The safest way for infants to ride is rear-facing in the back seat.
Rear-facing child safety seats protect the infant’s head, neck and
back in a crash. The infant should ride rear- facing until at least
20 pounds and one year of age, longer if possible to protect their
developing muscles and bones (Click
here for recommendation from American Academy of Pediatrics).
Infant-only child safety seats are designed for
rear-facing use only
- Baby's head must be at least one inch below the
top of the child safety seat.
- The label on the child safety seat gives the upper weight limit of the
child safety seat. Infant-only seats usually range from birth or
to about 20 pounds.
- The harness retainer clip should be properly
fastened at the armpit level with the harness strap snug.
- ALWAYS monitor baby when he/she is in the infant-only seat. The infant-only child safety seat should not be used as a crib, and should NEVER be placed on a high table or unstable surface.
- Keep harness straps fastened snug on baby even when the child safety seat is not being used in your vehicle.
Convertible child safety seats are designed for older babies and can be used rear–facing to higher weight limits and then forward-facing
- Newer convertible child safety seats can be used rear-facing
30 or 35 pounds for children who are over 20 pounds,
but less than one year of age. Some older models can only be
to 20-22 pounds rear–facing. Always check the label and instructions
for the rear–facing weight limit.
- If a baby under one year of age grows too tall or
too heavy for an infant-only seat, a convertible seat with
a higher rear-facing weight limit (over 22 pounds) is recommended.
- Convertible child safety seats may be turned around to
face the front when baby is over one year of age AND at least 20 pounds.
- It is recommended that a child ride rear-facing
as long as he/she fits in the convertible child safety seat. This protects
baby's fragile head, neck, and spinal cord. Follow the child
safety seat manufacturer's instructions for rear-facing weight limits.
- A convertible child safety seat with a 5 point harness works best for
a newborn baby. Seats with padded overhead shields do not fit
small babies properly. The shield comes up too high and may
make proper adjustments of the harness difficult.
Buckling Baby In The Safety Seat Correctly
straps must fit properly on the baby's shoulders and between
the legs. Dress your baby in clothes that keep the legs free
and do not interfere with the harness.
- Keep harness straps very snug and flat on the baby's shoulders
- not arms. If the harness straps are even slightly loose, the baby
can be thrown out of the child safety seat in a minor crash.
- Place the plastic harness retainer clip near your child's
armpits to hold the harness straps on the shoulders. Check the
child safety seat instructions if your seat doesn't have a harness retainer
- Always buckle baby in the seat first, then place
blanket OVER the harness. Thick clothing or covers between
the baby and the harness straps will prevent a snug fit, and may place
your baby at risk in a crash .
- If the baby needs support, fill empty spaces with small,
rolled blankets on each side of the baby's shoulders and head.
A rolled diaper or small towel can be put between his/her legs
behind the crotch strap for positioning.
- Thick padding should NOT be placed under or
behind the baby.
- Babies must ride in a semi-reclined position (half way back
or between 30-45 degree angle from vertical) to keep
their airway open.
- If the child safety seat is too upright for the baby, and the
base is not adjustable, place a tightly rolled bath towel, or
part of a foam pool noodle, under the front edge of the child
safety seat to tilt it back a little. Do not recline the
rear-facing child safety seat too far
back or the child could be ejected.
NOTE: ALWAYS read and follow the child safety
seat instructions and the vehicle owner’s manual instructions.
What About Child Safety Seats For
- A baby born earlier than 37 weeks may need to use a car bed if he/she has any
problems breathing or other medical problems when sitting semi-reclined.
- Ask the baby's doctor if the baby needs to be tested for
breathing problems or other medical problems before he/she is discharged
from the hospital.
- If the baby's doctor recommends it, a baby with medical problems may need
to ride lying flat in a car bed.
- If your baby was born premature, it is recommended that you keep him/her
in a rear-facing child safety seat until he/she is BOTH 20 pounds and over
one year past
her expected vs. actual due date.
- In Illinois, contact the Special Needs Child Passenger Safety Resource
Center for more information at 877-CRSNKID (877-277-6543).
Vehicle Installation Tips
Find a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician
in your area
Air Bag Safety Information
NHTSA Ease of Use
Ratings for Child Safety Seats
When can I turn my child forward-facing?