Types of Car Seats
For a child’s safety seat to prevent injury in a crash, it must be the size and style appropriate to that child. As the child grows, he or she will require a different type of safety seat. Check out Tips for Choosing a Car Seat for additional information.
Rearward Facing Seats
- Babies born earlier than 37 weeks or those with breathing problems may require a car bed. This will allow them to be safely restrained while lying instead of sitting up. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s installation and use instructions.
- Small, lightweight “infant-only” safety seats are designed for use rear-facing only. This kind can be used only as long as the baby’s head is enclosed by the top rim of the seat. The label on the seat gives the upper weight limit (17 to 22 pounds). Newborns require “Infant-only” safety seats that are designed for rear-facing only use. These are small and lightweight and can be used as long as the top rim of the seat encloses the baby’s head. Infant-only safety seats are usually designed for an upper weight limit of 17 to 22 pounds.
- Some infant-only seats come in two parts. The base stays buckled in the vehicle and the seat snaps in and out. Once the base is properly installed, it is a simple matter to ensure the seat is securely snapped into the base before each use.
- Always practice buckling the seat into your car before your baby’s first ride!
- Convertible safety seats are larger (weight limits as high as 30-32 pounds for rear-facing use) and can be turned for forward-facing use after the baby reaches 1 year of age and 20+ pounds. Convertible seats are especially good for large babies. Read and follow installation changes that are required when converting the seat from rear-facing to forward-facing.
- Avoid convertible seats with a padded shield if you are using the safety seat for a newborn. Shields do not fit small babies properly because they come up too high and make proper adjustment of the harness difficult.
Forward Facing Seats
- Forward-facing child seats with a full harness are used for children over 1 year of age and from 20 pounds upward to 40 pounds. Some are designed to convert from a toddler-type seat with a harness to a belt-positioning booster seat. Some are built into the vehicle seat. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions and weight use limits.
- Standard lap and shoulder belts do not fit a child until they are about 4’9” tall and weigh around 80 pounds. An ill-fitting seat belt may ride up and cause serious injury in a crash. A booster seat protects the child’s upper body with either the shoulder belt or a shield. In addition to helping a child sit up straight and allowing their legs to bend normally, the booster seat also raises the child so that the vehicle lap/shoulder belt fits properly. A child should stay in a safety seat with a full harness until the seat is outgrown, usually about 40 pounds. When a child’s shoulders are above the top set of strap slots, it is time for a booster seat.
If your child is ready to be protected by a safety belt alone, it is crucial to your child's protection that the belt fit correctly. The lap belt should fit low over a child's upper thighs. Keep the belt snug. If the lap belt rides up onto the tummy, it could cause serious injuries in a crash. If you have the kind of shoulder belt that stays loose when it is pulled out, make sure there is no more than one inch of slack. Teach your child to tug at the shoulder belt to take up excess slack.
Never put a shoulder belt under the child's arm or behind the back. Some devices advertised to improve belt fit for older children and adults are not covered by government standards. They may improve comfort, but allow too much slack in the shoulder belt or cause the lap belt to ride up. Boosters are a better solution for children.