The importance of using rear-facing car seats for young children should not be underestimated. Car accident data has proven that a rear-facing seat position is safest. The main reason this position is safer is because most serious accidents involve the front of the car being hit with immense force, and a rear-facing seat will spread the force of a frontal impact across a child’s back, head, and neck. It also prevents the head from snapping forward in a crash, known as whiplash.
In many states, the law requires children to be seated in the rear-facing position until one year of age. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be seated facing the rear until at least 2 years of age. Ideally, it’s safest for a child to be seated rear-facing beyond 2 years of age – until the weight or height limit of your car seat has been reached.
While infant car seats are very convenient since they can easily be moved from the car to the stroller, they have fairly low weight and height limits. Most infant seats have a weight limit of around 30 pounds and height limit of about 32 inches. Many children will pass these limits before their second birthday, so it’s important to select a good convertible car seat by the time your child outgrows their infant seat.
The latest convertible car seats have much higher rear-facing height and weight limits. Most will support children up to 35 pounds with some supporting 40 pounds or more. Select a seat based on how long you wish for your child to remain in the rear-facing seating position. Many parents are deciding to have their children face rear until 4 years of age. This typically requires choosing a seat with a 40-45 pound weight limit.
Whatever you decide, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure your child seat is installed correctly and your child’s harness is adjusted properly each time.
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