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Is my infant too big for his car seat?
Q: My 7-month-old son weighs 24 pounds and is over the weight restriction for the infant car seat. He is so long that his feet hang off the back of it and hit the back seat of the car. When can I put him in a forward-facing child seat?
Miranda Paducah, KY
A: Choosing the right car seat and using it correctly is very important for your child’s safety. It can be confusing to figure out which car seat is right for your child because of the wide range in children’s weight and length at each age, and the different types of car seats on the market.

It’s crucial that you use the recommended type of car seat facing the right direction for your child’s age and weight. Children’s safety experts recommend that infants ride in a rear-facing infant seat until they are 1 year old and 20 pounds. Although your baby is already over 20 pounds, he still needs to be in a rear-facing infant seat because his physical development is still that of a 7-month-old. Under 1 year of age, babies’ bodies are not ready to absorb the impact of a car crash in the front-facing, fully seated position. The rear-facing, reclined position is safer.

While your son may be too heavy and long for the infant car seat you currently own (which typically has a weight limit of 20 to 22 pounds), a “convertible” car seat would probably be more appropriate for his age and size (these have forward-facing weight limits of 30 to 35 pounds and height limits of 36 inches). For the next five months, you could use the convertible seat in the rear-facing position. Once your son turns 1 you can use the same car seat in the forward-facing position by moving the shoulder straps to the slots at or above your child’s shoulders, changing the seat from the reclined to the upright position, and using the forward-facing seat belt path. There are many brands of convertible car seats. Try them out and see which one best fits your baby.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician