When can I Move my Baby from Rear-facing to Forward-facing?

According to Australian Law, you can move your baby from rear-facing to forward-facing when they are 6 months old.  Many parents are keen to make the change as soon as possible if their child gets unsettled in a rear-facing seat in the car.  However, most children can remain rear-facing through to age 2 years, based on average child sizes and the capacity of the car seat.

Why are rear-facing seats safer?

Multiple studies and research show that rear-facing seats are safer than forward-facing seats.  A 2007 study reported that 1-2 years olds are actually five times safer in rear-facing seats.  This is because their head and neck are fully supported and cradled in the car seat in the event of a crash versus being jerked out of their chest when forward-facing.

Rear-facing is actually the safest way for everyone to travel, not just babies, so consider your own seat choice when using buses and trains.

What are the laws regarding rear-facing seats in other countries?

In many states in the US and countries in Europe, children must stay rear-facing until they are 2 years old.  In Sweden it’s not uncommon for kids to stay rear-facing until they are 4.

What if my child hates rear-facing and where do they put their legs?

Many children want to forward-face so that they can see out the windows, but if you angle their seat upright they can still see out of the side windows and back windows in a rear-facing position (you may need to remove the back head rests).

Because kids’ joints aren’t fully formed they can actually sit super comfortably with their legs crossed or in a ‘frog leg’ position when rear-facing.  You may even notice that a forward-facing child doesn’t like their legs dangling and needs leg support, much in the way we find it hard sitting on a tall bar stool without a cross-bar to rest our feet on.

When can I move my child to the next type of restraint?

Once your child is too tall for their rear-facing restraint they can be moved to a forward facing restraint.  Whilst the law allows children 4 years and over to use either a forward-facing child restraint or a booster seat, the forward-facing restraint is safer.

From forward-facing restraint to booster seat: Your child should be moved when:

  • Their shoulders no longer fit comfortably within the restraint; or
  • Their eye-level is higher than the back of the restraint; or
  • The top insertion slots for the shoulder straps are below the level of the child’s shoulders.

From a booster seat to a seat belt: Your child should be moved when:

  • Their shoulders no longer fit comfortably within the restraint; or
  • Their eye-level is higher than the back of the booster seat.

Remember, a booster seat with a seat belt provides better protection than the belt alone and a seat belt with a shoulder and lap belt is better than one with a lap-only belt.

Every child under 7 years of age must use a suitable approved child restraint when traveling in a vehicle.

See the Newborn Baby Essentials Checklist on our pick of the carseats!

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