Car seats are an important part of your family’s safety. They protect children from injury during a crash, and can help them grow up healthy and happy. Choosing the right one for your child, however, can be a daunting task. The key is to find a seat that fits your needs, works in your vehicle and meets all of the seat’s weight and height requirements.

Infant-Only Car Seats

For babies and children who weigh less than 32 pounds, rear-facing-only car seats are the safest option. These seats provide the best protection for your baby’s head, neck and spine during a frontal crash.

Once your baby reaches a rear-facing-only seat’s height or weight limit, move him to a forward-facing car seat. For example, if your baby’s head is at least 1 inch from the top of his child’s rear-facing seat, then he’s too big for a rear-facing seat.

Convertible and All-in-One Car Seats

For kids who weigh more than 40 pounds, convertible and all-in-one car seats allow children to switch between forward and rear-facing modes as their heads and bodies grow. These seats often offer more versatility in terms of harness placement and may even have built-in level indicators that show when your child’s seat is at the appropriate height.

These types of car seats can also be a good choice if you have several vehicles that you need to transfer your child’s seat between. Some models of these seats are designed to click into and out of a base, which makes them easier to transport between cars.

Backless Boosters

These boosters are designed to raise your child’s seat belt so that it sits properly, and they can be used in vehicles with low or no headrests. They are not as sturdy or durable as high-back boosters, but they can be easier to move from vehicle to vehicle.

Boosters can be installed using the vehicle’s seat belt or lower anchors and a tether, if your vehicle has them. When installing a booster, always fasten the top tether to the seat in your vehicle.

Rear-Facing and Forward-Facing Car Seats

During a crash, babies’ heads are large for their bodies and may be dislodged. In addition, their spinal cords stretch as a result of the crash. Rear-facing seats provide better protection, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, because their heads are cradled by the rear of the seat in a frontal crash.

Keep Your Baby Safe in a Rear-Facing Car Seat

Babies and young children should ride in rear-facing car seats as long as possible until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer. The AAP recommends starting rear-facing as early as the first ride home from the hospital.

To make sure your baby rides safely in a rear-facing seat, be sure to follow the seat’s instructions and read your vehicle owner’s manual for the correct installation. If you have questions, contact the manufacturer of your car seat or your local health department.