36 answers

When to Switch Car Seats?

My youngest daughter is almot 11 months old and is currently in an infant carrier. She is really small for her age. She isn't even 15 pounds. But she is getting long and her legs are smashed against the seat? Is it too soon to switch her to a front facing seat or would it be ok?

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks everyone for your responses. I have moved Haley into a larger seat still rear facing. If she keeps up the same rate of weight gain she won't be able to turn around until she's at least two but safety first.

Featured Answers

I have a daughter who is almost 13 months and 16 pounds. Doctor says to keep her facing rear until at least she reaches 20 pounds, even though her legs are dangling over. It's safer for the child!

I would buy a bigger seat, but keep her rear facing. They make car seats that are rear facing and then when she is big enough can change to forward facing. A biggger seat may give her a little extra leg room. I would say 15 lbs. is still too small to face forward.

Thanks for asking this question! We also have a petite, yet very healthy, full-term girl who is only 16 pounds at a year. Yesterday, at the doc visit, we found her to have added more in inches AGAIN but still little weight! Healthy yet small, what to do, right :)?
We had bought the convertible seat and she seems happier even if she is kicking the seat. Safer for her neck and a few more pounds to go.
Nice to hear from another mom with a lightweight kiddo! Enjoy!

More Answers

It is actually Illinois State Law that your child remain rear facing until they are both one year old AND weigh 20lbs. Most convertible carseats (those that can face either forward or back) are made for kids from 5lbs up; the infant carrier isn't something we need for our babies, it just makes life easier! Britax makes FANTASTIC carseats at least 3 of their models are rated for kids 5lbs and up. I'd recommend checking out www.albeebaby.com for them as they tend to have great discounts on older patterns (one of our seats retailed at $270 and I paid $170), no tax and free shipping for everything over $100.

2 moms found this helpful

Hi L.,

I used to work in a pediatric medical office, so I know quite a lot about child safety. You SHOULD NOT face her forward UNTIL she weighs at least 20 pounds and is over the age of 1 year old. While it may start to be uncomfortable, her body is not ready. You can always talk with your doctor though.

1 mom found this helpful

She needs to switch seats as she is probably too tall for the infant carrier. Check her height and your owners manual to make sure. The guide for if she is too big usually has more to do with where her head is hitting the shell of the seat (ears must be at least 1 inch below the seat shell). But she CANNOT and should not face forward yet. The MINIMUM for forward facing is 1 year and 20 lbs, but the new recommendation is to keep them rear facing to the max rear facing limit on your carseat. It is much much much safer this way.

*** Please do not worry about her legs, even if she is tall. Some of the people here say, "my ped said....". It is always more important to protect the spine. They are best protected for the majority of crashes if you keep them rear facing as long as possible. They can bend/cross their legs. There haven't been any documented cases of a child being injured because their legs were touching the seat. And even if legs did get broken, it is relatively minor compared to streching/breaking a spine or neck.

Start looking into some rear facing convertible seats that can be flipped forward facing at the appropriate time.

Some good safe ones that you will get your moneys worth out of and can also rear face: Britax Marathon, First Years True Fit, Evenflo Triumph Advance, or there is a new one on the market I am looking into getting my 14 month old, the Graco My Ride 65. These seats all rear face to 30-40 lbs, then you can flip them once they reach the rear facing limit of the seat, and all these seats also allow you to forward face your older child in a 5 point harness to a higher weight limit (ie not switching the child to a booster seat at 40 lbs cause most kids are not ready for this at that weight and it is safer to keep them in a harness). Some of these seats are pricey, but if you are going to be using them for 6 years or so, you DEFINETLY get your money's worth. Britax is the gold standard, but other seats are just as safe, just may not have as many bells and whistles or may not be as easy to use.

You can visit this website for some wonderful info about carseat safety. Lots of carseat safety techs on there and they are happy to answer any question you may have.

1 mom found this helpful


My son was over 20lbs at 6 months old, so he outgrew his infant seat very quickly. Since the laws in most states (we lived in Massachusetts at the time) require the child to be 20lbs AND 1 year old before forward facing, we purchased a convertible seat that could be rear and forward facing. Since he was also very long, the convertible seat allowed for him to sit rear facing without his legs being cramped. Once he turned one (he was just about 26 lbs), we simply turned the car seat around.

We purchased the Evenflo Triumph. Depending on the color and all the "bells and whistles", it runs from $120 to $180. The seat is very large, so if you have a smaller vehicle, it may not fit. I have a Trailblazer and my husband has a Cobalt. The seat is very difficult to put into the Cobalt, but fits very well in the Trailblazer.

If you're worried about size, Babies R Us will let you see if a seat will fit in your car before purchasing.

Good luck!

The Illinois State Law is 1year of age and 20 pounds. They have to be both. I love the convertible car seats that go from newborn to 80 or 100 pounds as a booster. Hope this helps.

Your car seat should say somewhere what heights and weights are allowed for its type, either in the manual or simply printed on the side of the seat. I think its about 28 or 29 inches but dont quote me.

A baby needs to be a certain weight and height to be turned forward, not just turning 1. Its not the law, but its both the Academy of Pediatrics and the car seat manufacturers recommendation.

What kind of seat will you put her in? Nearly every forward facing seat on the market is also designed to face backward. They are called convertible car seats and can be used from newborns until they are ready for just a booster seat. The main reason for an infant seat is that it pops out of the base, a convenience. Both my girls were very tall- the first had to be switched out of her infant seat at 4mos, the second at 6mos.

Hi L.!

Check your carrier for the height and weight limits. We had to switch our twin boys when they were six months old because they were too long. They are now 7 months old and still in a rear-facing car seat, but it's one that will eventually turn into a booster.


you can switch her to the larger seat but it needs to remain rear facing until she's a year old. in her situation since shes so small i'd ask the ped. when to have the seat face forward. they are safer facing the rear b/c of the muscles in their neck are not strong enough in an accident. good luck.

My kids were long and lightweight, too. Though your baby has outgrown her infant seat, she still should ride facing backward until she is one year old AND weighs 20 lbs. (Besides, infant carriers are not made to face forward.)
Have you looked at convertible car seats? Britax is an excellent brand. Consider the Britax Roundabout model, if you have not done so already. You can install it facing backward. Once Baby is ready, you can switch it to the forward-facing position. I believe this seat is good for babies up to 40 lbs. You might have a better fit with a Britax model for smaller babies. I think the Diplomat is the one that comes to mind. www.britaxusa.com has a good comparison feature. Otherwise, you will find these seats at Babies r Us.

Good luck. There should be some good seats out there for you.


Mine is 6 months and outgrew his car seat a while ago. My seat is good until 26 in length and 20 lbs in weight. We put him in a convertible car seat which is good for 5 lbs to I think 26 lbs. You still need to put the car seat in the rear facing position for a few more months. It is a safer position. Stay safe.

It sounds like it is time to switch her to a convertible car seat that can face to the front or to the rear. She should definitely still be rear-facing due to her size and age, but a new seat should give her some more leg room. It's also important that the baby's head is not above the back of the car seat, but this shouldn't be a problem in a convertible seat.
It is safest to keep them rear-facing for as long as possible - some countries like Sweden recommend up a rear-facing seat up to age 3. A friend of mine has a larger-than-average baby and her doctor told her to keep her little one rear-facing until she met the age/weight requirements. He said "We can fix broken legs. We can't fix a broken neck."

it is WAY too soon especially if she is small. The AAP now recommends at least 2 of until the car seat allows. If you get a convertible they will rear face for just over 30 lbs. SInce she is small you may get lucky and she may be able to rear face until she is 3! It is VERY dangerous for a child under 3 to get in a crash that is from the front if they are forward facing. http://www.car-safety.org/
heres a video that shows the crash tests both ways http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8gU9zzCGA8

o and dont worry about her legs, they are not uncomfortable and no child has been injured in an accident because their legs were smashed.

Check the car seat requirements for length.

I am keeping my daughter rear facing until she is 35 lbs. It is the safest.


My son is 10 months and we moved him from the infant carrier to another seat that is rear facing, because our doc siad no about going to the foward facing yet. If you go to Babies R us or another store they will give you the car seats that she can use. They are a little bigger so she will not be as scrunched. My litte onei s 20 lbs & 28 inches long. We got the Evenflow symphony I think. It was black and grey.
My girlfriends daughter was in her refacing longer because she was not 20 lbs until after her 18month visit.
Good luck

Hi L.,

Yes! It's definitely too soon to switch her to a front facing seat. She needs to be both 1 year old AND 20 lbs. first. Plus, it's better to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. However, it does sound that your daughter (like mine) has maybe exceeded the maximum length for the infant seat (it should say on the seat or on the manual). So, I would recommend switching her to a convertible car seat in the rear-facing position. These can accommodate children up to greater lengths/weights than the infant seats, even in the rear-facing position. If you don't already have one from your older daughter, I recommend the Britax Roundabout.


My son is 17 mths and still rear facing b/c he's so light. Maybe he'll meet the 20 lbs mark at his 18 mth check up - he's getting close.

Just because I've read so much about this, I'll respond..If your daughter is getting too long for the infant carrier then it is time to switch car seats, but it's NOT time to facr her forward. She needs to be in a convertible car seat. These are the ones that can be used facing forward or backward and they allow for taller (longer) children to be seated comfortably and safely. It is recommended that children stay facing backward as long as possible. The one year age and 20 lb. weight is the MINIMUM for turning children forward, not the mark when you should automatically do it.
An EXCELLENT car seat to consider is the Alpha Omega Elite. It is aptly named because it can be used from the beginning to the end. (5lbs. -100 lbs.) It has great safety features and won't break the bank like the Britax seats. You can shop around the MOST you'll pay for it is $160.

Hi- yes she is too young and too small, weight wise. Babies may have control of their necks but not enough strength should you get into an accident with them. The weight for from facing is 20 or 22 lbs. You can upgrade her to the convertible carseat and keep it rear facing until she weighs enough and that might give her some more leg room. If you are not sure talk to you child's doctor and to the fire department, I am sure they have terrific information and suggestions with regards to the safe travel of our children.

Have a great day.


L., I have found the best way to answer this question is to go directly to the manufacturer. Car seats are all made differently and the manufacturers are best suited to answer your questions.


Your daughter needs to be one and 20 lbs to go forward facing. Her is a great blog and I know she will answer any questions you have. http://www.carseatnanny.blogspot.com/
My son is big, he is 19 months and is 30 lbs. and still seat rear facing. I know it is safer for him and he doesn't seems to mind that he has to keep his legs bent.


I just switched but I have to still have it rear facing. My son is 9 months. The Illinois state police have officers who can help make sure it is safe. They also have days they give away correct car seats at their safety checks.


As a grandmother and former mother I believe that as long she is old enough to have a regular car seat. just make sure she fits in ok and can be secured so she can not get out of it..

Thanks for asking this question! We also have a petite, yet very healthy, full-term girl who is only 16 pounds at a year. Yesterday, at the doc visit, we found her to have added more in inches AGAIN but still little weight! Healthy yet small, what to do, right :)?
We had bought the convertible seat and she seems happier even if she is kicking the seat. Safer for her neck and a few more pounds to go.
Nice to hear from another mom with a lightweight kiddo! Enjoy!


We have a Britax car seat that was permenantly locked into the car, but I would consider a "toddler seat" (not infant carrier). I'd imagine this is something similar to what you currently have your toddler in.

We switched our kids into this seat, but still rear facing until they met both the height and weight requirements to turn forward (listed on the manufacturer's website and on the seat information sticker). I would suggest if you don't have one already, go get another one. We used this seat until our kids were 4 or 5 and ready for a "booster" seat. We picked one that had been rated very well for safety AND weight limits so we wouldn't have to buy another. Another consideration for a toddler seat that was important to us was that it had "side head restraints". Most car accidents are not head on, so having side impact prevention is very important.

Best of luck.

I had the same problem with my son. He was only 20 pounds at 18 months. We just recently changed him to a front facing car seat at 20 months when I had my second son. Our doctor said we should wait until at least 20 pounds, if not 25 to make sure that his spine and neck were fully developed. Even though their legs are a little cramped, it's important to wait at least until they are 1 year old.

keep her rear facing until she hits her first birthday. Use the next step carseat that is bigger but keep it rear facing until she hits the 12 month mark and her muscles are strong. Safer for her to be rear facing until that time to prevent serious neck injuries in case of an accident.

I, too had a very petite little girl. We kept her rear facing until she was over two. She was tall enough and old enough to turn around, but she was a "light-weight". We left her facing the rear until she was several pounds past the 20 pound minimum. She was never fussy about facing backward, or bending her legs. That was what she always knew so it didn't bother her at all. Most of the studies I found at the time all had the opinion that rear facing for as long as possible was safest, even for kids who met the age height and weight requirements to face forward.

most front faceing carseats are for 20 pound and up but if u could find one for her weight it should be okay. you can call you local police dept. to find out what is legal also. hope this helps

I have a daughter who is almost 13 months and 16 pounds. Doctor says to keep her facing rear until at least she reaches 20 pounds, even though her legs are dangling over. It's safer for the child!

This happened to me. My daughter (who is now six) was under weight but her legs were hitting the back of the seat. My ped do told me that she needed to stay rear facing. This really bothered me because I really didn't think that it seemed safe to have her legs hitting. I did a child seat safety check with our Village police. The police officer told me that it is very dangerous when they are rear facing and their feet can touch the seat. He said that if someone were to ever rear end me (the most common of all accidents) her legs could go up in to her stomach and cause broken bones and other serious injuries. We switched her right there in the parking lot.

Read the manual...it will tell you at what length she needs to be out of the carrier. Time for a convertable seat that also faces backwards

I would buy a bigger seat, but keep her rear facing. They make car seats that are rear facing and then when she is big enough can change to forward facing. A biggger seat may give her a little extra leg room. I would say 15 lbs. is still too small to face forward.

There are many car seats that are infant seats also. Go to WalMart or Toy R Us and try her out in the different seats. I am sure you will find on to meet your need. I have a granddaughter that is small for her age and she has been in a car seat for over a year and she is 2 now and the seat is secure and keeps even my wiggly grandbaby in her seat comfortably. It is a Graco I think with a bar that pulls down over her head and fastens between her legs. You can adjust the straps to 3 different heights and the tension can be adjusted from the front for when she is wearing a coat that is thick or a thin jacket without having to take it out and adjust the straps. It also has a removable seat cover that can be machine washed with ease. I can't stand to see children in dirty car seats. Just make sure you install the car seat correctly and use the seat anchor if you have them in your car. They are great and very secure. Seatbelts are hard to fasten in car seats but those seat anchors that are in the back seats of most newer cars, vans and SUV's are great.

You should wait until she is 1 yr. AND 20 lbs., not one or the other.

I would ask your doc. Mine told me to move my daughter as her legs were smashed in and she told me that was a problem because if there was a crash, her legs were at risk. But then my daughter was in the 95th percentile for weight and height at the time. Also, I already had her in the convertible facing rearways, but her legs were too long. I had wanted to keep her facing rearways after her first bday as I had read it was safer but the doctor told me it was equally bad for her legs to be so constrained. I would get a good convertible eg. Britax Blvd or Britax Marthaton and put it in rear facing to see if it will work for her. If she is still squashed legwise, then ask her doctor.

According to Illinois state law children may not be turned around until they are over 12 months and over 20 lbs. Many pediatricians even recommend that children should be larger than 20 lbs before facing forward. You can get a combination seat that is a bit larger where your daughter could sit more upright that can be turned around when she is big enough. Neither of my children were big enough to turn around until they were over 2 years old.

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.