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Infant Car Seats (Rear-facing)

Did you know?

Infant seats are rear-facing and reclined in order to support your baby’s neck in a sudden stop or crash. This is important because:

  • infants have weak neck and back muscles
  • infants’ heads are large and heavy compared to the rest of their body

Even when your baby is able to walk, rear-facing is still safer until they reach the manufacturer’s weight or height limits of their car seat.


Use this simple two-sided checklist to help you with installation, harnessing and travelling questions (printable)

infant car seat
Infant Car Seat Checklist (PDF)

Installation and Harnessing

Moving to the Next Car Seat

Safe Travel

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Moving to the next car seat... "Give them time to grow"

  • Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act requires children to use a rear-facing car seat until the child weighs at least 9 kb (20 lb.). This is a minimum requirement.
  • Some rear-facing car seats are made for children that weigh up to 20 kg (45 lb.).
  • It is best to keep your child in a rear-facing seat until they reach the manufacturer’s weight or height limits. (Adapted from the Ministry of Transportation)

Safe travel... Don’t forget

father and son
  • always follow your car seat manufacturer’s guidelines for height and weight
  • the back seat is the safest place for any child under the age of 13
  • a child should never be placed in front of an active air bag
  • check for the expiry date on your car seat or call the manufacturer
  • if you did not send in the registration card check Transport Canada notices regularly for defect notices or recalls

Travelling tip: loose objects should be secured or put in the trunk. This prevents them from injuring the driver or passengers in a collision or sudden stop.

All drivers must ensure that passengers under the age of 16 are properly secured in a car seat, booster seat or seatbelt. This includes grandparents, babysitters, and visitors to Ontario. The fine is $240 and two demerit points.

Tips on how to install the car seat rear-facing Tips

Note: Infant car seats with removable bases can be used either with or without the base (refer to your car seat manual).

1. Choose the location

  • Check your vehicle owner’s manual to find out where your car seat can be safely installed.
  • In most vehicles the back center seat is the safest location.
  • If the back center seat cannot be used other locations will be listed in the vehicle manual.
  • If the front seat is your only option be sure that the car seat is not near an active airbag and that the seat can be installed correctly.

This is important because the speed at which airbags go off can cause serious injury to children less than 13 years of age.

2. Position the car seat so that the back is reclined at a 45 degree angle

  • Check with your car seat manual, there may be a foot that can be pulled out, or you may need to use a foam noodle or rolled towel to get the 45 degree angle.

This is important because with infants their heads are heavy. If they sit too upright their heads will flop forward and this can make it difficult for them to breathe.

3. Decide on the seat belt or Universal Anchorage System (UAS)

  • Car seats can be secured by the seat belt or the Universal Anchorage System (UAS). Use the one that works best with your vehicle and gives the tightest fit.

Never use both the UAS and the seatbelt to secure the car seat. This is important because safety testing has never been done with both in use.

  • If using the seat belt, ensure that the vehicle buckle is outside and below the belt path hole of the car seat. If the buckle sits above the belt path hole, the buckle stem can be twisted to make it shorter. Check with vehicle manufacturer to make sure it is okay to twist the buckle stem.

This is important because if the buckle sits too high, the car seat may not fit tightly enough.

  • If using the seat belt there must be a locking mechanism in place. Check your vehicle owner’s manual to find out if your seat belt has a locking mechanism and how to use it. If it does not, a locking clip will be required.

This is important because locking prevents the seat belt from loosening, keeping the car seat firmly in place.

4. Find the correct belt path

  • Infant car seats with a removable base have only a rear-facing belt path
  • Car seats which can be used rear-facing and forward-facing will have two belt paths. One for rear-facing and the other for forward-facing.
  • Use the car seat manual to help you find the correct path for rear-facing.

This is important because using the correct path helps keep the car seat securely fastened to the vehicle seat, and prevents it from pulling apart during a crash.

5. Secure the seat

  • Thread the seatbelt or UAS belt through the correct path and buckle the car seat into place.
  • Apply your adult weight by getting into the car seat or firmly pushing the sides of the car seat down into the vehicle upholstery, at the same time pull the seatbelt or UAS belt to tighten it.

This is often easier when done with two people.

6. Check the tightness of your installation

  • Grab the bottom of the car seat where the belt passes through, push and pull to check that there is no more than 1 inch of movement side to side or front to back.

This is important because car seats are designed so that when they are installed properly, they basically become part of the vehicle. A loose car seat (more than 1 inch of movement) puts your child at risk.

Note: It is normal for the rear-facing car seat to have movement at the top - this helps to absorb the forces in a crash.


Tips on how to harness your child into the rear-facing car seat Tips

1. Place your child in the car seat

  • Place your child’s bottom against the back of the seat.
  • Do not use any additional padding between the child and the seat (e.g. bunting bags or bundles, after market head huggers, thick snow suits).

This is important because the car seat has not been tested using additional padding or after market products. The force of a collision may flatten the padding, making the harness straps loose. This could allow your child to slip out and be ejected if there is a crash or sudden stop.

  • Blankets can be placed on top of your child after harnessing as these will not interfere with the effectiveness of the harness in a collision.

2. Place and secure the harness straps

  • Place the straps over your child’s shoulders and securely latch the harness to the buckle between the child’s legs.

Note: For larger children their legs may push against the back of your vehicle seat, this is not a safety problem. They will make themselves comfortable.

3. Check the level of the harness straps

  • Check to be sure that the harness straps sit at or below the child’s shoulders

This is important because it will assist in safely absorbing the forces of a crash or sudden stop across the strongest part of the smaller child’s body, their back.

  • If the harness straps are above the shoulders, changes will need to be made to adjust the harness.
  • Refer to the car seat manual on how to adjust the harness level for your car seat.

4. Check that the harness straps lay flat

  • Twists or folds in the harness straps will need to be corrected.

This is important because twists or folds will decrease the effectiveness of the harness system and could cause it to fail.

5. Tighten the harness

  • Pull the harness tight, refer to your car seat manual
  • It is tight enough when you can fit only one finger between the harness and your child’s collar bone after the harness is buckled.

6. Connect and position the chest clip

  • Do up the chest clip and slide it up to arm pit level.

This is important because the chest clip keeps the harness over your child’s shoulders. If the straps were to slip off the shoulders your child could be ejected if there is a crash or sudden stop.

7. If using the infant car seat with the removable base

  • Place the car seat firmly into the base, while listening for a “click” sound.

This is important because it helps you be sure that the seat is securely attached to the base.

  • Place the carrying handle into the correct position for travel: check your manual.

Most infant seats require the carrying handle to be in the down position.

  • Some car seats allow the handle to remain in the up position.