When Do You Switch Car Seats? Helpful Information

Helen Skeates
Helen Skeates
12 min read

How often do you change the car seats in your vehicle? A child’s car seat needs to be upgraded when they outgrow it. The weight and height limits of car seats are different for each model. When your baby is born, you must buy one specifically for their needs.

It’s a good idea to check with your local police station or fire department to see if there are any limits on the age/weight/height criteria for the baby’s booster seat in the area where you live.

Some localities require children under 40lbs to use an orange label, while others allow children above 40lbs but less than 80lbs to ride without boosters at all! As soon as it seems appropriate, switch them between stages.

How long should a child be in a rear-facing seat?

Child safety seats should be used until the child is at least two years old and weighs at least 20 pounds. During an automobile accident, children are unable to withstand the impact because their bones, muscles, and ligaments are still developing.

In contrast, forward-facing chairs focus all of this weight on a small area of the back, neck, and shoulders, where it can easily fracture or break.

Also, having your kid sit higher up in the car so that they can look out the windows is a better option for their safety.

Avoid putting too much pressure on their soft regions by keeping their little legs bent as much as possible with their knees tucked under the hip.

When Do I Switch to a Convertible Car Seat?

When can I legally forward face my baby?

Around the age of two, your child will be able to ride in a forward-facing car seat for the first time. Every child develops at a different rate and should be discussed with your pediatrician about the best time to begin this transition.

Your infant must weigh at least 20 lbs., plus or minus five lbs., and their height must fall within the manufacturer’s specifications for forward-facing (usually between 32 inches tall, up to 40 inches).

This does not mean they are ready, even if they meet all of these requirements! To be on the safe side, wait until your child is at least one year old before making the switch to a forward-facing car seat after consulting with a trained professional like those from Car Seat Inspections.

Rear-facing car seat laws by state

While no federal laws now mandate the use of rear-facing car seats, certain states have implemented their own legislation.

Until a child reaches the maximum weight or height for their seat, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that they ride in a rear-facing car seat. In certain states, child restraint laws mandate that children face backwards until they reach a specific age or weight; however, none of these rules go by age alone.

The AAP recommends that children under two years of age remain rear-facing in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam, despite the fact that all states have stricter front-seat passenger restrictions than 14 years of age. Only 19 states, plus D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, currently require children under two years of age to remain rear-facing in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

When should you change car seats?

A car accident is something no one wants to contemplate. Car seats, on the other hand, are essential if the unimaginable happens.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 325 children under the age of 4 were spared death in 2017 because of the use of restraints (CDC). As a result, it’s critical that your backseat passenger is properly restrained in the appropriate seat and that the seat itself is in excellent condition.

So, how do you know when to switch seats, and what other circumstances can necessitate this? Your child’s car seat should be replaced or upgraded if any of the following conditions are met.

Your child has reached either the height OR weight limit on their car seat

When a child’s car seat is “upgraded,” it usually refers to a model designed to support a larger, older child. It’s time for a new car seat when your child reaches the maximum weight or height for the one she currently has. In the case of a collision, a seat that is too tiny will not sufficiently protect her.

Check the seat’s tag or the manufacturer’s instructions for the seat’s maximum weight or height restrictions. In light of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers the following general guidelines:

  • As long as possible, keep your child facing backwards. Rear-facing infant car seats are popular for the first few months of a child’s life because they are lightweight and easy to use, and then parents can upgrade to a convertible car seat as their child grows older. (Convertible car seats, on the other hand, can be used from the start with the child rear-facing.) When a child has graduated to a convertible car seat, he or she should remain rear-facing until he or she is at least 2 years old (though many youngsters won’t be ready to face forward until ages 3 or 4) before moving to a forward-facing seat.
  • When your child is big enough, switch to the forward-facing position. When your kid reaches the weight or height limit for her convertible seat’s rear-facing position, she can move to the forward-facing position.
  • After a few years, she’ll be ready to use a booster seat. The forward-facing convertible seat can be upgraded to a harnessed seat or a booster seat when your child reaches the maximum height and weight limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that she ride in the back seat without a seat belt until she is between the ages of 8 and 12 years old, depending on her height and weight.

Is your kid ready for a booster seat? Plus, tips for a smooth transition

What car seat should my child be in?

Car seats for infants and toddlers

Your newborn should be secured in a five-point harness in a rear-facing baby car seat as soon as you leave the hospital. When your child is strapped into a five-point harness, two straps go over their shoulders and clasp together around their waist. Two shoulders, two hips and the space between the legs are all five points of contact with the ground when standing. Install infant car seats facing the rear window in the backseat of your vehicle.

Dr. Mudd advises parents to have their child’s car seat installed by a nearby fire station or children’s hospital in advance of their first trip home from the hospital. Check the car seat handbook or watch a YouTube video on how to use that particular car seat before you get started. To ease parents’ anxieties about the first time they take their children home, make sure the car seat is set up correctly and ready to go ahead of time.

If you want to keep your child rear-facing, you’ll want to use a five-point harness car seat.

When should a child be placed in a car seat facing forward? It’s not your age that matters, it’s your weight and height. Check your child’s car seat’s height and weight restrictions. Rear-only seats are typically 26-36 inches wide and 22-35 pounds heavy.

It is common for convertible car seats to have higher weight limitations. When your child is old enough, you can switch them to a forward-facing position so they can grow with them.

A child’s weight and height often fall within the acceptable ranges for rear-facing when they are at least 2 years old.” However, keep them as far back as you can while doing so. Dr. Mudd tells the students to aim for the maximum size permitted by the manufacturer. No matter how close to the back of the automobile your child’s legs come to touching the back seat, it does not signal it is time to move on. Legs sway in a bending motion.”

Rear facing is the safest position for your infant, so resist the urge to switch. “Front-end collisions are the most common type of car accident.” Children’s heads, necks, and spines are better protected when they sit with their backs to the back of the seat during a collision.

Car seats for toddlers and preschoolers

When your child reaches the height and weight limits of their rear-facing car seat, they can finally begin driving in the opposite direction. There’s no guarantee, though, that they’ll be able to use a simple car-buckle booster. It’s possible to switch the rear-facing seat to forward mode in many cases. Alternatively, you can purchase a child car seat that faces forward and has a five-point harness.

A five-point harness can be found on both convertible and front-facing convertible car seats, as well as on front-facing only car seats.

A good rule of thumb is that as your child gets older, you may be tempted to forego a booster seat altogether in favor of a car seat. But your child should stay in a car seat for as long as possible,” says Dr. Mudd. If your child weighs 65 pounds or more, you may want to hold off on making the switch until that time.

Car seats for school-aged children

As your child matures, you may be tempted to forego a booster seat altogether in favor of the more secure option of a child safety seat. Dr. Mudd, on the other hand, advises parents to keep their children safely buckled in a car seat as long as possible. Depending on the manufacturer, that may mean delaying the switch until your child reaches 65 pounds or more.”

“More often than not, you’ll be too early or too late. According to Dr. Mudd, not all children are ready for a booster seat, even if they appear physically capable. “Stick with the forward-facing seat if your youngster can’t sit still or is an escape artist.”

Car seats with a five-point harness, front-facing convertibles, or boosters are all options for a child’s safety.

Transitioning out of booster seats is all about how your vehicle’s seat belt matches your child’s age and weight range. The strongest sections of their bodies should be protected by the seat belt.

Time to Move to the Next Type of Car Seat?

  1. Don’t put yourself in a hurry. Use your current car seat until your child exceeds the label’s maximum weight or height. Take your time because every step forward diminishes your safety by a little. Why? A rear-facing car seat allows your child’s head, neck, and spine to move into the seat, rather than out of it, in the event of a front-end collision. There are precise weight, height, and age requirements for each seat.
  2. Car seats that face backwards. Until your child is at least 2 years old and has outgrown the harness in terms of height or weight, keep your youngster in a rear-facing seat. A larger rear-facing convertible car seat may be necessary as your child develops, if you are using a smaller rear-facing car seat. Find out more about the topic of infant car seats. To see if your child is ready for a forward-facing car seat, watch this video.
  3. Child safety seats. When your child’s weight or height exceeds the forward-facing car seat’s weight or height limit, switch to a belt-positioning booster seat. Booster seats: what you need to know

When Is My Child Ready to Move Into a Booster Seat?

What to Do with your Old Car Seat

  1. Please spread the word. Toss the car seat when your child outgrows it, and give it to someone you know instead. The seat should be in its original condition, with all of the labels and instructions included. Throw away the seat if it has been in a car accident or if it has missing parts.
  2. Seats that have expired or are hazardous for use. To prevent someone else from using your car seat if it has expired or is hazardous, disassemble it and place the pieces in separate dark trash bags.

When to Turn a Car Seat Around for Baby

Children should remain in a rear-facing seat until they reach the maximum weight or height permitted by their car seat type according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are “limits on how long children can ride rear-facing in most convertible seats,” adds the group. To replace the rear-facing-only seat for infants, a convertible one must be installed.

Dr. Hoffman concurs that this is a good idea. According to him, “Our advise is you remain rear-facing until the seat tells you to turn around,” he says. “There is absolutely no reason why a youngster should be forced to sit in a forward-facing seat before the age of two.” “The fundamental premise for everything is that you delay transitions as long as possible,” he continues..

Helen Skeates

Helen Skeates

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