As your baby grows you may be wondering how long to continue using your Infant Car Seat.  There has always been confusion as to the appropriate time to move your child to the next car seat, or when it’s ok to have your baby forward-facing.  In the past few years there have been new recommendations, and every state has their laws worded a little different.  Hopefully, I can help clear that up for you.

Law vs. Recommendations:
Many state laws will focus on the minimum in regards to safety.  Some state laws are specific, but many have gone to the statement “approved and/or appropriate child restraint.”  So that brings it back to the parents choosing the appropriate car seat.  Check your state law here.
 
Recommendation:
As a Car Seat Instructor, my recommendations are based on the American Academy of Pediatrics and the car seat advocate community. You should keep  children rear facing until they are at least 2 years of age to give their spine and neck maximum protection in a crash.  However, the minimum age a child should be turned around is at the age of 1 and the weight of 20lbs. Check out this video for some great advice from doctors at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania.
 
When your child reaches either the maximum height or weight stated on the infant carrier the next seat you will want to invest in is a convertible seat.  These seats have higher height and weight limits for rear facing and can then be turned around and used forward facing for the next stage.
 
Forward Facing:
Once your child reaches a minimum of 1 year and 20lbs, or the recommended age of 2, he/she can use a forward facing seat.  If you were using a convertible seat you can simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions and turn the seat around.  If you are looking to buy a forward facing seat there are some choices.  There is either the forward facing seat or the combination seat which can be converted to a booster seat when the time is right. 
 
Recommendation:
The goal is to keep your child in a 5-point harness as long as the seat will allow.  When you refer to your state law there may be an age reference of 4 or a weight reference of 80lbs.  At this stage every child is different in how they grow.  The longer you can have them in a 5-point harness the safer they will be in a crash.  That is why race car drivers use a 5-point harness; it spreads out the crash forces on your body.  Smaller sized children may be able to ride in the forward facing seat until they are 7 or 8.

Booster Seat:
The booster seat was created to help your child fit into an adult seat belt and put them in the proper position in the case of a crash. 
 
Recommendation: 
I always recommend a high back booster seat.  These seats have built in seat belt guides and always provide support for your child’s head in a crash.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just released their rating of the latest booster seats to help parents find the seat with the best fit. 
 
A no back booster seat is good if your child doesn’t fall asleep in the car, or is older and just needs a little height to fit correctly into the seat belt.  You just want to make sure there is a head rest behind the position your child is sitting in so they have proper support.
 
Seat Belt:
You may be wondering if your child will ever be able to ride without a car seat.  There is a great test from Safe Kids to help you as a parent make that call. Click here to take the test.
 
Reality:
I know some may view being rear facing until 2 extreme or being in a 5-point harness at age 8 as over the top.  My goal is to give you as parents the facts, and from there you make the hard choices.  Please check out all the sites in this article.  They are very good, with great research and solid advice.