From the moment you find out you’re expecting your first child, one of the first items on your list of things to buy is a car seat. Not only is using a car seat the law, it’s the best way to keep your child safe while traveling. A child seat reduces the risk of your child suffering a fatal injury. But many parents wonder how long their child should remain in a car seat, and here we will provide an overview on car seats and when it’s finally time to remove them from your car.
The first thing you need to remember is that the car seat isn’t going to protect your child unless it’s installed properly. Once you’ve selected your car set, it’s best to try them out, and in order to ensure proper installation, you can look into child seat inspection stations the federal government has set up across the country.
The first type of car seat you will buy for your child is an infant-only seat. These seats are made to protect children until they reach about 35 pounds, but each model may slightly differ. These seats are rear-facing, as the back of the seat helps to cradle the baby’s neck, head, and torso. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s recommended that both infants and toddlers remain in a rear-facing seat until the age of two, but again, some car seat manufacturer’s guidelines may differ slightly. The best thing you can do for your child is to keep them in a rear-facing seat as long as you can.
Many infant-only seats double as rockers, chairs, and carriers when not in use as a car seat, detaching from the base. This is an added convenience, as the base of the car seat can remain installed inside your vehicle.
Once your child is no longer able to sit safely in a rear-facing seat, it’s time for him to move to a forward-facing seat with harness seatbelt. Your child should stay in this seat until he reaches about 80 pounds, and again, it depends on the model of the car seat.
Some forward-facing seats are what’s called a combination car seat, which allows you to remove the harness and convert the car seat into a booster seat that relies on the car’s seat belt. In order for this to be safe for your child, he must exceed the weight and height restrictions that come with your forward-facing seat.
The last type of car seat you will use, as discussed above, is the booster seat. Each state has its own laws on the books about the requirements for a child in a booster seat, and most mandate that a child remains in a booster seat until the age of 8, weighing up to 80 pounds and being at least 4 feet 9 inches tall. This could mean your child is in a booster seat until the age of 12. While many older children may balk at the idea of being in a booster seat during his pre-teen years, it’s imperative you impose this rule, as it is for the safety of your child.