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July 18, 2024

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Keep Babe in Rear-Facing Seat Longer

If you have a choice, keeping your child rear-facing as long as possible is the best way to keep him safe.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)'s new guidelines may affect the way you drive your baby around. The APP used to recommend infants use rear-facing seats until they were 2, but the new guidelines state "as long as possible."


The "right" age for switching your baby from rear-facing to forward-facing is now related to the seat's max height and weight limitations — even if the child's older than 2. That means kids as old as 4 can use rear-facing car seats if they haven't maxed out the seat requirements. Moving your child from rear-facing to front-facing is a welcomed milestone since you can see your child in your rearview mirror. But Benjamin Hoffman, M.D., lead author of the new policy statement says it shouldn't be rushed.     

"Car manufacturers got really creative and innovative and started making car seats that had higher height and weight limits. So they could accommodate kids for longer periods," he says. "The crux of this policy is basically the same as the policy from before except without any mention of the age of 2. We can't say that 2 is any better or different than 1, 1-and-a-half, and 3. So really the recommendation remains the same: it's staying rear-facing for as long as you possibly can up until the limits of the seat," he says. 

Highlights of the new guidelines include:

  • Infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. Most convertible seats have limits that will allow children to ride rear-facing for 2 years or more.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible, until they reach the height and weight limits for their seats. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds or more.
  • When children exceed these limits, they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly. This is often when they have reached at least 4 feet 9 inches in height and are 8 to 12 years old.
  • When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.
  • All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

About the Author

Susan Swindell Day, Editor

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.