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Infant Car Seat Handle Up or Down?

Should the infant car seat handle be up or down?

I’ve always thought that car seat handles have a single function. I use it to carry my child from my car to my house…I never worried about whether the handle should be up or down.

infant car seat

I thought it was all the same.

A pretty obvious guess, right?

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The handle plays a significant part in safety.

Let’s take that one step further – the correct positioning of the handle can save your baby’s life.

So what’s the right position?

The short answer is: it depends on the car seat.

The longer answer is – there’s a number of factors that come into play. Join me and let’s look into all of them.

How should an infant car seat handle be positioned?

Your car seat should have a sticker on the side showing the correct position for that specific car seat.

And you should check out the instruction manual. The adequate position may vary, so make sure you have the correct information.

With most, the handle should be down, while some manuals show that any position is acceptable.

What then?

Let’s look into the differences between different positions.

Handle positions of infant car seats

Carry or upright position

This position is self-explanatory. It’s used for carrying the car seat and your baby in it.

When the handle is in the most upright position, it’s easy to grab the car seat and carry it with you.

For the parent, the upright position of the handle is as convenient as any.

What about safety?

The handle would stop the baby’s head from hitting the vehicle’s seat in the case of an impact.

So, I give the carry position the highest grade for safety.

Car seats that allow only the carry position:

  • Dorel: all models
  • Combi: all models
  • Cybex: Aton 1, 2, 1
  • 4Moms: all models

Anti-rebound position of the handle

The handle is again up but closer to the baby’s feet.

Just like the previous one, it’s known for its safety benefits. It doesn’t allow the baby car seat to hit the vehicle’s seat in case of impact.

The car seat that allows only the rebound position:

Travel position

The handle is the closest to the child’s head, right at the top.

Models that allow only the travel position:

Stand position of the handle

If you position the handle behind the head of the seat, you’ll stop it from rocking.

For some models, you can use it while driving.

Now that we know about all the positions let’s talk more about safety.

Safety of the handle positions

Why does all this even matter?

Imagine you’re throwing a ball against a wall.

It bounces right back, right?

The same thing would happen in a crash if there weren’t a handle to prevent a catastrophe.

Infant Car Seat Handle Up or Down (2)

After the initial impact, the rear-facing car seat and the baby would get thrown forward.

Then, everything would bounce back.

Option A)  The handle is in an upright position. It stops the baby’s head from hitting the seat of the vehicle.

Option B) It doesn’t.

The same goes for the rebound position, again stopping the baby from hitting the seat.

Related reads and comparisons: free car seat Medicaid | proper car seat strap placement | are swivel car seats legal in us

Let’s now review some of the most popular models and brands.

Greco infant car seat handle – up or down?

The only correct choice for the Greco Assura model is the stand position.

For Greco Safe Seat and Greco Snug Ride, you can choose between carry, travel, and stand.

Chicco infant car seat handle – up or down?

The carry, travel, and stand positions are all allowed for Chicco Fit2, Key Fit 22, and Key Fit 30.

Evenflo infant car seat handle – up or down?

It gets a bit complicated here, so let’s break it down by model.

Discoverytravel and stand
Discovery 5travel and stand
Embracetravel and stand
Embrace 35 with SensorSafeanti-rebound, travel and stand
First Choicetravel and stand
First Choice 5travel and stand
LiteMaxcarry and travel
Nurtureanti-rebound, travel and stand
SafeMaxcarry and travel
SecureRide 35anti-rebound, travel and stand
Serenadeanti-rebound, travel and stand

Why you should avoid the travel position

When there’s a baby in your vehicle, you’re probably not thinking about yourself at all.

Maybe the baby’s pacifier fell out, it started crying, or you want to check if it’s still breathing. 

I’ve been there.

My advice for all new parents is not to forget to think about their comfort. To be the best parent you strive to be, you need to be well-rested.

And with the travel position, you may not have enough space as usual.

The travel position makes the carrier a bit deeper. It takes up more room, so a taller adult can’t really fit in the front seat.

If you’re tall, maybe it’d be better to opt for the carry or the anti-rebound option instead.

If that’s what the manual shows as an option, of course.

Related reads: how long can newborn be in a car seat | when to forward face a car seat

Can I hang toys on the handle?

No, do not hang toys on the car seat handle. They’re a safety hazard.

I understand the inner monologue you might have.

‘Okay, I’m choosing an upright position. Let’s see how I can make the most of it.

I know – I’ll put my child’s favorite hanging toys on it! They will never be bored again.’

It makes my heart ache to see my child bored.

Still, I’m not a fan of the idea or two reasons:

  1. Toys are a risk if the baby reaches them.
  2. They can be a hazard in a crash.

Based on that, it’s fair to say that a plush soft toy that a baby can’t reach in ANY of the handle positions is OK.

I’ll give you that (she said reluctantly).

Avoid anything hard that can harm the baby in the event of crash.

Infant Car Seat Handle Up or Down (3)

Be paranoid here, it’s OK…imagine the worst scenarios and run with it. If there’s a chance to let your OCD run a mock, this is it.

That cute giraffe becomes a deadly weapon in a crash.

Call me a pessimist, but you can never be too safe.

Key takeaways from the handle position analysis

Before choosing how to position the handle, check out the instruction manual.

Only then can you choose the most convenient handle position for you and your baby.

My choice is the ones with the handle upright. Either the carry or the anti-rebound position.

If you took the time to read the guide, you are now better equipped to “handle” (pun intended) the decision than 99% of parents.

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