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The Infant Seat

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Safety > Car Seats > The Infant Seat


Nov 2001

My daughter is 13 months, 21 lb. and 29" and has outgrown her infant car seat. I am considering buying a forward facing/booster seat since she is over a year, but am being given much conflicting advice. Two notable stores in our area have given long lectures about not facing my child forward until she is 30 lbs. The small group of new mothers I know turned their children forward as soon as they could. Also, I am considering the the Century "Next Step" if I do buy a combo front facing, booster seat because the Fisher Price "Grow With Me" is unavailable. I am aware of the Cosco Alpha Omega which goes from 5-80 lbs, but have read that it is not recommended by Consumer Reports as a booster seat. Does anyone have any experience/opinions about forward facing booster car seats for a one year old or on facing their children forward or towards the rear at one year and 21 lbs? Deborah


There are infant seats, and there are toddler seats. The law is 40 pounds and 4 years of age. My daughter started in an infant seat with all the add-ins as she was so small, and then graduated to a toddler seat when she was about 1-1/2. She remained in a toddler seat until she was almost five ecause she did not meet the weight requirement. Then we moved her to a booster seat so the seat belt fit her better.

If your daughter is too big to comfortably fit in an infant seat, she should be moved into a toddler seat, almost all of which face forwards. There is no 30 pound rule. The only rule I know of is the seat must fit the child.

Call up your local police or fire department and ask them. They can tell you exactly what the law says. If you do buy a new seat, you might want to bring your baby with you to make sure she's comfortable sitting in whatever you buy. Marianne


From what I understand, it is recommended that you keep your child in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible but that it's okay to turn her around at 20 lbs. as long as they are in an appropriate seat. A booster seat is different in that is is used for children over 40 lbs. I've been very happy with the Britax Round-about because I used it as an infant rear-facing seat and then turned it forward when my son couldn't stand driving backwards anymore (at 20 lbs). If your child has already outgrown the infant seat you could go to a Britax Freeway which is forward facing only. I would contact your pediatrician for more advice. Petra
I have also heard conflicting advice concerning when to "turn your child around." I think that while 20 lbs. is magic weight number, most pediatricians, manufacturers recommend staying rear-facing until a year. After that, it gets fuzzy as far as keeping your child rear-facing, in my case, my 14 month old is forward facing now and we have friends who turned their children around at a year so they could interact more and look out the window.

As far as actual car seats, you still need a car seat as opposed to a booster, a booster is more for three years old and up. We have a Britax Roundabout and while these are pricey, they come highly recommended from Consumer Reports and from my personal experience, they are the most stable car seat I have ever used, once you have the seat belt and the tether buckled and clipped, the seat is VERY secure and does not move at all. This is combined with an excellent harness system that seems designed to thwart toddler attempts to unbuckle and escape. Sonya


I'd like to reply re. the car seat for a one-year-old. You can use a forward facing CAR SEAT for a one-year-old that weighs at least 20 pounds, but BOOSTER SEATS (as I understand) are supposed to be used only once a child has grown quite a bit more, to 40 pounds and/or 4 years old. I've found the staff at Rockridge Kids (in Oakland) and Darla's Baby Boutique (in El Cerrito) quite knowledgeable re. the pros and cons of the various makes and models of car seats (as well as a lot of other topics). You can get good information from them, but if the prices are too high, try to find the models they recommend at Target or K-mart. Mary
the experts say that it is much safer for a child to stay rear facing until 35 pounds. consumer reports recommended a car seat (which does not become a booster) by COSCO (although it is not sold at COSCO, no matter what they tell you when you call). it is now produced under the Safety First brand and called the Forerunner. It has the universal LATCH system (if you have a newer car, it has little metal U's in the back seat to clip onto), although you can use it with seat belts. It also has tethers, again, newer cars have a place to attach the tether from the top of the car seat (older cars should be rhetrofitted, as this really adds to the safety). This seat is only for up to 40 pounds. It reclines, but you have to unattach it to recline. The tightening mechanism for the straps is tough to access when it is rear facing, but it seems the same with other car seats i looked at (unforetunately, not as well rated by CS). It has 5 point harness. COSCO said that it was available exclusively from KMART, but KMART said they didn't have them. I ordered one directly from COSCO (1-800-544-1108) and it was @ $75, plus shipping. Although they answer the phone "customer relations", they're pretty unhelpful and the phone is often busy. Inexpensive enough that I'll just buy a booster when it's time. I too, would prefer to have my baby forward facing when we're driving, but not when we're having an accident. anne
There is an excellent website run by an acquaintance of mine about carseats here: http://www.geocities.com/~plomp/carseats.htm I recommend investigating it. Cosco makes a model called the Touriva with a five point harness (it also makes it with a shield, which is not as safe), which at her recommendation, I purchased. It is available at K-Mart for $46, and is an excellent seat. It also has the advantage for us of being quite narrow, so three kids can fit in the back of our sedan. It comes with a tether strap and a fitting clip for shoulder straps. It's *quite* easy to adjust the straps in the front facing position, too. It's not as cushy as the Britax, and the straps are a little twisty, but for a savings of $150, I am very happy with it. Myriam
I can't recommend a car seat to use, but it is recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), that you keep your child rear facing as long as you can. If you have a car seat that goes up to 30 lbs rear facing, then it is recommended that you keep your child rear facing. If your car seat only goes up to 20 lbs, then it is time to turn your child around. The forward facing boosters with harness straps are good car seats for forward facing children. As far a brand of car seats is concerned, get the one that best fits your car and your child. Try some out in your car, with the child, and you'll get your answer about which car seat to buy. Hope that wasn't too confusing. Tamara Lee, Contra Costa County Injury Prevention Program 925-313-6814
I would like to reply to the question raised about car seats for infants and toddlers. There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there. However, I have done a lot of research and examination into the issue for my 2 children, one of whom is 3 years of age and one who is 9 months. A child is supposed to be in a rear-facing seat until one year of age or 20 pounds, whichever occurs first. They are not supposed to be in the infant car seat past 20 lbs. We bought the Britax Roundabout when our daughter turned one and kept it rear-facing for as long as she could stand it and for as long as she could fit-eventually their legs become too long for it to be safe. We then turned it forward-facing. She is still in it but we are going to graduate to a booster seat once our baby turns one. The law has now changed on Booster Seats. A child who weighs at least 30 pounds can now use a booster seat but the child must use the harness until they reach 40 pounds. Once they reach 40 pounds, they must still use the booster seat but they use the car's seat belt instead. All convertible seats (ones for toddlers) and booster seats now come with tether straps for anchoring to the car. The best place to go for the most up to date information is Rockridge Kids in Oakland. Also, COSCO is not the same company as COSTCO. Also, I would not recommend the Alpha Omega 3-in-1 seat by Cosco-it is very difficult to use and does not seem very safe. Elizabeth
It is recommended to keep your child rearward facing until they are at least one year old and 20 pounds. They should meet both of these criteria, usually they grow out of there infant seat before they are 1 year old. You can tell if they are to big for there infant seat when they are either 20 pounds OR have only 1 inch of hard plastic above their heads. Then you need to get a convertable seat (that goes rearward and forward facing) leaving them rearward atleast until one and 20 pounds longer if possible. I personally turned my daughter around at 1 although she would still fit rearward facing. When you turn your child around you can use the same seat (convertable one) until they grow out of that one 40 pounds and until the harness slot is below their shoulders. Most convertable seats the harness MUST come from the top slots when forward facing. I know the Britax Roundabout to be one exception to this check your manual. When forward facing the harness must come from at or above their shoulders. 2 other tips I have for carseats is the chest clip is supposed to be at arm pit level and the straps should be very snug ( so you can only fit one finger between their shoulders and the harness.) melinda
No disrespect, but I have never seen any car seat recommendation that a child remain rear facing until 35 pounds. Have you any idea how large a 35 pound kid is? For one thing the logistics of what to do with the child's legs comes to mind. Nor have I ever seen a seat that could accommodate their legs in that position. When it comes to experts, call the police or fire department. They KNOW what you need to do and a lot of them have programs they give away free car seats to people who need them. Marianne
For the mother with the 1 year old and the car seat issue, you were given a lot of advice. Some of which was wrong. You should call this number for the correct advice. This goes to all parents who have questions about car seats. Call nurses and cops caring (NC-5) 925-941-7989. It is an answering service. They call you back within a week with all the correct information. They are certified through the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). But one thing I want to tell you is that is is against the law to put a child in a booster seat or a vehicle car seat before 4 years and before 40 lbs. Starting in January 2002, you have to have your child in a booster until 6 or 60 lbs. But the first law will still be in effect. The only exception is if you have lap belt only seat belts in the back seat of your car. Then, after 40 lbs and 4 years, you can use your vehicle safety belts only.

Tamara Lee, Contra Costa County Injury Prevention Program 925-313-6814


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