The guidelines about what sort of car seat to use, and when to upgrade from a rear facing car seat to a front front facing one, are something that causes confusion for a lot of parents.
For many years, the most widely accepted guidelines were that a child should be put in a front facing car seat from the age of one. It has only been in the last few years that those guidelines have changed, and a lot of parents are unsure about how the new guidelines work. Should their child stay in a rear facing car seat even if their legs are so long they can touch the back of the chair that their seat is on? What about if their child is getting too heavy for a toddler seat?
Convenience and Safety
There is a lot to be said for the convenience of front-facing seats. It is easier to get your child in and out of a front facing car seat, but that convenience comes at a price. It is important to remember that the rear facing child car seats are designed to support your child’s head and neck, and also to prevent damage to their arms and legs in the event of a car crash. A front facing seat offers much less protection, and is primarily there to act as a booster so that the main seat belt can do a better job. If your child is still small and light, they are better off in a rear facing seat.
The most important thing, however, is that whatever seat you use is properly installed. Some car seats are installed using the car’s existing seat belt while others use a LATCH system which involves using anchors and tethers to hold the seat in place. If you do not secure the seat correctly, then in the event of a crash it could come loose, and become a hazard to both you and your child.
The LATCH system is something that is available in most modern cars now, and it is very easy to use. Take a moment or two to familiarize yourself with the system, and make sure that your child’s car seat is secure in the car. If the seat came with a base, it is a good idea to install the base and then leave it in the car permanently, simply unhooking the child seat when you want to take the seat out of the car to use it with your stroller.
Front-facing seats are very useful for older children, and you should encourage your child to keep using them until they become tall enough and heavy enough that a proper seatbelt will fit them correctly. Do not give in to your child’s desire to sit in a “proper seat” like their older siblings or parents do. A booster seat or a front-facing child seat is an important piece of safety apparatus, and one that could save your child’s life one day.