Milestones are an important part of parenting. Time is spent teaching children to walk and to hold a spoon, however, anticipation for the next fun stage can cause parents to rush the process. An important milestone to take your time with is upgrading your child’s car seat. These tips can help you better understand when it’s safe to change your child’s car seat.

  1. Use a rear-facing seat until your child is two years of age. In a front-end crash, which is the most common type of collision, a rear-facing seat ensures that your child’s head, neck, and spine are kept steady by moving into the seat, rather than away from it.
  2. Use a forward-facing seat until your child exceeds the height and weight limits. All car seats come with safety guidelines printed on the seat itself. When your child’s height and weight grow above that which is recommended for your car seat, it is time for a change.
  3. Consider a bigger seat, rather than a booster seat, as the next step. If your child often unfastens their booster-seat safety belt, they may not be ready for a booster seat. Instead, a bigger forward-facing seat may be the best choice for your child. The bottom line: a safety seat cannot protect your child if they are not properly secured in it.
  4. Check the expiration date. It may surprise you that your child’s safety seat comes with an expiration date. Typically, a car seat’s life span is 6 years as long as it has not been in an accident or sustained any damage.
  5. Dispose of seats that have been involved in a crash or are damaged. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends discontinuing the use of car seats that have been involved in a crash that caused injuries or air-bag deployment, or in which the door closest to the seat was damaged. Likewise, if the car seat shows damage from normal wear and tear, it should be replaced.

Each stage of child-seat safety is important. Upgrading your child’s car seat is an exciting milestone, but please don’t rush the process.

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