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Infant car seat safety guidelines

Updated on February 28, 2012

Everybody would be safest facing backward while riding in a car.Babies are lucky to have seats that work this way. Infants are safest when riding facing the rear, because the back of the safety seat supports the child's back, neck, and head in a crash. So, whichever seat you choose, your baby should ride rear-facing until about one year of age and at least 20 pounds. Below are some general guidelines for infant car seat safety.

Infant rear-facing car seat
Infant rear-facing car seat

Infant car seat safety guidelines:

  • Read the car seat instruction manual carefully.
  • Practice putting the car seat in and out of the car before bringing it to the hospital.
  • Always use a car seat. Never hold your infant on your lap.
  • A rear-facing car seat must not be placed in the front passenger seat of any vehicle equipped with a passenger side airbag. If your vehicle has side impact air bags, make sure the car seat is secured in the middle seat. The middle back seat is the safest location.
  • Never leave your baby unattended in the car. Cars can heat up fast in the sun, and a baby can overheat quickly.
  • Be careful about using a car seat that belonged to someone else. Car seats that have been in accidents, have cracks, are missing pieces, or those over 10 years old should not be used.
  • If your vehicle seat slopes so that your baby's head flops forward, the car seat should be reclined to a 45-degree angle. A firm roll of cloth or newspaper can be wedged under the car seat below your baby's feet to achieve this angle.
  • Make sure the car seat is buckled securely in the car. If you can move the car seat more than an inch side to side or toward the front of the car, it is not tight enough.

Graco infant car seat
Graco infant car seat

Types of car seats

There are two types of rear-facing car seats: infant-only car seats and convertible car seats. Convertible seats can be used in rear-facing mode for infants and then converted to a forward-facing position once the child is old enough and big enough to do so, generally after one year of age and 20 pounds.

Infant-only car seats

  1. These models are small and have carrying handles.
  2. Use rear-facing for infants up to 20 pounds. Some models go up to 30 pounds.
  3. A 5-point harness is preferred. Keep chest clip at armpit level, not on the neck or tummy.
  4. Harness strap slots should be at or below the shoulders.
  5. Newborn babies should have a 45-degree maximum recline. Built-in indicators and adjusters help get the correct recline.
  6. Most models come with a detachable base that can be left in the car. The car seat should click when placed firmly into the base indicating it is locked.
  7. Infant-only seats may fit newborns better than convertible car seats.

Convertible car seats

  1. Convertible seats are used in rear-facing mode for infants from birth to at least 1 year and at least 20 pounds. The seats can be used in forward-facing mode for older children.
  2. These models have higher rear-facing weight limits than infant-only car seats, with some going up to 30-35 pounds.
  3. These models should be turned front-facing at the 30-35 pound weight limit or if the infant's head is within one inch of the top of the seat.
  4. You should keep harness straps at or below the shoulders while rear-facing.
  5. You should keep harness straps at or above the shoulders when forward-facing.
  6. Models with a 5-point harness and a front adjuster strap are preferred.
  7. Keep chest clip at armpit level, not on the neck or tummy.
  8. A 45-degree maximum recline is needed for newborns and infants while rear-facing. Older babies with good head control can have less recline while the seat is in rear-facing mode.
  9. Upright with no recline is best when these seats are in front-facing mode.


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    • profile image

      martellawintek 4 years ago

      hello again stevo it took me ages to find it here is the link

      filling address , there there most competitive in the game , mention marta said you would get him sorted

    • CarSeatReviews profile image

      CarSeatReviews 6 years ago

      I was browsing for "Infant Car Seats", And I saw your safety guidelines for infant car seat hubpage. Thanks for providing wonderful tips on infant car seats.

    • profile image

      Patrick 7 years ago

      HI guys! A really great article, this will help a lot of people to set up guidelines which car seat to buy. I really appreaciate your effort.

      @ Cindy since your comment was postes 8 months ago, you now probably are a mom already. congrats!

      I just wanted to say I'd be careful with free car seats. Rather buy something that give you some quality. I can highly recommend Graco Snugride car seats, this site is a good place to find them:

      thanks again and good luck!

    • profile image

      Cindy  7 years ago

      Hi guys,

      I’m a soon-to-be mom and am having some trouble figuring out which car seat to buy. I don’t want to strap my daughter in and have her come out upside down! Can anyone recommend something? I was doing some snooping around online and found a site that’s offering a convertible car seat for free. I know you need to fill out a few other things to get it, but who cares? Free is free. Anyway, I’d love all the suggestions I can get. If anyone else is interested in a good car seat, here’s the place.

      Thanks for your help!