Car Seat Basics: What Does that Label Really Mean?!

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Your little one has outgrown their rear facing only infant car seat. You’ve painstakingly researched and selected a convertible with a 40 or 50 pound rear facing weight limit. CSFTL, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Transport Canada recommend that children ride rear facing until they’re at least 2 years old or, following best practice, until they reach the height or weight limits of their car seat.

You’re comfortable that the seat you’ve chosen will keep your child rear facing until at least 2 years old, but maybe even 3 or 4.

Confusing Warning Labels

And then, you open the manual and start reading the labels on the seat before preparing to assemble and install when WHOA! This shiny warning jumps out “use only in a rear facing position when the child weighs less than 22 pounds”.

Wait, What?

Rear facing under 22 pounds label

Rear facing under 22 pounds label

Your child already weighs 23 pounds, does this mean you’ve just spent some dollars on a car seat that your kiddo cannot use rear facing?

So...not 20 pounds rear facing?

So… not 22 pounds rear facing?

Reading on, you then find this page in the manual, which allows for use in rear facing mode until the child weighs 40 pounds:

Aren’t these labels and instructions wildly inconsistent? Which one should you believe?

Here is the Answer

Fear not! The confusion lies in the awkward wording required by the federal government. The warning label tells you that if the child weighs less than 22 pounds, they must ride rear facing in this car seat.

It doesn’t matter if the child is 1 year old, or 2, or 3. A child who weighs under 22 pounds has one option for the seat, and that is the rear facing position.

Century Drive On 3 years old rear facing

Century Drive On 3 years old rear facing

Does it mean that a child who is 23 pounds cannot ride rear facing? No, not at all. For example, this manual shows that a petite child who weighs 23 pounds at 3 years old could ride rear facing OR forward facing.

However, for this car seat with these restrictions, all children who weigh less than 22 pounds MUST be rear facing, and children 22-40 pounds MAY be rear facing, depending on their height.

Once your child is 2 years of age meets the minimum weight requirement to ride forward facing in their car seat. You can follow “good” practice (on a scale of good/better/best) and make the parental choice to use it forward facing.

Of course, we always encourage caregivers to follow best practice and use the seat rear facing until the child reaches the height or weight limit for the seat.