0-12 Months | Rear-Facing Car Seats

Why Children Should Ride Rear-Facing

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An infant's or toddler’s head is larger and heavier in proportion to its body compared to an older child. In fact, the infant's or toddler’s bones, tendons and muscles are not fully developed and in a crash, they are not physically able to control their head movement. When used properly, a rear-facing car seat absorbs the forces of a head-on crash and reduces stress to the infant’s neck and spinal cord.


  • Check the labels on your car seat for height and weight limits, installation instructions, manufacturer dates and model numbers.
  • Always use your rear-facing car seat to the maximum height or weight limit before moving your child to a forward-facing car seat.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that parents keep their toddler rear-facing until age 2. At a minimum, children should ride rear-facing until at least age 1 and 20 pounds.
  • A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention found that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing.
  • Rear-facing car seats are the most effective in severe frontal and frontal offset crashes, which are the more frequent types of collisions.


  • Located on the seat and will provide the following information:
    • NHTSA certification of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
    • Weight and height guidelines for your car seat.
    • Basic outline to install your car seat.
    • Manufacturing information that includes Car seat manufacturer's name, address, date and model number.
    • Air bag warning.
    • FAA certification for use in an aircraft.

Retainer Clip

  • Also known as "Chest Clip".
  • Holds the harness straps together and positions the harness correctly on the shoulders.
  • MUST be at armpit level.

Harness Straps

  • Keep the child with in the car seat.
  • If your child is rear-facing, the harness straps need to be AT OR BELOW shoulder level.
  • If your child is forward-facing, the harness straps need to be AT OR ABOVE shoulder level.
  • Tighten the harness so that you cannot "pinch" any of the harness straps between your fingers.
  • The harness should be snug and comfortable.
  • In the case of a crash, the harness straps will distribute crash forces throughout the care seat and over the strong bones of the body

Seat Belt Path

  • This is the path that the car seat manufacturer is required to create so that the seat belt passes through the car seat.
  • Convertible car seats have multiple seat belt paths: rear-facing and forward-facing seat belt paths. Choose the path according to the direction your car seat is facing. Refer to car seat instructions.


  • Locking device that secures the child into the car seat.
  • The latch-plate clicks into the buckle. Click It Utah!

Harness Adjuster

  • Used to tighten or loosen the car seat harness.
  • The location of the harness adjuster may vary from seat to seat. Always check your car seat instructions to find out where and how to tighten the car seat's harness.

New Parents

  • All hospitals require parents to provide a car seat for their baby before leaving the hospital. However, few doctors or nurses are Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians. Ask your care provider if there is a Child Passenger Safety Technician in the hospital that can assist you.
  • Well before your baby is born, contact a nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technician for assistance in selecting, installing and properly using your car seat.


  • Studies show that children younger the 2-years-old are five times less likely to be injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing car seat.
  • All car seats sold in the United States are required to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213. Check for this on the label before you purchase a car seat.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics has advised parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats as long as possible, up to the maximum weight and height limit of the car seat. Infant-only car seats may have a lower weight and height limit than the convertible rear-facing car seats.
  • Children's legs when seated in a rear-facing car seat may touch the back of the vehicle seat. This does not present a safety concern and children quickly adapt to the situation and learn to position their legs in a comfortable position. The fact remains that children up to age two and even older are better protected in a rear-facing car seat.


    Infant-Only Car Seat

  • Check the labels on your car seat for height and weight limits, installation instructions, manufacturer dates and model numbers.
  • An "infant-only" or "rear-facing" convertible seat can be used for children weighing less than 22-35 pounds.
  • Most infant-only seats have a base and carrying handle for convenience. Infant-only car seats may have a lower weight and height limit than the convertible rear-facing car seats.

    Rear-facing Convertible Car Seat

  • Rear-facing convertible car seats have a higher weight limit and should be used to the upper weight or height limit before changing the car seat to forward facing. Follow the manufacturer's directions.
  • Are you looking for a new car seat for your infant, toddler or 4- to 8-year old, child but overwhelmed by the choices? Click here to see how car seat features differ among various models.
  • When selecting a rear-facing car seat ask yourself these questions:
    • Does the car seat fit your child correctly?
    • Is the car seat easy for you to use?
    • Does the car seat fit your car?
    • Can you install the car seat correctly every time?
    Find a fitting station near you.


  • It is recommended that infants and toddlers face the rear of the vehicle until the age of two and 30 pounds. However, at a minimum, keep your infant rear-facing until at least age one and 20 pounds.
  • Never put your infant in the front passenger seat of a vehicle with air bags.
  • The back seat is safest.


  • Read your child's safety seat instructions. This will help you know the right way to use and install your car seat.
  • Contact a certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician near you.
  • Most infant-only seats can be used with or without the base.
    • Check your car seat instructions to see where the carrying handle must be placed when used in the vehicle.
  • Convertible car seats have two seat belt paths (rear-facing and forward-facing). Make sure you choose the rear-facing belt path. Reference your car seat instructions.
  • Choose either seat belt or lower anchors. Never use both at the same time.
  • Install the car seat tightly, using the seat belt or lower anchor system.

  • Check to see if the car seat is secured to the vehicle seat by gripping the car seat at or near the seat belt path and pull on the car seat. There should be no more than one inch of side-to-side or forward movement at the seat belt path.
  • Recline the infant seat to a 30- to 45- degree angle to avoid stress to your infant's neck and back and to keep his head from falling forward. If an infant's head falls forward, it could prevent him from breathing.
  • Use a rear-facing tether when the car seat manufacturer allows.


  • Always follow your car seat's instructions.
  • Avoid bulky clothing and wrapping your child in a blanket before harnessing your child. Cover your child with a blanket last, if needed.
  • If your car seat has an adjustable crotch strap, move the strap closest to your child.
  • Thread harness straps through the slots on the back of the car seat, at or below your child's shoulders. Tighten the harness so that you cannot "pinch" any of the harness straps between your fingers. The harness should be snug and comfortable.
  • Always use the chest clip to hold the shoulder straps in place. Position the chest clip at armpit level.
  • Buckle in your child.


  • For information on infants that need to be transported lying down, visit the "Special Needs" section on this website.
  • You may place rolled cloth diapers or a thin blanket on both sides of your infant's body (never place rolled blankets or clothes above mid-ear) and between his legs to prevent slouching or sliding. Never put rolled blankets around the top of your infant's head. The towel could slip behind your child's head causing the head to move forward, cutting off the infant's airway.
  • Car seats are not designed to be used with children in bulky clothing. The more compressible the outerwear is, the looser the harness becomes and the greater the risk that is posed to your child in a crash.
  • Do not put padding behind your child's back or under his bottom. If an insert did not come with the car seat, do not use one.
  • Non-regulated products are items that did not originally come with the car seat. These items may be harmful to your child. This also includes mirrors, toys, car seat inserts, etc. Check with your car seat manufacturer to see what they allow.
  • Never leave your child alone in a vehicle.

Q & A

Can I tether my rear-facing car seat?

Some car seat manufacturers recommend that you tether rear-facing. Check your car seat instructions.

Is it okay to have my baby sleep in their car seat outside of the vehicle?

It is not recommended to use a car seat as a place for your infant to sleep. A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that the car seat’s harness can compress the chest wall and reduce airway size, which could result in lower oxygen levels in the blood. For more information and special considerations, contact your child’s doctor.

When using my infant-only car seat in the vehicle, which position should my handle be in?

The handle position varies from car seat to car seat. It is important to check the car seat instructions.

Is it safer to use the seat belt or lower anchors when installing my car seat?

Both are safe when used correctly. Never use the seat belt and lower anchors together. Select the method that secures your car seat best. Use the top tether whenever it is possible and when allowed by the car seat manufacturer and the vehicle manufacturer.

Do I need to use a locking clip?

Seat belts in cars made before 1996 may need a locking clip. Always read the instruction manuals for your vehicle and your car seat. If your car seat needs a locking clip, place it on the lap and shoulder belts, one-half to one inch from the seat belt buckle.

Which car seat is the safest?

All car seats should meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 213. Check for this on the label before you buy a car seat.

How do you determine which harness slots to use for a rear-facing child?

Harness straps must be at or below the rear-facing child’s shoulders.

How do I find the correct belt path?

Locate the belt path arrow or label on your car seat for the correct belt path use. Follow the car seat manufacturer’s instructions.

Is it important to register my car seat?

Yes! All car seat owners are strongly encouraged to register the car seat with the manufacturer either online or by mailing in the registration card. Manufacturers need your information to contact you about safety issues, including recalls, and are not allowed to use owner data for other purposes.

What is a convertible car seat?

A convertible car seat can be used as a rear-facing car seat and once the toddler has reached the weight or height limit, the car seat can be changed to the forward-facing position. See your car seat directions for more information about weight/height limits and how to change from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat.

What is the lawful way of having a baby ride in a car seat in a pick-up truck where a back seat is not available?

It is recommended that children ride in an appropriate car seat or booster seat in the back seat until the age of 13 years. In Utah, this recommendation isn't part of the law and drivers cannot be cited if a child younger than age 13 is found riding in the front seat. However, the back seat is generally the safest place in the vehicle and it is considered "best practice" to secure young children in rear seating positions. If a back seat is not available, parents can secure children in front seating positions and should make sure the child is using an appropriate restraint and that the car seat or booster seat is used according to manufacturers instructions. Also, parents should move the vehicle seat as far back as possible. Please note that if a passenger side air bag is present, rear-facing infants should not be placed in the front seat unless the air bag is turned off.

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