Moving to Forward Facing Car Seat

Updated on July 29, 2010
D.S. asks from Fletcher, NC
20 answers

My daughter is 8 and 1/2 months old. She weighs 19.5 lbs but here's the problem, she's 29 1/2 inches long. We have a really great car seat that goes up to 35 lbs rear facing. I understand that we rear face our kids because that way they'll be safer in case of an accident. But my daughter is so darn tall for her age (she's not even on the charts) that her head is starting to come above the seat. Her car seat says nothing about max height, and neither do any web sites. She has full head control, should I just switch her around now or put it off even though her head is starting to come above the seat?

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So What Happened?

Got it. Actually the law is 20 lbs or 1 year. It's not both. My husband is a Police Officer. I actually have a Britax, convertible. I found the head rest that goes onto it that apparently my husband packed away without ever telling me. Now I just have to make it fit in my car with the head rest. Thank you for all for information.

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answers from Dallas on

There are many convertible car seats out there that are designed for taller children. Most laws state that a child must be rear facing until age one, but many pediatricians are recommending they stay facing backwards until age two. "Rear-facing carseats are NOT a safety risk just because a child's legs are bent at the knees or because they can touch/kick the vehicle seat." (

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Nashville on

Yikes, I'm sorry you got bombarded with scare tactics and reprimands when all you did was ask a simple question! I have actually been wondering the same thing, because my 10-month-old is outgrowing his bucket-type seat, lengthwise but not by weight. I haven't done any research yet, so this was all helpful to me too, despite all the videos, which I did not watch. :)

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Seattle on

She cannot be moved into a FF seat until she is 1 year old AND 20lbs. Head control has NOTHING to do with it. It sounds as if you need to change the recline of or seat to a more upright recline. Check and for the most up-to-date information and recommendations on ways to improve your situation. Please DO NOT turn her she is much too young and you would be putting her in serious danger, not to mention it is illegal.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Cincinnati on

First, it is illegal to turn your child forward-facing before they are 20 pounds AND 1 year old (it's not an either/or thing). And the AAP recommends keeping children rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old. This has nothing to do with head control - it has to do with the strength of the spinal cord, which does not fully develop until kids are 3 or 4, actually, but is MUCH too weak compared to the size of a child's head before the age of 2 to support the head in a crash.

The child's head should always be at least an inch below the top of the car seat rear-facing. However, I'm confused by what you say. My 18-month-old son is 30-something inches tall (95th percentile for his age) and fits easily in his convertible car seat rear-facing, and will for months to come. I can't understand how your 29-inch child would be coming above the limit unless you have a very short car seat.

Look into either the First Years True Fit (one of the tallest convertibles out there but does not fit rear-facing in many small cars), the Graco MyRide 65 (it has the second tallest shell of the highly-rated carseats), or a Britax Marathon (3rd-tallest shell - I believe another Britax also has a tall shell). All 3 seats are 35-40 pounds rear-facing and then 65 pounds forward-facing, and all 3 will easily contain a 29-inch tall baby for some time to come. Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

Why does this question get asked every week?! Doesn't anyone read other moms' questions? Don't you know how to check your state laws? Hasn't your pediatrician ever talked about car seat safety?

OK, first, as far as I know, every state has made it law that the baby has to be 20 pounds AND 12 months. However, the new recommendation (both the AAP and from the safety administration) is that you leave the baby rear-facing until she is too tall (most seats this is when the top of the head is within one inch of the top of the seat) or out-grows the weight limit (most convertible car seats have a limit of 35-40 pounds).
Here's what the AAP says: Overall, children under the age of 2 are 75% less likely to die or experience a serious injury when they ride in a rear-facing car seat...With rear-facing weight limits on convertible car seats up to 35 pounds, most toddlers should be able to stay rear-facing until at least age two. If the toddler is larger, the best option is to keep your little one rear-facing to the limits of the car seat. Rear-facing car seats are outgrown by the weight limit, or when there is less than an inch of shell above baby's head. A toddler's legs hanging over the car seat edge do not play into outgrowing the car seat at all. "
And now most states are looking at changing the laws to 2-years-old. It doesn't matter if her feet touch the seat, my 2.5-year-old is still rear-facing! His feet touch the seat when he stretches them out, but most the time he just folds them as if he were sitting on the floor! He's perfectly comfortable and doesn't care that his brother faces the other way:)
If you're skeptical watch these couple videos about the safety of turning a 12-month-old forward. They really have found that it's not as safe as staying rear-facing:( In the UK it's law that kids are rear-facing until between 3 & 4! But they have better seats than we do.
This is the true story of a child that was in an accident after being turned around at 12 months (don't worry, I'm not posting a story about a baby dying).
And this is just a general video about car seat safety including crash-test videos I think are worth watching.

The odds of severe injury to a forward-facing child 12-23 months old is FIVE TIMES that of a child that is rear-facing. Weight has NOTHING to do with how safe they are, only time develops the spine and muscles enough to make it safe to turn them around - and that is not at 12 months of age.

Even if you don't want to follow the newer safety guidelines, at least follow the law and wait another 3 months. But know that if you turn your child around, she is NOT as safe as she could be.

Plus, head control has absolutely nothing to do with safety of forward-facing. I's about having a developed spine and they have recently found that children don't have that development until after at least 2 years. Many states are now looking at moving the law to 2 years old.

It doesn't matter how good of a driver you are, the drunk who runs a stop sign or the teen texting aren't good drivers. Your child will die weather you were a good driver or not :(

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Gainesville on

It sounds like you are still using her baby seat and if that's the case you need to invest in another seat. Anytime the head is above the seat top it's time for a new seat. Most kids outgrow their infant car seats prior to a year. That's when you need to go to a more heavy duty convertible car seat (both rear and forward facing).

We have a Britax that will go to 35 lbs rear and 65 lbs forward facing. My daughter is 25 months and is well over 30 inches tall (maybe 33 inches?) and she is perfectly comfy rear-facing and that's where her little booty will safely stay till she reaches 35 lbs!

If you need a convincing argument to keep her rear-facing check out:

This shows exactly what can happen when a child is forward facing too soon and now the AAP tells us that even age 1 and 20 lbs is too soon.

It is our job to be protector and guardian and do what is best for our kids. And part of that includes keeping up with and following the latest research and recommendations for our little ones.

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answers from Dallas on

There's no way your should turn her around at this age! I'd get another seat with a higher back that she can stay in longer. The Britax Marathon can be used rear facing, and you can use it up to 65 lbs. and 49 inches. It's pricey but you could use it a really long time and it's extremely user friendly and safe.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Hi there - as other posters have noted, it is safest to keep your child rear facing for as long as possible (two years, preferrably), and there are several convertable seats that can "fit" long kids.
Please check out (and pass along) the following website, which someone else posted on Mamapedia earlier:
The website tells the story of an 18 month old whose neck was broken in a car accident while the seat was facing forward (he survived and is doing much better, after several surgeries and a lot of time in the hospital). The physics of car seats and infant/toddlers' heads make it more likely that a young child will have a severe neck injury in a front-facing car seat if the car is impacted from the front or the rear.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Leave her rear facing for as long as you can, 2 years is recommended. If her head is coming to the top of the car seat then you either have the wrong car seat or you have not added the head rest if she is in a convertible car seat. You might want to have the car seat installed professionally. Check with your local fire department to have this done.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

The AAP is now recommending to keep children rear facing to the age of 2. Law currently is 1 year old & 20 lbs. Check out videos on YouTube. Search for rear facing vs forward facing. It's eye opening.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You need to keep her rear facing. If you cannot adjust the seat so that her head is supported by being entirely on the seat back you need to buy a larger seat. There are some, not only Britax, that can be used both rear facing and forward facing. Having her in a seat that is too short causing her head to extend over the top is also not safe.

Some hospitals and fire departments hold car seat safety round ups. You may be able to find someone locally that can help you figure out how best to do this to ensure your baby's safety while spending a reasonable amount of money.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It sounds like you still have her in the infant carrier , yes she does need to be rear facing until she is at least 1 yr old , although they now say 2 yr old is better. You can buy a convertable car seat so that she is still rear facing and then turn it around when she is old enough AND can sit up unaided.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Provo on

Sara D is spot on! I'm reiterating what she is saying and DEMAND that you watch this video that she posted to.
If you have an infant seat just get her a convertible and they often times have a longer leg span. Either get a Britax or a sunshine kid
My son is in a Britax marathon and he is 30" tall, his feet do touch the seat, but he loves to kick the back. He WILL be rear facing till he out grows the weight of 35 lbs. Which sadly will be soon He's 28 lbs and 9 months. I will invest in a sunshine kids if he does.
I find it rather silly of you, knowing that they are safer rear facing and still wondering if you should. Sorry to be mean, but follow your knowledge of seat safety.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

EDITED because of your update, its NOT 1yr OR 20lbs its 1yr AND 20lbs, and your state, even without a 1yr/20lbs law, has a proper usage clause stating that the seat must be used to the manufacturers specifcations, and there is not one seat on the market that allows forward facing before 1yr AND 20lbs, so if you get into a crash ,even if your seat fails, its your fault for not properly securing your child. "Your husband should know this as an officer, but sadly (And no offense to your husband) but police officers don't know much about car seat safety and are usually the worst offenders when it comes to car seat usage.

There isn't a Britax seat with removable headrest, htat sounds like a First Years TrueFit. Please find a CPST at to help you and get the seat installed properly, used properly, and get you some up to date information.

Here is the law in North Carolina. The first line is the proper usage law, must be used according to manufacturers specifications.
Restraint Required:
» A properly used child restraint device (CRD) is required if the child is less than 8 years old AND weighs less than 80 pounds. Most parents and other care givers will be able to comply by using belt-positioning booster seats for children between 40 and 80 pounds. The child must be within the weight range for the child restraint/booster seat and it must meet Federal standards in effect at time of manufacture. <<

Oh mama, your baby is tiny, and nowhere near ready to forward face. Head control has nothing to do with it.... her spine is immature and will remain that way until she is betwen 3-6yrs old. She needs to remain rear facing for at least another year. THe AAP, NTHSA, and all car seat manufacturers recommend children remain rear facing until the rear facing weight limit of their car seat, or at least 2yrs and 30lbs.

You have her in an infant bucket seat, she needs to be moved to a rear facing convertible car seat.
You do not need to spend a fortune to get a good reliable car seat. I love my Britax seats, but I would never tell anyone they are the only seat they should purchase.

Cosco Scenera is $50, will rear face to 35lbs (new ones to 40lbs), forward face to 40lbs, and is a good bare bones seat. Its a good safe seat for a low price. Its not padded much but its still very safe and should last most kids to age 3 when another higher harness weight seat should be purchased.

Evenflo Triumph ADVANCE is $130 and will rear face to 35lbs and forward face to 50lbs. Great seat, no thread harness adjustments! Will fits most kids to age 5 forward facing, its a really nice padded and lots of features seat for a low price.

First Years TrueFit is $170-$230 will rear face to 35lbs and forward face to 65lbs. Nice tall seat that fits older kids well, most kdis can use to age 6/7.

Graco MyRide 65 is $150, will rear face to 40lbs, forward to 65lbs. EXCELLENT seat for extended rear facing and is a big comfy padded seat. Fits most kids to 4 rear facing and 5/6 forward facing!

SUnshine Kids Radian is $200-$300 will rear face to 40-45lbs, forward face to 65-80lbs (depending on model) and is a narrow seat, fits three across and into smaller cars easily. NICE seats.

Britax Marathon or Boulevard is $270-$300 will rear face to 35lbs (new ones will to 40lbs) and forward face to 65 (new ones will to 70lbs) I love our Britax seats ,the yare well made, easy to use and install too.

These seats will all work perfectly for your child, please go to the store and look at them, put him in them, try them out and see what you like .AVOID the 3-in-1 seats like the Cosco Alpha Omega nd the Eddie Bauer 3-in-1, etc. They are ok rear facing, but are outgrown really fast forward and they make horrible booster seats, they've failed EVERY crash test they've been in.... you never want to use one of those seats as a booster. Not worth the money, you can get a better longer lasting seat for the same money.

Also, here are some car seat safety tips that you may not know.
When rear facing, the harness should be just at or below the shoulders. THis prevents the child from riding up in the seat in a crash.

CHildren should remain rear facing as long as possible. THe law sucks but states 1yr AND 20lbs, however the AAP, NHTSA, Safekids, etc all recommend children remain rear facing untli they outgrow the rear facing convertible car seat, or at least 2yrs and 30lbs. Feet touching the seat are NOT a problem, and there has been no documented case of broken legs while rear facing. Please google INTERNAL DECAPITATION, JOELS JOURNEY, and EXTENDED REAR FACING for more information.,

The harness should be snug as a hug, and the chest clip should be level with hte armpits, no lower no higher. No bulky clothing in the car seat, and no aftermarket products are allowed. A rear facing car seat is outgrown when the childs goes over the rear facing weight limit or there is less than one inch of shell above the childs head.

You need a convertible car seat, please purchase one like listed above, they are all great seats that will last your child rear facing for at least another year and forward facing unti your child is old enough and mature enough for a high back booster seat (at least 4yrs old and 40lbs).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

No way can she be turned around yet.
Go to and find a FREE inspection site near you & take her in the seat and have them take a look.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wilmington on

Talk with your child's doctor. My 9 month old is 20 pounds and 28-3/4 inches long. No way in the world would I think about turning her around yet. Yes, the law does say 1 year OR 20 pounds here in NC, however, according to our pediatrician, they should be rear facing until they are a year old regardless of weight.

Hope you are able to keep her rear facing. If your seat won't fit with the added head rest on, maybe consider getting a different seat for the next 3-1/2 months (then sell it). Ours is a convertible seat also, Evenflo - Triumph, and it is all one piece rather than having an extra head rest to add on. My little girl's head isn't even half way up the back of it. It's kinda big though, and when we had it in our car, we had it in the middle so there wasn't a problem with the front seats not having room to scoot back.



answers from Huntington on

If you are using an infant "bucket" type of seat, my advice would be to get a convertible carseat. It will much bigger than the infant seat in order to accommodate her height, but you can use it facing backward until she reaches the right weight/age to turn her forward.

I wouldn't recommend facing her forward at that age. Even though it seems like they have very good head control, their heads are still so heavy in comparison to the rest of their bodies that their little necks might not be able to handle the high impact of a crash.



answers from Wheeling on

No, no, and no.....please do not forward face your baby girl!
Can you provide us with some more details about your seat, hon? I am a certified car seat tech in Ohio and if I can't find the information in my materials, I will find out from my district coordinator.
I am so happy that you recognize the reason NOT to turn her around too soon! Many parents/caregivers don't. The recommended rule of thumb is AT LEAST one year of age, and now many experts and researchers are pushing 30 lbs! More and more car seats are coming out with higher weight limits for rear facing, just because the studies are showing higher rates of survival for these youngsters RF.
Please include make, model #, and date of manufacture and I will get back to you!
We want all our precious babies to ride safely! =)



answers from Knoxville on

We had a similair prob. with my son 20+ years ago. The seat we brought him home in had weight info but no height info. He was no where near the weight max but would stretch his legs out and the seat would move. His head was also coming above the seat. It was a rear facing seat. We ended up getting a front facing seat that had 3 positions and started him out in the laying down position. (He was only 3 months old) I would talk to your local police dept. In STL the state and local police depts. would hold a workshop once a month for proper car insulation, info, etc... If they do not do that in your area you could ask them if you could just talk to someone about car seat safety and issues.



answers from Raleigh on

I would think that you as her parent need to make a decision that is in line with the intent of the law.. safety for your baby if there is an accident. Her head is the biggest part of her body right now, and without proper head support she will be in more danger rear-facing than front-facing where she would have the support of the back seat. At half a pound off the guideline, I wouldn't hesitate to switch her around immediately!

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