When to turn the car seat around is a big question. In this post, we attempt to answer all of those forward-facing questions.

Deciding when to turn a car seat forward can be challenging for many safety-conscious parents. This is true, especially since much conflicting information is presented to parents on this issue. In this article, we’ll cover all your forward-facing car seat questions and more!

In general, the NHTSA recommends children stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But what are the specifics?

When To Turn A Car Seat Around?

Knowing when to turn a car seat forward can be difficult, but weight is the best indicator. You should look at your car seat’s specifications on weight for rear-facing infants and children.

If your child weighs less than the highest weight listed for rear-facing, you shouldn’t switch your car seat forward. If your child weighs more than that upper weight, it may be time to switch.

Typically, your child will be around 22-35 pounds when they outgrow a rear-facing only seat. This weight is higher for convertible seats at 35-40 pounds. For 3-in-1 seats, the limit is usually around 40-50 pounds.

Always check your specific car seat’s instructions prior to turning your child forward.

Children should switch forward if their head is close to the seat’s top. They risk head injury if their head reaches within an inch of the top of the seat. In a frontal crash, internal parts of the car could hit your child’s head. Ideally, your baby’s head should rest 2 inches below the top of the seat.

Some car seats with more extensive height ranges can safely seat children rear-facing over 40 inches! It’s essential to monitor your child’s growth, their fit in the seat, and your car seat’s guidelines.

Your child should be at least 2 years old before you consider turning the seat forward. According to the AAP, all infants and newborns should ride rear-facing regardless of the circumstances.

Riding forward facing earlier than 2 can be dangerous due to accident risks and spinal cord injuries.

Children younger than 2 years old don’t have developed neck bones or muscles that can protect their spinal cord. This is why it’s important to keep them rear facing.

Consider turning a car seat forward if your child:

*Is at least 2 years old

*Has a height that places their head within 2 inches of the car seat’s top

*Has a weight that exceeds the limitations on rear-facing with your car seat

When to Turn a Car Seat Around?

Turning a car seat around from front-facing might be a good idea if your child is still younger than 2 or has an infant/baby. You should also consider it if your child doesn’t meet the maximum weight for your car seat in rear-facing mode. Many parents turn car seats forward too early based on incorrect data or conflicting general guidelines.

If your child weighs less than 35-40 pounds in a convertible seat, you should turn them back rear-facing. If your child weighs less than 40-50 pounds in a 3-in-1 seat, you may also want to turn them around.

The best thing to do is go by your car seat’s specifications and turn your child according to those guidelines. When your child outgrows their rear-facing only seat, you may consider switching to another seat that works rear-facing for longer.

Height Consideration: When To Turn Car Seat Forward 

Height is difficult to apply to very young children when it comes to car seat regulations. You may turn your car seat around if your child is much shorter than your car seat’s front-facing limit.

You should turn the car seat if your child is shorter than the rear-facing limitations. Generally, your child can sit rear-facing with 2 inches of space before the top of the seat.

Children can sit in some car seats rear-facing above 40 inches, so following your car seat’s guidelines are important.

If your child has long legs, you might be tempted to turn them forward early for comfort. It’s best to resist this urge, especially if your child doesn’t exceed the maximum weight or height for rear-facing. Children often fold or cross their legs when they are longer, making for a comfortable ride.

Children also don’t face leg or foot injury risks rear-facing, but this is common in forward-facing children. It’s safer to keep them rear-facing. There are even rear-facing car seats that extend legroom if you feel your child needs it!

Another helpful thing to keep in mind is that many states have specific regulations about rear-facing seats and children’s ages.

Some states require children under 1 year old, or less than 20 pounds, must be in a rear-facing seat.

Other states require children under 2 years old to be in a rear-facing seat. Look below to see if your state has any of these requirements!

States that require children under 1 year old or weighing less than 20 pounds to be in a rear-facing seat:

*Alabama

*Alaska

*Colorado

*Iowa

*Louisiana

*New Mexico

*Tennessee

*Vermont

*Wisconsin

States that require children under 2 years old to be in a rear-facing seat:

*California

*Connecticut

*Nebraska

*New Jersey

*New York (Effective 11/01/2019)

*Oklahoma

*Oregon

*Pennsylvania

*Rhode Island

*South Carolina

*Virginia

Otherwise, consider turning a car seat back to rear-facing if your child:

*Is younger than 2

*Does not exceed the weight or height limits for rear-facing with your car seat

How Much Should a Baby Weigh to Face Forward?

You should switch your baby forward facing when they reach the maximum weight for rear-facing with their car seat.

This weight is usually around 22-35 pounds for rear-facing only seats and 35-40 pounds for convertible seats. For 3-in-1 seats, the limit is usually around 40-50 pounds.

Overall, these weights vary from car seat to car seat. Always check your car seat’s manual or contact the manufacturer for details about the maximum weight for rear-facing use.

Weight Limit for Rear-Facing Children:

*Usually 22-35 pounds for rear-facing only seats

*In general, 35-40 pounds for convertible seats

*Usually 40-50 pounds for 3-in-1 seats

*Check the manual or manufacturer for your car seat’s specifications

When to Switch to a Front Facing Car Seat?

Many parents look forward to switching their child forward-facing, but this is something you should take your time with. Children are much safer rear facing, so keeping them in that position for as long as possible is important.

You should only switch to forward facing if your child exceeds their car seat’s weight and height limits. This is generally met after they are 2 years old.

Children weighing more than 22-35 pounds in a rear-facing only seat may have outgrown that seat. Considering another rear-facing style seat might be a good idea, especially if they are younger than 2.

Children weighing 35-40 pounds in convertible seats and 40-50 pounds in 3-in-1 seats may be ready to switch.

Children with less than 2 inches of clearance above their head rear-facing may be ready for switching forward. Rear-facing only car seats usually work with babies up to 36 inches tall.

Larger car seats can seat children up to 40 inches rear-facing. Checking your car seat’s specifications for height is the safest way to determine when to switch.

Switch to a Front Facing Car Seat if your child:

*Meets the specified weight limit for rear-facing with your car seat

*Exceeds height specifications for rear-facing with your car seat

*Has a height that allows their head to reach within 2 inches of the top of the seat

Only when these conditions are met should a parent switch to forward facing. Age limitations are not a solid basis for making the switch because children vary in size.

Final Thoughts

Switching your child from rear to forward facing is very exciting, but rushing this transition could be a better idea. Rear-facing children are statistically safer in life-threatening accidents, making it the ideal position for your child.

You should switch only after height, and weight limitations are met for your child’s rear-facing car seat. If you feel that you’ve switched your child’s seat too early, it’s always possible to turn them back around!

We hope this article has clarified any rear or forward facing questions you may have had!

Let us know if you have any comments below!

 

Author

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren

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Keren Simanova

Welcome to my car seat blog! As a mom of 3, I put together with other hard-working moms a highly informative one-stop car seat resource, full with many reviews and buyer guides. I hope you find it invaluable. Thank you for trusting me & my team! - Keren