Car Seat Dilema

Updated on August 21, 2009
A.T. asks from Bloomington, IL
39 answers

Hi Mommas!
Here is my dilema: When I was pregnant I bought an infant car seat and what I thought was a convertible car seat.
My daughter is now 20 pounds and will be year old in 2 weeks. She is getting to big for the infant carrier carseat. So I got out the box of the convertible carseat I bought over a year ago and decided to install it in the car. When I got it out of the package I noticed it is not a convertible carseat. It is a front facing car seat. The box says 20-40 pounds. She fits the criteria for the carseat, but do you think one year old is too early to be front facing?
Do I need to go buy ANOTHER car seat? or is this one ok?
Thanks for your help!
A.

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So What Happened?

Thank you guys so much for all of your responses! I was so happy to hear from so many of you! So, right now she is still in her infant carrier carseat. I called the fire department and was directed to the Child Car Seat Saftey Department. They suggested that I leave her in the carrier until she reaches 22lbs (the limit). Then switch her to the new carseat. Since she is only 20 pounds right now, that gives me some time to make my decision about whether or not to front-face her. I am planning on pricing some covertibles and seeing if we can budget one in. It means so much to me to have some many of you for advice and support! You are all the greatest! Thank you so much!

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V.H.

answers from Chicago on

The law says they can be forward facing at 1yr and 20 lbs. They have to be both, not one or the other. So in 2 weeks you are fine to forward face her. This seat you have is still a car seat, not a booster seat? If it is a booster seat then I recommend you go and buy a car seat but it sounds like you have a carseat.

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M.V.

answers from Chicago on

I cannot believe some of the responses! You should NOT put a child forward facing until 1 year old and 20 pounds. As a matter of fact, the new recommendation is to keep children rear facing until closer to 2 years of age. Now I know I won't be able to do that, because my daughter (also 11 months) has long legs. Wait two more weeks!

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J.N.

answers from Peoria on

I am almost positive that I put my son front facing right around his 1st birthday...I think it was necessary, because at that point they don't like to be looking backwards anymore anyway. The only suggestion that I have is that you put it in the middle of the backseat because it is the safest place for them to be.

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P.F.

answers from Chicago on

You are going to get a myriad of answers to this, including many that say no way!!! Too Young! But only you know your child. The best way is to go to the fire dept and ask them. They know the car seat laws and safety. My son was ridiculously tall and could kick the seat at 6 months. Every time we put him in he kicked the seat loose. Did not seem safe to me so we flipped him around. It is important to know my son also walked at six months so neck strength and muscle control was not an issue. The fire dept said he was fine front facing. Every child is different so the ages, weights etc are a guide but safety must come first. I am NOT saying turn your child because I did. I am saying check with someone who really knows the safety facts. My son also came out of car seats very early because they lifted his head above the back of the regular seat and he had no head support behind his head, not safe in an accident. FYI--the fire dept wrote me a letter both times to keep in my glove box explaining that I had seen them and that they okayed the early "release" from the "proper" seat. I never had to use it but they said keep it handy in case I ever got pulled over or in an accident.

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S.M.

answers from Chicago on

We were going on a long car trip a few weeks before my son's first birthday. I called my Dr to see if we could turn the carseat around so he could watch the DVD with his older brother. The Dr told me it was fine as long as he was over 20lbs and he was so close to a year. So I think you are just fine. Just don't go driving around like a maniac [email protected]@@!!!

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S.S.

answers from Chicago on

Perhaps you could go to the local police or fire department or hospital, now that I think of it and ask them. Personally I think you should be fine because she doesn't know how to get it unlocked. If you think that could be a problem in the future put a couple of bucks away each week and buy a new car seat. Right now she might enjoy looking out the window,facing frontward etc. I will be interested in seeing what other moms say.

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G.W.

answers from Springfield on

I agree with Nicole J. The law in Illinois states the minimum height and weight requirement for a child to face forward is when the child is both 1-yr-old and 20lbs. This is said because by one year old, a child's neck muscles are developed enough to be able to withstand an impact. Some child-safety experts do recommend keeping children rear-facing for up to two years old, but that is just that, a recommendation, and not a requirement. And don't let others berate you for doing otherwise. I got my son a forward-facing seat as soon as he turned one. Not only had he outgrown his infant seat by a couple of pounds, but he was much too tall to continue to face the back of the seat - his little legs were all bunched up.

So A., it is your choice however you want to do it - turning her around is well within the law. If you feel she will be fine, and I'm sure she will be, then by all means use the car seat you already have! :)

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M.M.

answers from Chicago on

The new AAP guidelines are rear facing until 2 years. This is the safest place for her.

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C.M.

answers from Chicago on

The new recommendation is now 2 years before putting a child in a front-facing seat. However, that being said, my pediatrician told me there are very few children who can comfortably remain in a rear-facing seat for that long. Most are just too tall. We found our boys were MUCH happier once we put them in front-facing seats (right around 1 and definitely 20 lbs.).

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M.S.

answers from Chicago on

Hi there!
Hey, everyone is different when it comes to this - it is so interesting to see everyone's advice, suggestions, etc. I remember having my "little" guy in the infant seat - he was 10.7# when he was born, and I know I kept him in that infant carrier way to long, but it was soooo convenient (and note, I didn't feel like I was putting him in a dangerous position if God forbid I got into an accident cuz' his legs were too long), cuz he never kept them straight, and anyway....when I did convert him to the next step, I had gotten him the seat that goes up to 65 lbs. I still kept him rear facing because he wasn't a year, and he looked so small in it, but he was safe, etc. And then when he was a year, I turned it around to the front facing. (So, I only had 2 car SAFE seats). Too bad you can't return it, so you don't have to buy yet another one in another 2 years??? Unless you like it, then it is PERFECT, SAFE, and front facing would be fine...your choice, as long as baby is safe (which OBVIOUSLY you are not going to jeapordize)!!! I would go to the Police or Fire department though and make sure they put it in accurately. When I went the 1st time, the Fire guy game me a crazy statistic on what the percentage it is that people put their car seats in incorrectly - that would be my only suggestion!
Best of luck - and congrats, didn't the 1 year go by so fast!!!!
p.s. I laugh when my Mom tells me she threw the whole clan in the back seat, we would be jumping up and down, no car seats, no belts, no nothing...crazy! Take care!!!!

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D.B.

answers from Chicago on

No. The best advice I got was from a police officer doing a car seat saftey check. My daughter was a little over one and I had her rear facing. (she was not even 20lbs yet) Her feet were hitting the back seat when she was rear facing. The police officer told us that it was very dangerous to have their feet hitting the back of the seat. Most accidents are rear end. If we were hit from behind her legs could go up in to her stomach and could cause severe injuries. According to the officer, 20lbs is just a number to help parents judge. He told me that he wished there was a better education on this because parents are too caught up in what the "experts" say is best and common sense is often not used. He said a child should never be rear facing if their feet hit the seat. So, my best advice is to see if she fits, without her feet touching the back of the seat, before you go out and buy another car seat.

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I.J.

answers from Chicago on

Baby is too young for a convertible seat. Is this one still witn regulatory guidelines? You may be able to exchange it for one that you can use right now. It may not be usuable when she is of proper weight/age. Try trading with another mom, craigslist, etc.

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M.P.

answers from Chicago on

I think you are fine with the car seat you have. The year mark is not a magic nuber, but a guideline. I switched my kid before he was a year. It just look uncomfortable for him to be rear facing any longer. My thought was common sense tells me it's time!

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J.G.

answers from Chicago on

Hi A..

Please do not put your daughter in a forward facing carseat yet. She is still too young. Rear-facing is the safest thing for her, and you should try to keep her in that position for as long as possible--at least until she is 2 years old (and possibly longer) until she exceeds the weight requirements on the convertible carseat. It is unfortunate that you have to buy yet another carseat, but the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have done everything possible to keep your little one safe is priceless. Perhaps you can help offset the costs of the convertible car seat by selling the infant car seat and forward facing one on craigslist.

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N.J.

answers from Chicago on

They base most car seat and booster seats on weight and height more than age. All kids grow at very different rates and it is cruel to squish a kid in a rear facing car seat that won't fit. When my daughter was this age I asked my doctor's office and they said to go by weight. My cousin's 6 month old is as big as my 2 year old. Obviously he will need a bigger car seat. People seem to be very stirred by this issue. If your child fits the height and weight requirements for a forward facing seat then they may use it. They want to make sure all the restraints fit properly. I have heard about the new studies that say rear facing is best for as long as you can but I wouldn't spend money on a whole new car seat because of some fairly new studies since you are not breaking the law. Child safety restraints only have to fit and be installed properly. Look it up on the DMV website. In these financially hard times I wouldn't spend money I didn't have to. Good luck.

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T.G.

answers from Rockford on

Definitely invest in another convertible seat to keep her rear facing. Although I am much more concerned about the laws of physics than the legalities of car seat use, I agree that Illinois has the law that children must be properly restrained but doesn't state how. That said, there is not a child restraint out there that says that a child under the age of 1 can be forward facing. Many seats also have minimum height requirements too. I believe any seat made by Dorel (parent company for Eddie Bauer, Cosco, and Safety First) has a minimum height requirement of 34 inches before the child can forward face. The seats may be just fine for a forward facing child that is shorter than that. However, the company states that this was the min height at which their seats were crash tested. So basically using it with a smaller child is potentially making that child a crash test dummy - something that no parent would knowingly do, though sadly, many indavertently skip over that requirement.

Also, car seats expire. Most are good for 6 years from the date they are manufactured. This has to do with the breakdown of plastics due stresses from not only use, but simply exposure to changing temperatures - freezing winters and blistering summer days. Think how hot/cold it gets in your car/garage. Also, safety regulations change and improvements are made so it is best to not buy a seat until you really need it. I made this mistake more than once before I found out about this. I think I would try to sell the seat on Craigslist and use the money toward another one that can rearface her for a while more.

As for placing her in the center, that is a whole other issue. While it is technically the safest, that is not true if the seat doesn't fit there well. Also, there is a school of thought that the least protected child should go in the most protected seat (ie the middle). The least protected passenger is the one without a car seat, followed by the booster, followed by the harnessed forward facing, and most safe being rear facing. But, when you have multiple carseats (we have 3 in a dh's Focus)sometimes making them all fit dictates where they go.

And I can only just shake my head at the people who claim their kids will be fine as long as they drive carefully. All it takes is one distracted or drunk driver and your life could be changed forever. It is on the news all the time. I wonder if they ever ask themselves how they would feel if the unthinkable happened and they knew that they could have done more to prevent it.

I didn't learn about the importance of rearfacing until my 2nd child was over 2. I actually turned her seat back around (she was within all the rear facing requirements) and she could have cared less. She rode comfortably and safely that way until shortly before her third birthday. My 3rd child rode rearfacing until after 2. My 16 month old rides rear facing too. He has never known anything different. And even though he throws a tantrum sometimes, I won't compromise on this. And I know enough from experience that the tantrum has more to do with being restrained than being a certain direction. I tried flipping the other kids forward facing to curtail. It worked temporarily but before long they were just as mad about being strapped in their seats forward facing. They all grew out of the seat tantrums eventually, some taking longer than others. I know I have already written a ton, but I think these pictures are very interesting. They are comparisons of how a child's spine develops and really shows why rear facing is safest. http://www.windsorpeak.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=180970

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P.M.

answers from Chicago on

No need to buy a new carseat. One year old is not too young to be facing forward.

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S.B.

answers from Chicago on

I put my baby girl front facing at a year and she was fine. It never occurred to me that that wasn't the thing to do. I do remember how nice it was to finally be able to see her in the rear view and talk to her about things that we saw, etc. Really made car trips more fun. Good luck! S.

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J.W.

answers from Chicago on

My pediatrician said to go ahead and forward face at 20 pounds or 1 year, whichever comes LATER. Since she fits the criteria for the new seat, and she is almost too big for the infant carrier, I would go ahead and put her in the new seat after her first birthday. My son outgrew his infant carrier at 5 months, because he was too tall for the carrier. We switched him to the convertible car seat at 5 months (rear-facing, of course) and then forward facing on his first birthday (he was 24 pounds and super tall). He loved being switched to the forward facing because it offered different views of the world. Kids are so expensive, I wouldn't waste any more money buying a new seat. Good luck!

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J.J.

answers from Chicago on

As long as she meets the height and weight requirements she' ll be fine. We put our twins girls in forward facing car seats when they were one and all was fine. We did get them something to support their heads for when they fell asleep.

A.F.

answers from Chicago on

The police woman who came to our house and installed our car seats told us that the 1 year & 20 lbs is that they must meet BOTH CRITERIA and that is the absolute SOONEST they should be turned to forward facing. That it is in fact fine to leave them rear-facing until later on. We turned out daughter (now 2) at 14 months. Our son is larger (20 lbs already at 9 mos) and we will still likely leave him rear facing till 14 mos because it will be winter and he is safer rear facing. I would pack up the seat, return it without a receipt if you don't have one and exchange it for the convertible you thought you bought. Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Babies R Us, and Target are really great about returns and exchanges without a receipt but not sure where you bought it. We have the Eddie Bauer high-rated Booster for our 2 year old (got Consumer Report #1 position in Forward Facing/Booster I believe) and the Britax Convertible that goes up to 60 lbs for the 9 mo old. Good luck!

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S.W.

answers from Chicago on

Yes, she's too young to forward face. The AAP recently changed their guidelines to rear face your child to up to 24 months or the weight of the seat. Most convertible seats rear face to at least 30lbs. Seats to consider in your new purchase are: Britax Marathon, Graco MyRide65, Cosco Scenara.

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S.D.

answers from Chicago on

No. At age one, children can start sitting in the front facing car seat. As long as the child meets the weight requirements, you are fine. Both of my kids started sitting in front facing car seats when they turned age one. In fact, the front facing care seat was part of gifts they received for their first birthday! Shawn D.

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S.B.

answers from Chicago on

I would go get a convertible seat. The new recommendations are to keep kids rear-facing until 2yrs rather than 1. It's a case where the law hasn't caught up to the science. Most convertible seats have a rear-facing weight limit of at least 30lbs now, and many of those same seats then forward face up to 65lbs. So you would be able to get several years out of a new seat and keep your child rear-facing for longer and then harnessed forward-facing until she is truly ready for a booster. I am shocked by the number of answers saying they were turning their kids around even before the old suggestion of 20lbs and 1 year and very disappointed that it sounds like even some police and fire stations were condoning it.

This website is one of many that does a nice job explaining why to keep them rear facing longer.
http://www.kyledavidmiller.org/pages/4209/Car_Seat_Safety...

Here are a couple of quotes from the page.

"At one time, doctors and other organizations suggested turning infants to the forward facing position at about 12 months. This information is now outdated, 12 months is too young to turn a child to the forward-facing position. Still, there are some doctors and organizations repeating this incorrect information because they have been reading old literature, or because they have not been told, or researched otherwise."

Q: If my baby's feet are touching the back of the vehicle seat, do they need to be switched to forward-facing?

A: No. Rear-facing car seats are not a safety risk if the baby's feet are touching the back of the vehicle seat. There have been no documented cases of rear-facing children breaking their legs, hips or feet because of their feet touching the back of the vehicle seat. There have however been many documented cases of head and spinal cord injuries because children were turned to the forward-facing position prematurely. Even if the child's legs did break, it is much easier to repair broken legs then it is to repair broken necks and ruptured spinal cords.

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A.

answers from Chicago on

I am sure the seat you have is fine. My son is on the small side and I front faced him at just about 1 year. We were rear ended when he was 18 months and the car seat did it's job very well! (So did my seat belt).

Since you will obviously need another seat after she outgrows the 20-40 pound one, if you would feel better getting a convertible spend the money now. It may be worth it for your peace of mind.

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K.R.

answers from Chicago on

I'm going to say what other people hate to hear. My daughter was 10 months when I turned her around and she was only about 17 lbs! As long as you have them strapped in securely they will be fine. My husband is a fire fighter and he said she was fine. You are close enough and she is big enough to be turned around....

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K.C.

answers from Chicago on

Hi,

I think it is ok to use the forward facing because they say the baby has to be 20 pounds and 1 year old.Yours in two weeks will be 1,so I don't think it makes so much difference.Go ahead and use it.
I have 3 little ones and with the first 2 there was no problem and my 3rd. just not one year old yet,but as soon as he turns one I go for the forward facing for sure.

have fun

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T.R.

answers from Chicago on

I think as long as she fits the criteria, she will be fine. My kids were all in front facing seats by the time they were one.

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J.G.

answers from Springfield on

Several people mentioned that the new AAP guidelines say children should remain rear-facing until 2 years of age. Where are you getting this information, because the website still says 1 year?

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N.P.

answers from Chicago on

I know the "new" philosophy is to keep them rear facing till they are in grade school (ok, not that long but...) but she will be fine in the forward facing. Don't bother on a convertible, she and you will be just fine. Make sure the seat is installed tightly, the straps are tight on her and above her shoulders and all will be fine.

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C.H.

answers from Chicago on

Go ahead and place her in the front facing seat (when she turns 1)...she'll love it!

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M.K.

answers from Chicago on

Hi A.. Understandably, Moms feel very passionately about this issue of car seat safety. But here's some of the facts that I have found:

Much recent research and testing has shown that children are significantly safer in rear-facing configuration. As long as your child has not outgrown the weight and length limits of his rear-facing seat, the recommendation is to keep them rear-facing as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics website currently states, "It is best to ride rear-facing as long as possible. Children 1 year of age and at least 20 pounds can ride forward-facing."

In the state of Illinois, there are NO set weight or age requirements for rear-facing or front-facing. The law simply states that a child must be properly restrained.

Here's the actual wording from the State of Illinois:

Infants and Toddlers
Illinois law requires all children to be properly restrained in a child safety seat or booster seat until age eight. After age eight, Illinois law requires everyone under the age of 19 to be properly restrained anywhere in the vehicle. Currently, Illinois law does not require children to ride rear-facing to a set weight or age like some states. Illinois law does require that all children be properly restrained in child safety seats. The American Academy of Pediatrics and NHTSA strongly recommend that children stay rear-facing until they are BOTH over one year of age AND over 20 pounds to protect their fragile head, neck, and spinal cord.

As for my opinion, I'm not sure how to evaluate putting a price on my child's safety. The thought of spine injury is very scary. That being said, I only kept my children rear-facing until each was about 16-18 months old. We have been lucky that we have not been in a serious car crash. If I had seen some of the frightening YouTube videos, maybe I would have kept them rear facing longer. Best of luck to you!

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A.S.

answers from Chicago on

I am not going to read the other responses any further because it is not a "only you know your child and what is best for them" issue. I am a child passenger safety tech (the same certification that the police/fire get). I personally would go get another seat. If you cannot return the seat, maybe you can take it to a women's shelter or something because it is better that they can have that kind of seat than nothing....but I would never put a child that young front facing. Yes, the law says it is ok, but I don't know if you have seen any of the videos on youtube comparing crashes in a ff seat vs. crashes in a rf seat but the differences are amazing....and it is statistically proven that children this age in a rear facing seat have a 75% lesser risk of serious injury than those in a front facing seat. Their spines just aren't strong enough/developed enough to take the kind of force that a crash is going to cause. In a front facing seat the body is thrown forward.....a child can very easily be internally decapitated because the head is thrown forward so hard and far and the spine just snaps. In a rearfacing seat, the seat absorbs most of the force as the child's entire body is thrown backwards, into the seat that is supporting the whole body.

If you don't have alot of money to buy a new seat, there are some cheaper options that will work just fine. There is one seat that is a convertible that can rearface to 40 lbs and then you flip it and the child can stay in the harness to 65 lbs. It is called the Graco MyRide 65. It is a big seat so you have to make sure it fits in your car well, but it is only $150 at Walmart (I ordered mine online and the shipping was very minimal) and $150 for a seat that is going to work all the way to 65 lbs is a wonderful deal. There is also the Cosco Scenera, which is a wonderfully safe seat and very cheap (you can sometimes get it for less than $50). It can rearface to 30 or 35 lbs and then forward face I believe to 40. The only thing is if you want to keep your child in a harnessed seat past 40 lbs (which is also a safer option) then you would have to buy another seat before a booster.

If you have any questions or anything, feel free to message me.

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C.G.

answers from Augusta on

Yes, way too small to face forward.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies rear face until at LEAST 12 months of age but as long as possible. The previous poster got very bad and dangerous advice from their ped that is not consistent with current guidelines. It has absolutely nothing to do with height or weight and everything to do with the maturity of the baby's body, especially the spine which can snap when forward facing.

Here are some links to Youtube videos that address the issue (some are disturbing): http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=forward+facin...

Here is the AAP parent information: http://www.aap.org/family/carseatguide.htm

Another website: http://www.car-safety.org/rearface.html

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T.M.

answers from Chicago on

If she is 20 lbs and can hold her head up.. then forward facing is perfect for her. At about a year is when you transition anyways.

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K.M.

answers from Chicago on

20 lbs. AND one year old = safe for forward seating

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L.P.

answers from Chicago on

A year old is when the doctor will tell you that you can turn the car seat around to face front. Don't return it.

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M.T.

answers from Chicago on

no not at all. you must however place the seat in the rear, middle of your car. this will allow you to see your child as you travel. relax and continue to drive defensively. i've been in an accident with my now seventeen year old daughter, she was in a front facing seat at 18 mos. she was fine. car seats have been improved since. travel well, new mom!

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B.N.

answers from Chicago on

Your baby fits both of the criteria, 1 years old and 20 lbs. The longer she can sit rear facing the better but she is perfectly fine in the forward facing seat.

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