Our family is growing in many ways... Growing in numbers, knowledge, parenting skills, growing in love, in our faith, growing our culinary skills (if you can call it that), growing without gluten (some of us), growing green...........

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Great Thing About Parenting... REAR-FACING CAR SEATS

Ok - back to the car seat discussion... Last week, I posted about booster seats - the law (in NC), when to know your child really can fit in the car with just a seat belt and no booster, lots-o-links to check out, etc, etc. Here's the link for that discussion, if you missed it. This time, I'm addressing the whole rear-facing versus forward-facing issue. This has come up a lot more lately, and I am so glad it has! This is a huge safety issue, making it very important in my mind. This post is especially important if you have a child that is under three years of age (or possibly even older!), if you are pregnant, or if you will be pregnant in the future, or if you know someone that falls into one of those categories....I would say that is a good number of you, right?

So, if you have had a baby turn one recently (or just about anytime ever), you might have been told by your pediatrician that it's safe to turn that baby around and put the car seat forward-facing. You can more easily see your baby, he/she can see you and everything else around, blah, blah. If you're doctor has RECENTLY said this, your doctor is not up-to-date on the latest and safest. My advice is to read around, study the information that is available, and make a decision that is best for your family and your child. I would think most would agree that keeping a child rear-facing as long as possible is the safest way to go, especially after seeing what research shows us. Did you know that children in Sweden often sit rear-facing until they are much older, sometimes up to six years of age? In fact, rear-facing is not just the safest way for small children to ride in vehicles; it is the safest way for ANYONE to ride. It's just not feasible for some of us...I think you can see why. But it IS feasible for younger children.

But don't just take my word for it....

What does the AAP say about this topic? Here is an exerpt directly from the AAP website:
See last line of #1 in the AAP Recommendations.
Children should face the rear of the vehicle until they are at least 1 year of age and weigh at least 20 lb to decrease the risk of cervical spine injury in the event of a crash. Infants who weigh 20 lb before 1 year of age should ride rear facing in a convertible seat or infant seat approved for higher weights until at least 1 year of age.3,4 If a car safety seat accommodates children rear facing to higher weights, for optimal protection, the child should remain rear facing until reaching the maximum weight for the car safety seat, as long as the top of the head is below the top of the seat back.3

Did you catch that? The MINIMUM for turning your child around is 1 year and 20lbs (not one OR the other - BOTH), but what SHOULD happen, according to the AAP, is leaving a child rear-facing until reaching the MAXIMUM WEIGHT FOR THE CAR SEAT, also following directions for fit based on height. Check your child's convertible seat...I would bet that it will hold your child rear-facing past whatever they weigh at one year. In fact, most would hold a child up to two years, and many are now using much higher limits, up to 35-40lbs. One will be coming out this month and will hold a child up to 45lbs rear-facing! That should be well past two years, even up to three or more.

Here is a video that I really urge you to see. I am a highly visual person. I need to SEE things in action. What I want you to do here is to visualize YOUR child in the place of the crash test dummy in each clip.

If you have already turned your child around to be forward-facing and the seat will still hold them REAR-facing - you CAN turn them back around. :) Many people have done this once learning how much safer it is. If you don't have a seat that holds them rear-facing at a higher weight, I can give some recommendations, too.

Ok, I know some of you are thinking...but my child's legs/feet will hit the seat. They can't be comfortable or safe like that? How will they sit? Where will their legs go?? Well, that's not too difficult to answer. Notice how young children naturally sit. They cross their legs, they bend them. They are quite flexible, much more than us adults!! It does not cause them discomfort to sit like this. AND there are no documented accounts of children breaking their legs because they sat rear-facing in a car seat and were in an accident. Most accidents actually push the seat towards the front of the car, which would take the feet away from the back, not push them into the seat. BUT if my child were to be faced with this situation, I would much rather have to deal with a broken leg than any of the possible consequences from being forward-facing in that accident: broken neck, brain damage, the head actually separating from the spine (yes, it can and has happened), or death. Broken legs heal.

Someone actually sent me a handful of links based on the type of reader you are, so...check this out. There's something for everyone (or read them all!):

For the newspaper-style readers:
For the research-based readers that want the statistics and facts laid out in writing, charts and graphs:
Three links for the people that like to gather info from medical associations:
Two safety organizations explain why extended RFCSs are safest:

Even More Links:
AAP Policy Recommendations: Selecting and Using the Most Appropriate Car Safety Seats for Growing Children: Guidelines for Counseling Parents (See last line of #1 in the AAP Recommendations)
CPSafety.com - Why RFing is safest, crash test footage, information on different types of crashes (frontal, side, etc)
CPSafety.com - RFing Basics checklist; How to be sure the seat fits the car properly, your child fits in the seat properly, and when to move to a different seat or forward-facing
Car-Seat.org - A forum with tons of information on car seats, safety, and just about anything related
Car-Seat.org - New information on the new seat that will fit up to 45lbs rear-facing. (We have the current model of this seat, which goes up to 40lbs, and love it! Highly recommend this seat; I'm only bummed it's coming out with a higher weight limit AFTER we bought and used ours.)
CarSafety4Kids.com - Rear-facing facts, including myths and misconceptions
Car-Safety.org - Lots of great facts about rear-facing car seats, use, and safety

Have other great ones? I can't get them all, I'm sure, so feel free to comment with links, and I'll add them!

Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself what is best for your child. My hope is that you will take the topic seriously and will read up on it for yourself. Don't just take my word for it. I'm not an expert, just someone who is passionate about this topic. Do your own research. I trust that all of us (well, most, at least) put our child's best interest as a top priority. It is up to you to determine what that means for your child and your family.

Comment away. Remember to be polite. This is not a debate; we're simply sharing information and how we do things. If you're reading this in facebook or via email subscription, please comment in blogger so all responses are in one place. If you have done the research and have opposing thoughts with this topic, I would love to hear them. All opinions welcome, as long as there is tact involved. :)

I will put up a post soon sharing what car seat we use with Aiden and why. We put a lot of thought and research into it, and some people have shown interest in wanting to know more, so we will get to that next time.


Becky said...

I don't have much to say other than I agree with you 100%. I knew a family who was bummed at their child's 10 month visit she was 19lb 14oz so they couldn't turn her around yet. I questioned them saying isn't the rule 1yr AND 20lbs not or? They said No their car seat instructions said or and it would be easier for everyone if she was forward facing. In all likelihood, they will never be in an accident, but it still worries me. Colin will be rear facing until he is 35lbs, which unfortunately for him is sooner than it would be for most kids since he is a giant!

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

hank you for posting this. I had read this before and was quite surprised when my pediatrician recommended that I turn my 18bs son around to help with possible car sickness. I think his safety is a little bit more important than an occasional spit up. My son will remain rear facing until he is 30lbs, which is the max wt limit for our carseat. Thanks again