Rear-Facing Infant-Only Child Safety Seat

It is best to keep children in a rear-facing safety seat until the age of 2 years or until reaching the upper weight and height limit of the rear-facing safety seat. Rear-facing safety seats should be placed in the rear seat and face the rear of the vehicle.

There are several kinds of safety seats that can be used in a rear-facing position:

  • Infant seats, depending on the model, can be used with children who weigh up to 35 lb (15.9 kg).

  • Rear-facing convertible seats, depending on the model, can be used with children who weigh up to 40 lb (18.1 kg).

  • Rear-facing 3-in-1 seats, depending on the model, can be used with children who weigh up to 35 to 40 lb (15.9 to 18.1 kg).

PROPER USE OF REAR-FACING SAFETY SEATS

  • Air bags can cause serious head and neck injury or death in children. Air bags are especially dangerous for children seated in rear-facing safety seats or for children who are not properly restrained. If there are front seat air bags in your vehicle, infants in rear-facing safety seats should ride in the rear seat.

  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of a vehicle. The center of the rear seat is the safest position. In vans, the safest position is the middle seat rather than the rear seat.

  • Vehicles with no back seat or one that is not useable for passengers are not the best choices for traveling with children. If a vehicle with front air bags does not have a rear seat and it is absolutely necessary for a child under the age of 13 years to ride in the front seat:

  • The vehicle must have airbags that automatically or manually can be turned off. The airbags must be off to prevent serious injury or even death to children. If this is not available, alternative transportation is recommended.

  • Use a forward-facing safety seat with a harness.

  • Move the safety seat back from the dashboard (and the air bag) as far as you can.

  • The child safety seat should be installed and used as directed in the child safety seat instructions and vehicle owner's manual.

  • Some infant-only seats have detachable bases, which can be left in the vehicle. You can purchase more than 1 base to use in other vehicles.

  • The safety seat can be angled so the infant's head is not flopping forward. The safety seat must not be angled more than a 45 degree angle. Older children that are able to maintain head control can be in a more upright position. To angle the seat:

  • Use angle adjusters on the safety seat.

  • Tilt the safety seat with a rolled towel under the front of the seat.

  • Rolled cloths put next to an infant in the safety seat can keep the infant from slouching to the side. Nothing should be added under, behind, or between the child and the harness unless it comes with the car seat and is specifically instructed for that purpose.

  • Locking clips should be used as directed by the instructions for the child safety seat and vehicle owner's manual.

  • The proper vehicle belt path that is required for your rear-facing safety seat must be used. Vehicles made after 2002 may have a Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system for securing safety seats. Vehicles with a LATCH system will have anchors in addition to seat belts in the rear seat which can be used to secure safety seats.

  • The harness must be at or below the child's shoulders in the reinforced slots. For newborns in which the harness slot is above the shoulders, ensure that the harness is in the bottom slots and the harness is snug.

  • The safety seat harness should fit the child snugly. The harness fits correctly if you cannot pinch a vertical fold on the harness. The harness will need to be readjusted with any change in the thickness of your child's clothing. The pinch test is 1 method to check the harness for a correct fit. To perform a pinch test:

  1. Grab the harness at the shoulder level.

  2. Try to pinch the harness together from top to bottom.

  • A harness clip, if available, must be at the mid-chest level to keep the harness positioned on the shoulders.

  • Any carry handle must be in the correct position, usually either around the top of the seat or under the seat.

  • The safety seat must be installed tightly in the vehicle. After installing the safety seat, you should check for correct installation by pulling the safety seat firmly from side to side and from the back of the vehicle to the front of the vehicle. A correctly installed safety seat should not move more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) forward, backward or sideways.

  • Infant car beds can be used instead of safety seats for low weight infants or infants with medical needs.

This information is based on guidelines created by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Laws and regulations regarding child auto safety vary from state to state. If you have questions or need help installing you car safety seat, find a certified child passenger safety technician. Lists of technicians and child seat fitting stations are available from the following websites:

  • www.nhtsa.org.

  • seatcheck.org.

Safety seat recommendations:

  • Replace a safety seat after a moderate or severe crash.

  • Never use a safety seat that is damaged.

  • Never use a safety seat that is older than 5 years.

  • Never use a safety seat with an unknown history.

  • If your vehicle is equipped with side curtain airbags, consult the vehicle's manual regarding child safety seat position.