When Does The 2 Hour Car Seat Rule End?

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Both car seat manufacturers and the AAP recommend that a baby should not spend more than 2 hours in a car seat during a ride. This is known as the 2 hour car seat rule. 

The question many parents ask is when does this 2 hour car seat rule end? 

If you are wondering when to start taking longer rides with your baby, keep reading. I break it all in here. 

In this blog post, I will discuss the following points:

  • Why is the 2 hour rule so important
  • When does the 2 hour car seat rule end
  • How to ensure your baby’s safety in the car seat when taking longer rides. 

What is the 2 hour rule anyway?

For those who have never heard of the 2 hours rule. The AAP recommends that babies don’t spend more than 2 hours in their car seats. 

This means if you are planning a long road trip, you must stop every two hours or less and take your child from the car seat for a break.

When does the 2 hour car seat rule end

The longer the break, the better, as long as it is safe to do so.

Taking breaks allows the baby’s body time to stretch, get out of slouching positions, and move around. This also reduces the risk of developing flat head syndrome.

Why is the 2 hour rule so crucial to the safety of your child?

A 2016 research published that young babies may be at risk of breathing difficulties if they travel while sitting in an upright position for too long.

This is because their airways are too narrow for them to take in enough oxygen when they are slouching in the car seat.

what age does the 2 hour car seat rule end

Also, a car seat offers a warm environment for your baby which can lead to overheating, and babies that get too hot are at a greater risk of SIDS.

When in the car seat, your baby is sitting upright in the same position for too long, which puts a strain on the baby’s still-developing spine, neck, and hips. 

Taking all that into consideration, it is important to ensure that your baby does not spend more than 2 hours in the car seat at a time.

When does the 2 hour car seat rule end?

The exact age for when the two-hour limit ends is not set in stone.

It usually varies depending on the development and size of your baby, but most experts and experienced parents (including me) agree that around 6 months of age, you can start taking longer rides (more than 2 hours).

However, it is still important to make frequent stops and give your baby a chance to stretch their legs and get out of the car seat. 

how long does the 2 hour car seat rule apply

Before you decide to take a long ride with your baby, it is important to make sure they are ready. Consult your baby’s pediatrician for advice.

Preemies (pre-term babies) and babies that are 6 months or younger should not travel for longer than two hours at a time.

If your baby starts having complete control of her head and can sit upright, that’s probably a sign that she’s ready for a longer travel time. 

If she does keep reading!

6 steps to ensure your baby’s safety in the car seat when taking longer rides

If your little one is ready to move on from the 2 hour car seat rule, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Follow the 2-hour rule as much as possible.

Babies should still take frequent breaks from their car seats during longer rides.

Stretching can help them stay comfortable, prevent the flat head syndrome, and reduce the risk of SIDS and other breathing difficulties.

If possible, the 2 hour car seat rule should be followed even if your baby is over 6 months.

2. Consult your pediatrician first

Your baby’s pediatrician needs to give you the go-ahead before you make any long trips with your baby.

He or she knows better than anyone else about your little one’s particular developmental stage.

If your child is premature or has any health conditions, the doctors will often give her a car seat test before they discharge you to monitor her breathing and heart rate while in a car seat.

3. Make sure you choose the appropriate car seat

Choosing the right car seat is crucial. Make sure it’s suitable for your baby’s age, height, and weight.

The car seat must not be expired or damaged, if it is you must replace it. Here is what to do with an unwanted car seat.

Once you buy your car seat, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to register so you can receive a notification in case of a recall.

Buying the wrong car seat or using an expired or damaged car seat puts your child at risk.

4. Ensure a proper installation of the car seat

Once you picked up the right car seat, make sure to properly install it in your car.

Read the manual and follow the step-by-step instructions. Make sure you use the correct type of seat belt and know how to adjust all the straps correctly.

Do you have a Graco car seat? Here is how to adjust and loosen Graco car seat straps.

If you are not confident about your car seat installation, try getting some help from a certified car seat technician.

Ask if your hospital provides free car seat checks or search the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website to find a certified technician in your area.

5. Ensure proper fit and positioning of the baby in the car seat

The car seat must fit your baby securely in order to provide the safety it is meant to.

The best car seats have adjustable straps and fit your baby snugly. Make sure the straps are not too loose or too tight.

Do the pinch test or the reverse pinch test to make sure the straps are secure.

Also, your baby must not be wearing bulky clothes like a winter jacket. If needed, use a thin blanket over her straps (not under) to keep her warm during cold months.

Check the recline position of the car seat and adjust it as necessary according to the car seat manual.

Your baby’s head must not be tipped too far forward or back, as this can cause breathing difficulties.

6. Keep an eye on your little one

Check on your baby periodically during a long ride. If she looks uncomfortable or sweaty, take her out of the car seat and give her a break.

If you are rear-facing, you can install a safe rear-facing mirror and adjust it so that you can see her face. This will help you spot any signs of distress.

Having someone in the back seat watching your baby can also be helpful.

Good to know: Car seat mirrors can potentially become projectiles during a car crash. However, it’s also worth noting that car seat manufacturers produce and sell crash-tested car seat mirrors as accessories for their car seats. That’s why, we believe it’s a parent’s choice whether they want to use a car seat mirror for their child or not.

car seat 2 hour rule

2 hour Car seat rule Recap

  1. Make sure to get your pediatrician’s permission before making any long trips
  2. If your trip involves driving for long periods of time, you should stop for frequent breaks.
  3. A second adult should travel in the back of the car with your baby, or if traveling alone use a mirror to keep an eye on your baby.
  4. Only use the car seat in the car. Never use it as a bed for naps when you reach your destination.
  5. Make sure you have the right car seat for your baby’s weight and that it is fitted properly with the straps adjusted correctly.
  6. Check that your baby’s head is not tipped too far forward or back to ensure she can breathe properly.
  7. Avoid long car rides with babies less than a year old or premature babies.
  8. Remember to always buckle up and do a pinch test for every ride!

Happy driving! 🚗💨

The safety of your baby is of utmost importance and the 2 hour car seat rule is a helpful guideline to follow. 

In addition to the 2 hour rule, choosing the right car seat and proper installation and fit is necessary to protect your baby.

2 thoughts on “When Does The 2 Hour Car Seat Rule End?”

  1. The article says: “If you are rear-facing, make sure to install a rear-facing mirror and adjust it so that you can see her face. This will help you spot any signs of distress.”

    The feedback we received from the attending pediatrician after my son’s birth (Sept 2022) was that mounted back seat mirrors allowing the driver to see the baby are not advisable; that the risk of distracted driving is too great. This was at a Harvard teaching hospital, so I felt confident enough in her advice that I returned the back seat mirror I’d received as a shower gift…

    • Hello Arienne, thank you for your feedback on this topic. We appreciate your input and it helps us ensure that we provide comprehensive and accurate information to concerned moms and dads.

      While you and your pediatrician are correct that after-market products including car seat mirrors can be a projectile and pose a risk to child safety during a crash, it’s worth noting that some car seat manufacturers (Maxi Cosi, Diono…) produce and sell car seat mirrors that are crash tested. So, we believe it’s a parent’s choice as long as they are aware of the risks that come with it.

      One potential advantage of using car seat mirrors is that they can be helpful for parents driving alone, as it allows them to check on their baby without having to turn around, reducing the risk of distracted driving. But, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate the pros and cons of using car seat mirrors to make an informed decision.

      We’re actually working on a detailed post about car seat mirrors that we’ll be publishing soon. In the post, we’ll go over the pros and cons of using car seat mirrors. We will also update this post to add a note on the safety of car seat mirrors.

      Thank you


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