Knowing When to Change Car Seats

If you are anything like me, car seats and their guidelines are confusing. It took me until my third child to really know when to switch from an infant to a convertible and how long to keep our children rear facing.

I thought putting together a short post about different guidelines might be really helpful to the parents who are like me who are not the most car seat savvy.

My first suggestion is to check out the car seat you have purchased for your infant. If you have an infant car seat, it can only be used rear facing and it will have a height and weight limit on it. These are typically for children under a year old and/or they meet the restrictions. If you choose to use a convertible car seat instead of an infant car seat (which is totally possible and I didn’t know that till my third as well) then you will have it installed rear facing right off the bat.

In the chance that you are in a moderate to severe car accident before your child outgrows that specific car seat, it is no longer good. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration websites states:

NHTSA recommends that car seats be replaced following a moderate or severe crash in order to ensure a continued high level of crash protection for child passengers. Car seats do not automatically need to be replaced following a minor crash.

Scary and pricy, but there is no dollar sign you can put on the safety of your kids, right?

Now onto the toddler years recommendations. For ages 1-3, it is suggested to keep your toddler rear facing as long as possible Currently the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends rear facing seats until at least two years old. You will also need to consider height limits when it comes to the car seat you choose to use.

This change came during 2011. Interesting enough I found this tidbit from a CNN health article. I always wondered why rear facing was safer, and this answered it for me!

“A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body,” said Dennis Durbin, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatric emergency physician and co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of the policy statement and accompanying technical report.

Once your toddler is front facing and growing, the need for a new car seat will eventually come up. Kids ages 4-7 years old (depending on height and weight, of course) are recommended to use a forward facing 5 point restraint. In fact, booster seats aren’t really recommended until nearly 8 years old depending on the size of your child.

In our house, we still have our almost-5-year-old in a five point restraint convertible car seat. He is still within the height and weight limits and we find it to be safest.

Following this comes the booster seat which really should be the last avenue for older children. Of course your kids probably will hate being in a safety device in the car as they get older. I think it may be a cool factor of sorts, but safety does always come first. We can’t always protect them, but when it comes to riding in the car, we can certainly put our best foot forward.


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Read more on Toddler Times from Danielle:

Constant Chaos and Failure: An Overwhelmed Mother
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15 Things Our Toddlers Will Never Know

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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