How should a forward-facing child ride?

Posted in: Forward-Facing Seats

Recline Angle

It is safest for a forward-facing child to ride fully upright. Many convertible seats have both a recline and upright position. Some child safety seats allow the use of the recline position when the seat is forward-facing, but most require that the seat be fully upright.

Shoulder straps

The shoulder straps must come from the back of the child safety seat at or above the child’s shoulders.


The harness straps must be tightened over the child so that only one finger can fit between the straps and the child’s body.

10 Responses to “How should a forward-facing child ride?”

  1. Erin says:

    Hi, My 3yo just reached the weight limit of her seat and has to be forward-faced. I am now having the issue she doesn’t know where to put her feet now that they aren’t supported. Can you give me any suggestions as to what we can do?

  2. Jessica says:

    I have a rear facing 12 month old and a forward facing 3 year old. I know that the center is the safest spot. Who should sit in the center, my forward facing 3 year old or my rear facing 12 month old? Thank you!

  3. Jennifer Harmon says:

    Hi hi have a graco smart seat all in one and when I have it foward facing it has a recline how can correct this so it’s fully upright I have a town and county van 2015

  4. Fred says:

    My daughters car seat says that, when forward facing, if a child is less than 40lb they must be in the most reclined position supported by forward facing. This seems at odds with your advice. Can you explain?

    • The car seat instructions are always the source for the information on that car seat. For seats with multiple recline positions, the most reclined position for forward-facing is always more upright than the most reclined position for rear-facing. With some seats they needed a slight recline for forward-facing to better manage the forces applied to the child’s chest (other seats were able to manage these forces by designing the seat differently).

  5. Todd says:

    I’ve had my front-facing child in a more reclining position, yet her head is still plopping forward as she sleeps. Now I’m reading it’s safer for her to be in the upright position. However, I’m even more worried about her head plopping forward. How do I keep her upright, yet avoid this problem?

    • The head falling down is not a safety issue for kids who can sit upright unsupported (over about 6-8 months of age). Having a forward-facing car seat in a recline position that is not allowed by the manufacturer IS a safety issue and can increase the child’s risk of injury by changing how the car seat and child move in a crash and where on the child’s body the crash forces get distributed. If the child is within the weight/height parameters for rear-facing I’d keep the child rear-facing – where it is safe to be reclined.

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