AAP's New Car Seat Guidelines Change Rear Facing & Booster Rules


Rear-facing 18 month old and 3 year old.

Everything you thought you knew about car seats is wrong. Okay, not everything, but things have changed and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced new guidelines today. And it's big news! The recommendation is that children rear face longer and they also changed the details for kids in boosters.

It was believed that 1 year and 20 pounds was the benchmark for forward facing babies in car seats, despite evidence elsewhere that that was still dangerously early. Now, hopefully, with new guidelines, parents and doctors can get on board and spread the word about the safest practices for children. Here are the details.

New Rear-Facing Recommendation: Parents are to keep children rear-facing until 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat as noted in the manual.  

Safe Kids agrees. Two years is a goal easily met, considering even some of the lowest cost seats now rear-face until 40 pounds. When your baby outgrows their infant carrier, that is when you buy a convertible seat that rear-faces longer, not a forward-facing seat, which you can put upright up to 30 degrees when kids are bigger with better head control, often making them take up less space than infant seats.

New Boostering Recommendation: Children should ride in a belt-positioning booster (that means a high-back!) until they are at least 4 foot, 9 inches, AND 8-12 years old.

Jennifer Hoekstra, the Safe Kids Program Coordinator at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, shared:

In working with parents, we educate them beyond the law and share with them the best practice for keeping their child safe. We strongly agree with the new AAP policy and support the extended rear-facing limits as well as the new booster seat advice.

It's best to keep children in their harnessed seat until they outgrow it, which is into elementary years with the height and weight of most convertible seats and even harness-to-booster seats these days. But they will outgrow it and go into a booster, and eventually they need to meet all points in a 5-point test before they're ready to sit in a car's seat without a booster of any kind. Remember that these belts are designed to fit an average adult. Best practice is also waiting until children are 80-100 pounds as well.

Beyond that, all kids need to stay out of the front until they're at least 13 years old.

While 2 years or 8 years may now be the minimums, we don't parent by minimums, do we? Buying a high quality (not necessarily high cost!) seat to start, after you do all your research to choose the best seat for your child, can easily help you meet these recommendations.

Make sure you're using the car seats correctly, too. There's a lot of intricacies for both harnessed seats and boosters. When in doubt, find a Safe Kids inspection station or event and get checked out by a tech. And hopefully more and more pediatricians, with these new recommendations, will be on board as well, and we can maybe put an end to vehicle related-injuries being the number one cause of death in kids ages 2-14.

Are you glad the recommendations are finally being updated across the board?


Image via MelanieLouise/CafeMom

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jpfsmom jpfsmom

Ridiculous...rearfacing in Florida in the summer is more damaging than facing forward and if this 1987, I would've had to take my drivers test in a booster seat, I was just shy of 100 lbs when I got my learners permit..I'm convinced AAP is in cahoots with Graco to mandate selling seats...

RanaA... RanaAurora

There are awesome AND safe window UV-protective tintings available that would protect your child WHILE keeping them safely rear-facing. :)

Curts... Curtsmomma

PP, HUH?  I'm really confused about your comment LOL.  Why is rear facing more damaging than FF in Florida?  Wow, I'm just confused. 

It IS safer (regardless of the state you live in) to rear face to the max weight or height (whichever comes first) of your child's particular seat.

This is not about some conspiracy to sell more seats, it's about keeping your children safer in the car, period.  Internal decapitation is NOT a joke.  The closer to 4 you can rear face them, the better.

thedg... thedgoddess

I don't get why people are so resistant to properly restraining their children in a car. I've been in a car accident with children and believe me, if you saw the damage to my car, you'd think twice about not restraining them properly. Luckily for me, my kids weren't harmed AT ALL.

Seriously, this is not a joke. AAP may have bizarre guidelines about other things (and believe me, I don't agree with some of it) but when it comes to car seats, you cannot be too careful. It's about SAFETY. Why not make sure your child is the safest they can possibly be? I'm not talking about being a helicopter parent. I'm talking about your child being in a moving weapon.

Momma... Mommakesmilkcom

Really? You think this is Graco trying to sell more seats? Have you watched the test dummy accidents of rearfacing vs forward facing or read the TONS of articles with evidence priving that rearfacing is safer? Or do you think those scientific studies were set up by Graco also?

Curts... Curtsmomma

Yes, you can get tinting for your windows.  Plus the sun is not ALWAYS going to shine in on your child from the rear window.  Let's be real here.  It can shine from the side too, then your RF or FF child will get the sun on them.  Put sunblock on, problem solved if you're that concerned about it.

jpfsmom jpfsmom

We have one Christie..that has nothing to do with the airflow not getting to him...

dream... dreamingviolet

I am all for the safety aspect of the rear-facing and use of boosters etc. But if they are going to keep saying that kids be kept in seats and boosters longer and longer, they need to work to make a better longer lasting carseat. Since most seats have the 5-6 year "expiration date" that means you are going to be buying no less than 3 carseats per child just to abide by the time you are supposed to discontinue use if you have to keep your kid in it until they are 12!

Sadie... SadiesMom08

I don't understand why people wouldn't want their kids to be safer. Yes, it's an odd transition for those of us who never had a booster seat growing up, let alone a booster when we were 12. But it seems like a no-brainer to me--it's an easy step to take to make sure my children are as safe as possible. Someday we'll look at forward-facing one-year-olds the same way we look at the thought of our parents riding home from the hospital simply being held on our grandparents' laps. 

And for the record, we'd ALL be safer riding rear-facing--even adults. So we're not just picking on kids here--we're just making it safer for our most precious passengers. And for whoever wants to re-design the standard car so that I can drive while rear-facing--I'm game to try it! I'd like to be 5 times safer just like my kids.

navyma23 navyma23

I think this is great. And I live in Florida and don't see anything wrong with rear facing my child. The sun excuse is a total cop out. 

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