Infants simply do not have the back and neck strength to travel facing forward. In the rear-facing position, the force of a crash or sudden stop is spread across the child’s body, and absorbed into the back of the car seat.
It is safer for your child to stay rear-facing as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children remain rear-facing until age 2, or more. They are 75% less likely to be killed or seriously injured when rear-facing.
When your child has outgrown the Infant-only seat, you can use an Infant/Child seat or Infant/Child/Booster seat rear-facing up to the car seat’s maximum rear-facing weight [13.6-22.7 kg (30-50 lb.), depending on the model] OR until the top of the child’s head is 2.5 cm (1 in.), or less, below the top of the seat.
Choosing a Rear-facing Car Seat:
There are three (3) types of seats that can be used for Stage 1: Rear-facing – Infant-only seats, Infant/Child seats (also known as Convertible seats) and Infant/Child/Booster Seats (also known as 3-Stage seats).
Remember to fill out and mail in the registration card that comes with the car seat. If there is a recall, the manufacturer will be able to contact you.
Infant-only car seats must always face the rear of the vehicle. Current models start at 1.8 or 2.3 kg (4 or 5 lb.), and have a upper weight of 10, 13.5, or 16 kg (22, 30 or 35 lb.), depending on the model.
Infant/Child seats (Convertible seats) and Infant/Child/Boosters (3-stage seats) can be used rear-facing up to 13.6-22.7 kg (30-50 lb.), depending on the model. These car seats can be used forward-facing for children up to 18-30 kg (40-65 lb.), depending on the model. Infant/Child/Booster seats can also be used as a Booster seat from 18 to 45-54.5 kg (40 to 100-120 lb.).
Harnessing Your Infant/Toddler in a Rear-facing Seat:
Carefully follow the instructions that came with your car seat.
- Always check the seat’s metal and plastic parts before putting your child in the car seat. In warm weather, they can get very hot!
- The child’s bottom and back should be flat against the back of the car seat.
- The harness must be adjusted as the child grows, both for safety and comfort.
- The harness straps should come through the back of the seat at the level of, or slightly below, the child’s shoulders; never from above.
- The harness straps must lie flat on the child’s body. Any twists or folds will concentrate the crash forces.
- The harness straps should fit snugly. Adjusted properly, you can get no more than one finger between the harness and the child’s collar bone or be unable to pinch a fold in the strap.
- The chest clip should be at the child’s armpit level to prevent the harness straps from slipping off the shoulders.
- You can use a rolled receiving blanket or small towel on either side of the child’s head and torso for support.
- A rolled wash cloth may be used to fill any empty space behind the crotch strap, but only after the harness is properly tightened.
- Only use items that came with the seat, or ones sold by the manufacturer for your seat model. Never put any other padding under, or behind, your child.
- Over-sized clothing, bulky snowsuits, bunting bags, sack sleepers, cuddle bags, comfort straps etc. can interfere with the correct use of the harness.
- Dress your child in light clothing that has both arms and legs.
- Place a blanket over the child for warmth once the harness is secured.
Putting a Rear-facing seat in your vehicle:
Read your vehicle owner’s manual. It will have information about the seat belts and Universal Anchorage System (UAS) in your vehicle. Check your car seat’s instructions as to where the belt should go.
The rear seat of the vehicle is the safest place for a child. Transport Canada recommends that all children 12 years and under sit in the back seat. The centre, back position is preferred because it is likely to be the furthest away from the point-of-impact from any direction.
Ensure that the interior of your vehicle is safe. Tie down or lock all objects in the trunk. Items left on the rear window ledge can fall on a child. Items on the seat, on the floor, or in an open hatchback, wagon or van can fly around, if there is a sudden stop or collision.
No more than 20% of the bottom of the car seat should overhang the front edge of the vehicle seat.
A rear-facing car seat must not be installed in a front seating position that has an active air bag. For side-impact air bags, follow your vehicle manufacturer’s instructions. Clear the area between the child seat and the door of all objects. Toys, blankets, and even pillows could harm a child, if the side air bag inflates.
When installing the car seat, use either the seat belt or the Universal Anchorage System (UAS), not both. Most car seats have not been tested using both systems together. Check your seat’s instructions. When tightening the seat belt or UAS, push the base or car seat down and into the vehicle upholstery. The seat should not move more than 2.5 cm (1 in.) toward the front of the vehicle, or directly side-to-side, where the belt is attached. It is acceptable (and normal) to be able to lift the top of the seat toward the rear of the vehicle or pivot it side-to-side.
Check your car seat’s instructions to be sure that you have it reclined properly, about halfway back. Some vehicle seat cushions slope down toward the rear, causing the car seat to sit too upright for a newborn or young baby. Most child seats have built-in recline indicators to help you get the correct angle.
If your seat sits too upright, try adjusting the base or place a tightly rolled towel or a foam noodle under the child seat, in the crack of the vehicle seat, to regain the correct angle. Once your child can hold up his or her head, this may no longer be necessary. For older children, the car seat may be used at a more upright angle. Follow your seats’s instructions.
If you are using an Infant-only seat, check your seat’s instructions to see if the carry handle should be up or down when driving in a vehicle. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using the anti-rebound bar or foot, if your child seat has one.
When using an Infant/Child seat or Infant/Child/Booster seat rear-facing, do not leave the tether strap hanging loose to fly around in a crash. Secure it according to your manufacturer’s instructions, or roll it up and wrap it with a cable tie. If your seat indicates that it can be tethered rear-facing, carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Leave your infant unattended in the seat.
- Put the infant seat on a raised surface.
- Use an infant car seat as a crib.
Click here to download a pamphlet on Infant Seats
Click here to download a One Minute Rear-facing Safety Check
Click here to download a pamphlet on Multi-Stage Car Seats