Tuesday, May 5, 2009

my daughter is over two years old and is still rear-facing in the car

I am by no means a child safety seat expert, but I like to think of myself as an informed consumer. I've spoken online and offline to people who ARE carseat experts, and know that the chest clip needs to be at the chest instead of at the belly (to prevent a child from slipping through the neck space in a crash and exiting the carseat that was meant to protect him). I have also learned that it is safer to have a child in a 5-point harness as long as possible before moving her to a booster seat (even NASCAR cars' seat belts are a 5-point harness).

But I think one of the most important things about a young child in a carseat is to keep them rear-facing for as long as possible. Being rear-facing is 5 times safer for a 12 to 23 month old than being front facing. And the AAP is even now recommending keeping children rear facing until age 2, (not age 1 as was the previous guideline).

A toddler's head is very heavy compared to his body, and if he is front facing in a crash, it could easily cause serious injury to his neck and spinal cord as his head is thrown forward from the force of even a moderate crash. Here is a powerful video where a grandfather tells the story of his 18 month old grandson who suffered a life-threatening neck injury JUST because he was front-facing in his carseat. If the child were rear-facing, the crash would still have happened, but the injury (and the months of therapy and healing) would have been prevented.

Here are some of the types of comments that I've heard from people who want to turn their children front facing ASAP:

"But her legs are all squished up and she doesn't have any room for her feet." A broken leg heals much easier and faster than a broken neck, and a toddler can sit quite comfortably with their legs crossed. (Or they can have fun kicking the seat, like my daughter does. :p)

"My 12 month old is already 30 lbs, what am I supposed to do?" Toddlers grow at a slower rate during their second year than during their first year, and there are several carseats out on the market that have a rear-facing weight limit of 35 lbs.

"I've already turned my child front facing. He's 15 months old and he used to cry non-stop in a car ride, but now he's SO happy. It's nice to be able to drive in peace." All I can say to this one is watch the video, please. Watch the rear-facing versus front-facing crash tests that are within that video. If you'd still like to keep your child front-facing, that is your choice. I'm only posting this to try to make people aware who might not have known there is an alternative to switching their child from rear-facing to front-facing at 12 months.

And again, I am not a carseat expert. But I do feel that this is important information that the general public all too often just doesn't know, and it could make a positive difference for someone out there.


Lindsay said...

Great post Andrea. I completely agree with you, Meredith is still rear facing as well. She used to cry a lot in the car, but instead of turning her, one of us just started sitting in the back with her. Maybe a bit inconvenient at times, but what's her safety compared to a bit of inconvenience? Now she will actually get into her carseat herself and put her arms through the straps and wait to be buckled in. So it does end, even if you keep them rearfacing!

Andrea said...

Oh, Lydia doesn't cry... those are just some of the comments I've heard from random people about why they "need" to turn their child front-facing. Lydia loves riding in the car. :) Tim recently put the seat in the middle instead of by the door, so now I'm "teaching" her to climb in and out of her seat so I don't have to lift her quite so far.

Super Ninja Mommy said...

Beastie (21 months) is still rearfacing and will be until she hits 35 pounds. At 24 pounds, we have a ways to go!

I turned my older two forward facing at 20 pounds - at around 9 months old! I am so grateful nothing bad ever happened! They never said anything about extended rearfacing back then.

Nicholas Stehle said...

I wish Blogger had an "I like this" thumbs up thing like TiVO or Facebook, because I'd double-thumbs-up this post! :) Luke is still rear-facing at nearly 16 months and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Lee Ann even linked to your blog post! :)

Anonymous said...

Good for you! Madison is 3 years old and still rear facing. I love it!