It can be very confusing to know when you should move your baby forward facing, but this blog will help you know what the safest course of action is!
Child car seat groups can seem complicated at first as they go by weight and height, yet there is a crossover between each stage on the weight limit, and then there are age recommendations to top it off! What do you do with a baby who is the 9 months forward facing age but only 18 lbs? Do you have to turn forward? Is the rear facing seat not safe to use after 9 months then?
The best thing to do when researching car seats is to ignore age recommendations and choose a seat solely on your child’s weight and height. This helps to remove some of the ‘smoke’ and it makes the seat stages a little easier to understand. The seat stages have a crossover on the weight categories, and this is due to the chance that a child can outgrow a seat by height before they hit the maximum weight and so they will have to move up a stage.
This chart shows the categories:
*For maximum safety time you should keep your child in their rear facing car seat until it is fully outgrown
**Some seats may specify a different height limit - check instructions and follow carefully
If they are in a group 0+ infant seat this is at either 13kg, or when the top of their head is level with the top of the seat. Their feet are not in danger of being hurt if they are touching the vehicle seat back, and they will not be uncomfortable if they are ‘filling’ the seat. Child car seats are not unlike a crash helmet - a tight fit will provide better protection than having lots of room!
The 9 month age given on a group 1 forward facing car seats is an approximate recommendation. The 9kg minimum weight limit is just that, a minimum. The best advice states to keep your child in each seat to the maximum limit, and then move them up.
Babies can legally move to a front facing seat at the 9kg minimum weight, but they must fit in the harness and also be able to sit unaided for a minimum of 30 minutes - no less. Moving your child forward facing at 9kg is not just as safe as having them rear facing.
If your child has outgrown their baby seat by height or you want to move them up to the next stage before they have outgrown their seat, you do have the option of a combination 0+1 car seat. This will let you have them in a full size group 1 car seat, but it is rear facing. These seats can either rear face to 13kg or 18kg, and offer your baby the best safety of rear facing before you make the switch to front facing.
If your baby is 9kg and outgrowing their baby seat by height you can also use a rear facing group 1 or 1,2 seat as well as the option of a 0+1 seat.
Group 0+1: newborn - 18kg (newborn - approx 4 yrs)
Group 1: 9 - 18kg (mainly front facing, but rear facing seats available) (up to approx 4 years)
Group 1,2: 9-25kg (mainly rear facing) (Up to approx 6 years)
So… when can my baby move forward facing?
Legally you can currently turn your baby forward facing once they weigh 20lb/9kg and they must also be sitting completely unaided for a minimum of 30 minutes. If you are using an i-Size car seat, you must legally rear face until a minimum of 15 months. Eventually, all children will be rear facing to at least 15 months by law.
However, ideally you would not move forward facing until they are at least 18kg/4 years old. A rear facing group 1 (or group 1,2 seat) will provide much better protection for your child from the most dangerous and most common type of impact - a frontal impact. The younger a child moves forward facing, the less protection they have in a crash - it could be the difference between life and death. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore maximum outgrown limits on your seats however! If your baby has outgrown the rear facing limit of their seat, they will need to move up to the next stage, be that rear or forward facing.
Are forward facing seats dangerous?
Since child seats were introduced, car seats have gone a long way in helping to reduce death and injury in children. Forward facing car seats are designed to restrain a child in a collision, which when they are correctly fitted and used - they do very well. New technology and data does however show that children are much better protected by facing backwards when in the car.