Consider both the age and the size of the child.
Follow these general rules:
- Keep babies rear facing as long as possible.
- Keep small children in a seat with a harness as long as possible.
- Keep older children in a belt-positioning booster as long as possible.
Newborns may ride in an infant-only seat (most certified for rear-facing use only up to 20-22 lbs, depending on the model) or a convertible seat (certified for rear-facing use up to 30-35 lbs and forward-facing use up to 40 lbs or more).
Babies should ride rear facing as long as possible to protect the spine.
Older babies should continue riding in a rear-facing convertible seat as long as possible. Check the maximum rear-facing weight shown in the instructions (likely 30-35 lbs).
- Convertible seats have been designed with three harness style: five-point, T-shield, or tray shield. A 5-point harness has several advantages for a child of any age or size. The straps are placed on the child's shoulders and low on the hips, so that crash forces are absorbed by the strongest parts of the child's body instead of the abdomen.
Children from 1 year to at least 40 lbs
After age 1, a child may ride in a forward-facing safety seat. For best protection, however, toddlers should continue to ride rear-facing as long as possible based on the weight limit shown in the instructions.
Children over 40 lbs
If a child is ready to stay properly seated without being held in place by a 5-point harness, a belt positioning booster seat is the next step.