When will my child need a bigger car seat?

When should I switch my baby from the infant car seat carrier to a big car seat?

Question:

Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions that came with your car seat. Check the labels that are stuck on the side of the seat for basic directions. If you have lost the manual, call the 800 number on the sticker or molded into the plastic and request another set of instructions.

According to a new study, car seats should be used only for protection during travel, and not as replacement for cribs. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that infants should always be in rear-facing car seats until they are two years old or have reached the maximum height and weight for their seat. If your child weighs more than his carseat's limit, switch to a rear-facing convertible seat with a higher weight limit.

The safest place for a child is in the center of the back seat, the position that offers the most protection in a head-on crash.

Unfortunately, most of us do not use car seats correctly. Even the slightest error can have disastrous consequences during a crash. Every time you install a new car seat, have it inspected by a certified child safety seat technician. Check with your local car dealership or children's hospital as possible sources for inspection.

When you get a new car seat, send in the registration card so that you can be notified if there are any recalls or changes in installation. To check on infant seat recall notices or to report difficulties with your car seat, call the U.S. Department of Transportation Auto Safety Hotline, 1-888-327-4236 (DASH-2-DOT).

Part of parenting is advocacy for all children. Consider contacting car manufacturers and state and federal officials about the need for reliable, user-friendly child safety restraints.

For more information, read Choosing a Car Seat, Which car seat for my child?, Infants and Car Seats and Installing and Using Your Car Seat.

More information about car-seat safety and selection is also available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Safe Kids Campaign and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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