Pediatrician - Wall
3350 Highway 138 Building 2 Suite 126
Wall, NJ 07719

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September 20, 2016
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Car Seats: Information for Families


​One of the most important jobs you have as a parent is keeping your child safe when riding in a vehicle. Each year, thousands of young children are killed or injured in car crashes. Proper use of car seats helps keep children safe. But with so many different seats on the market, many parents find this overwhelming.

The type of seat your child needs depends on several things, including your child's age and size and the type of vehicle you have. Read on for more information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about choosing the most appropriate car seat for your child.

Types of Car Seats at a Glance:

This chart is a quick guide on where to start your search. It's important to continue your research to learn about each seat you use


Car Seat Installation Information: Seat Belts & LATCH

Car seats may be installed with either the vehicle's seat belt or LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system. 

What is LATCH?

LATCH is an attachment system for car seats. Lower anchors can be used instead of the seat belt to install the seat, and many parents find them easier to use in some cars. The top tether improves safety provided by the seat and is important to use for all forward-facing seats, even those installed using the vehicle seat belt. These systems are equally safe, but in some cases it may be easier to install the car seat using one or the other.

Vehicles with the LATCH system have lower anchors located in the back seat, where the seat cushions meet. Tether anchors are located behind the seat, either on the panel behind the seat (in sedans) or back of the seat, ceiling, or floor (in most minivans, SUVs, and hatchbacks). All car seats have attachments that fasten to these anchors. Nearly all passenger vehicles and all car seats made on or after September 1, 2002, are equipped to use LATCH.

All lower anchors are rated for a maximum weight of 65 pounds (total weight includes car seat and child). Parents should check the car seat manufacturer's recommendations for maximum weight a child can be to use lower anchors. New car seats have the maximum weight printed on their label.

If you install a car seat using your vehicle's seat belt:

You must make sure the seat belt locks to help get a tight fi t. In most newer cars, you can lock the seat belt by pulling it all the way out and then allowing it to retract to keep the seat belt tight around the car seat. Additionally, many car seats have built-in lock-offs to lock the belt without having to lock the seatbelt as well. Refer to the vehicle owner's manual for details about how your seat belt locks.

The safest place to ride for all children younger than 13 years is the back seat. If possible, it may be best to ride in the middle of the back seat. However, it is sometimes difficult to install a car seat tightly in the middle if the vehicle seat is narrow or uneven. Also, most vehicles do not have lower anchors for the middle seating position. It is safest to put the car seat in a position where you can install it tightly with either the lower anchor system or seat belt; in some cases, this may be on either side of the back seat rather than the middle. A child passenger safety technician (CPST) can help you decide which place is best to install your child's car seat in your vehicle.

Rear-Facing Car Seats for Infants & Toddlers

The AAP recommends that all infants ride rear facing starting with their first ride home from the hospital. All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 2 years of age or, preferably, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer.

Types of Rear-Facing Car Seats:

Three types of rear-facing seats are available: rear-facing–only, convertible, and 3-in-1. When children reach the highest weight or length allowed by the manufacturer of their rear-facing–only seat, they should continue to ride rear-facing in a convertible or 3-in-1 seat.

Rear-facing–only seats

  • Are used for infants up to 22 to 45 pounds, depending on the model.
  • Are small, have carrying handles, and sometimes come as part of a stroller system.
  • Usually come with a base that can be left in the car. The seat clicks into and out of the base so you don't have to install it each time you use it. Parents can buy more than one base for additional vehicles.
  • Should be used only for travel (not sleeping, feeding, or any other use outside the vehicle).

Convertible seats (used rear facing)

  • Can be used rear facing and, later, "converted" to forward-facing for older children when they outgrow the weight limit, the length limit, or both for rear facing. This means the seat can be used longer by your child. They are bulkier than infant seats, however, and do not come with carrying handles or separate bases.
  • Many have higher limits in rear-facing weight (up to 40–50 pounds) and height than rear-facing–only seats, which make them ideal for bigger babies and toddlers.
  • Have a 5-point harness that attaches at the shoulders, at the hips, and between the legs.
  • Should be used only for travel (not sleeping, feeding, or any other use outside the vehicle).

3-in-1 seats (used rear facing)

  • Can be used rear facing, forward facing, or as a belt-positioning booster. This means the seat may be used longer by your child as your child grows.
  • Are often bigger in size, so it is important to check that they fit in the vehicle while rear facing.
  • Do not have the convenience of a carrying handle or separate base; however, they may have higher limits in rear-facing weight (up to 40–50 pounds) and height than rear-facing–only seats, which make them ideal for bigger babies and toddlers.

Installation Tips for Rear-Facing Seats:

Always read the vehicle owner's manual and the car seat manual before installing the seat.

When using a rear-facing seat, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Place the harnesses in your rear-facing seat in slots that are at or below your baby's shoulders.
  • Ensure that the harness is snug (you cannot pinch any slack between your fingers when testing the harness straps over the baby's shoulders) and that the retainer clip is placed at the center of the chest, level to your child's armpits.
  • Make sure the car seat is installed tightly in the vehicle with either LATCH or a locked seatbelt. If you can move the seat at the belt path more than an inch side to side or front to back, it's not tight enough.
  • Never place a rear-facing seat in the front seat of a vehicle that has an active front passenger air bag. If the air bag inflates, it will hit the back of the car seat, right where your baby's head is, and could cause serious injury or death.
  • If you are using a convertible or 3-in-1 seat in the rear-facing position, make sure the seat belt or lower anchor webbing is routed through the correct belt path. Check the instructions that came with the car seat to be sure.
  • Make sure the seat is at the correct angle so your infant's head does not flop forward. Check the instructions to find out the correct angle for your seat and how to adjust the angle if needed. All rear-facing seats have built-in angle indicators or adjusters.
  • Check the car seat instructions and vehicle owner's manual about whether the car seat may contact the back of the vehicle seat in front of it.
  • Still having trouble? You may have a certified child passenger safety technician (CPST) in your area who can help. If you need installation help, see the end of this publication for information on how to locate a CPST.
  • Watch the Video: How to Install a Rear-Facing Car Seat â€‹

Common Questions about Rear-Facing Seats:

What if my baby's feet touch the back of the vehicle seat?

  • Children can bend their legs easily and will be comfortable in a rear-facing seat. Injuries to the legs are very rare for children facing the rear.

What do I do if my baby slouches down or to the side in the car seat?

  • Blanket rolls may be placed on both sides of your infant. A small diaper or blanket may be placed between the crotch strap and your infant too. Do not place padding under or behind your infant or use any sort of car seat insert unless it came with the seat or was made by the manufacturer of the seat. (See Figure 1)

Why should I dress my baby in thinner layers of clothing before strapping him or her into a car seat?

  • Bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress in a crash and leave the straps too loose to restrain your child, leading to increased risk of injury. Ideally, dress your baby in thinner layers and tuck a coat or blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps if needed. See Winter Car Seat Safety Tips from the AAP

Do preemies need a special car seat?

  • A car seat should be approved for a baby's weight. Very small babies who can sit safely in a semi-reclined position usually fit better in rear-facing–only seats. Premature infants should be tested while still in the hospital to make sure they can sit safely in a semi-reclined position. Babies who need to lie flat during travel should ride in a car bed that meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. They should be tested while in the hospital to make sure they can lie safely in the car bed.

Forward-Facing Car Seats for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Always read the vehicle owner's manual and the car seat manual before installing the seat. Any child who has outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for his convertible seat should use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by his car seat manufacturer. It is best for children to ride in a seat with a harness as long as possible, at least to 4 years of age. If your child outgrows a seat before reaching 4 years of age, consider using a seat with a harness approved for higher weights and heights.

Types of Car Safety Restraints:

Five types of car safety restraints can be used forward facing:

  • Convertible seats: Seats can "convert" from rear-facing to forward-facing. These include 3-in-1 seats.
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3350 Highway 138 Building 2 Suite 126,
Wall, NJ 07719