If you still have a baby in an infant car seat, it may be time to start thinking about purchasing a convertible car seat sooner than you've expected. After conducting crash tests on a 22-pound dummy (meant to represent a one-year-old) in a rear-facing infant car seat, Consumer Reports is now recommending that "all children be moved to a rear-facing convertible seat by their first birthday, even if they haven't yet outgrown their rear-facing infant seat."
Why the new recommendation?
In the crash tests, they found that babies were more likely to hit their heads on the back of the front seat while sitting in an infant car seat vs. a convertible car seat. "The dummy's head hit the simulated seatback in 16 of the 30 [infant] seats we tested. But with rear-facing convertible seats, the same dummy avoided contact in 22 of the 23 models," reveals Consumer Reports.
Current guidelines recommend switching a child to a convertible car seat once they've outgrown the maximum limits on the infant car seat, which for certain brands, can go up to 40 pounds, which is well beyond the weight of an average one-year-old. However, most height limits still tend to max out at 30 inches, which is what most kids will outgrow before the weight (usually around 15 months).
If the child's head is one inch below the top of the car seat, they've definitely outgrown it.
And to keep our most precious commodities extra safe, Consumer Reports is recommending that parents swap to the convertible car seat by a child's first birthday, regardless of whether they've outgrown the infant seat or not.
On a final note, even after you switch them to the larger car seat, don't forget the AAP's recommendation to keep them rear-facing until they're at least two years old. And, yes, you can rear-face a convertible car seat.