are 3 types of rear-facing car seats: rear-facing only, convertible seats, and 3-in-1s or all-in-ones. Parents always start with a rear-facing seat, and from there, you can extend your child’s time riding in the rear-facing position by choosing either the convertible seat or the all-in-one seat. See the different type of seats below:
1. Rear-Facing Only Seats
This is the first type of seat you will purchase for your child, used from birth all the way up until a child is a year old, or until they reach the maximum weight allowance of the car seat model. This is typically anywhere between 22 to 35 pounds, depending on the car seat.
These seats are small and usually double as a carrier, making it convenient for parents to transport their child in and out of the car.
Once your child outgrows these rear-facing only seats, you can switch to a convertible or 3-in-1 seat, as these seats will allow your child to ride rear-facing for longer.
2. Convertible Seats
These are called convertible seats as they can be used both for the rear-facing and forward-facing riding position. You can start your child out in the rear-facing position until your child exceeds the weight limit of the seat for the rear-facing position. Convertible seats are especially great for extending your child’s time riding in the rear-facing position, as the weight limit for the rear-facing position on convertible seats is much higher than rear-facing only seats, usually in the range of 40-50 pounds. Once they exceed this number, you can “convert” the seat into a forward-facing seat.
This seat is a great investment as your child will be able to use the seat for longer. However, convertible seats are usually quite bulky. Also, unlike rear-facing only car seats, convertible car seats don’t double as a carrier, and are generally hard to transport.
3. 3-in-1 Seats
These seats are just like the convertible seat, but with the added bonus of tripling as a booster seat as well. All in all, this seat is a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, and a booster seat—all wrapped into one!
Also a great seat to use to extend your child’s time riding rear-facing, all-in-one seats also have a high weight limit for the rear-facing position—around 40-50 pounds, just like the convertible seat.
However, these seats tend to be even bulkier than convertible seats and are inconvenient to carry or install into a new car. The upside is that this seat can be used the longest by your child, as it will accommodate your child from birth all the way up till your child can start using the adult seat belt system on their own.
Tips for Using a Rear-Facing Car Seat
Remember that installation is the most important process when it comes to your baby’s car seat. It doesn’t matter if they’re sitting in a rear-facing car seat if that seat is installed incorrectly. Make sure the seat is installed tightly in the vehicle—it shouldn’t move even an inch sideways, forward, or back—and ensure that the harness is snug, with the chest clip placed in the center of your child’s chest.
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Also, never place a rear-facing car seat in the front of a vehicle with an active front passenger airbag, as if the airbag inflates, it will most likely hit the back of the car seat and seriously injure your child’s head. Always install the rear-facing car seat in the back of the car.
If you’re using a convertible or 3-in-1 car seat in the rear-facing position, it’s essential that the seat belt or lower anchor webbing is routed through the correct belt path. When in doubt, check the manual or the instructions that come with the car seat.
If your car is particularly small, you might also want to check if it’s alright that the car seat may contact the front seat of the vehicle. If you can’t find this information in the manual, check online or ask a professional from the store you bought the car seat in.
Lastly, make sure the seat is installed at the correct angle, to ensure your child’s head is supported and doesn’t flop forward. When in doubt, check the instructions on what the best angle is and how to adjust the seat if needed.
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The Bottom Line
Parents usually still have questions about riding rear-facing. What if my baby’s legs are touching the back of the seat? What if my child wants to start sitting forward-facing already?
The general rule is: as long as your child has not yet reached the maximum weight limits of your car seat (especially if the seat is a convertible or an all-in-one) then it’s safe to keep them in the rear-facing position—yes, even if their legs touch the back of the car seat.
You should be able to keep your child riding rear-facing until age 2 or higher, depending on how fast your child grows. The fact of the matter is: a rear-facing car seat offers the best protection for your child and that protection should be maximized for as long as possible. Keeping your child riding in the rear-facing position is the safest choice you can make in terms of child passenger safety.
If you’re in need of a rear-facing car seat, or would just like to ask for more advice on keeping your child in the rear-facing position, then don’t hesitate to call us at Taxi Baby! We want to make sure that traveling with your child will be safe and stress-free. Our team would be glad to assist you with any of your child passenger needs!
Read more: Car seat laws and regulations in Singapore