I have heard this a few times, and I have not been able to pinpoint where this particular rumor came from; it seems to go back to the early 2000’s. Some seats have designed the handle to act as a rebound control, but certainly not all of them.
This rumor is a little easier pinpoint the origination. The rear facing only seat has seen many transformations since it first came out; first without a base, then with a base. The first rear facing only seat to be sold with the base that stayed in the car came out in the 1980s. This seat, made by Century, was required to have the handle in the “down” position, by the back of the seat. This was required because this was how the seat locked into the base. Most other manufacturers followed suit and required theirs to be down as well.
There are some CPSTs and public safety officials that have latched onto this “rule”, and it traces back to seats that did have this requirement – however it’s completely false. There is not a law in any state that regulates the position of an infant seat handle. Most simply require the seat to be used according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Each seat has different rules for where the handle can be. As always, your manual is your most powerful and informative tool about the correct handle position(s) that your seat allows. For quick reference we have made a chart showing what positions are allowed for each rear facing only seat.
First though, let’s talk about what those different positions are:
This first picture shows the “carry” position. It can be called different names by different companies, but carry describes the position well. It puts the handle straight up.
The second position is called the convenience position. This puts the handle more towards the head of the seat.
The third position is called travel. It puts the handle at the top of the head.
The fourth position is called the stand position. This position is completely behind the head of the seat.
Last, a handful of seats have what’s called a rebound position. This position is down towards the child’s feet.