Posts Tagged ‘front facing’

When to Turn the Car Seat

Monday, June 13th, 2016

When to Turn the Car SeatCar Seats. This is seriously a topic that before having kids, I never dreamed was the hot-button topic it seems to be now. I didn’t know until I started researching seat safety, especially when I was looking to purchase our first convertible seat. Then I found there are entire blogs, web pages and forums all solely dedicated to car seats.

The real discussions seem to start however, not with purchasing an infant seat or even a convertible seat, but when to turn your child from rear facing (RF in car seat forum land) to front facing (FF). Ultimately, the safest position in the car for your child to ride in is rear facing in the back row of seats (the airbags in the front seats are dangerous to children). Car seat safety experts want you to continue this as long as possible. Maybe until high school. (I’m joking). The minimum recommended age for turning your child to front facing is at the second birthday, but continuing to rear face until your child meets the height and/or weight maximum for their seat is the ideal scenario.

I think every parent wants their child to be as safe as can be. There are different roadblocks, however, that prevent many families from rear facing up until these seat limits. First is the size of the car, or at least of the back seat. Even larger cars and SUVs now have fairly small back seats, and many seats, when rear facing, take up quite a bit of room. Parents can usually accommodate this by installing the seat in the middle seat of the back row. This only works for one rear-facing child, however. Second is the weight and height maximums of the car seat. If your car seat is on the smaller size or your child is tall and/or heavy for their age, the limit can be reached quite rapidly.

Without purchasing a new car (minivan, anybody?), there are a couple ways to maximize the space that you do have. First, if you haven’t bought your car seat yet (or are looking to buy another), consider seats that are designed to take up less room while rear facing. Some of these seats also have optional wedges that can be purchased for underneath the seat, making the seat’s footprint in the car even smaller. Placing the bulkiest car seats in the center, and from there behind the shortest person in the front row (at my house, the non-center car seat always went behind my seat, as my legs are much shorter than my husband’s) is ideal. If you’re facing a small car seat issue (vs a small car issue), can you hand down your child’s current small seat to a younger sibling in the family and purchase a seat with higher RF maximums. This is not in every family’s budget, but it is an option for some.

Finally, like always, if you have installed a new seat or even just moved the current ones, consider having the installation inspected by a certified technician. Often, fire stations have employees that can do this for you for free.

Meaghan Howard is a stay-at-home mom to two sons. She found her car seat jenga skills improved by bounds after moving to Japan and needing to fit two rear-facing American car seats into her tiny Japanese car.