On the eve of my Jack Jack's first birthday, I feel compelled to write a blog post about something near-and-dear to my heart: car seat safety. Call me a nerd but I have a lot of friends right now with babies who have just turned one or are about to turn one and I'm concerned about their safety! I'm too non-confrontational in real life so I'll just blog it, post it on facebook, and pray that each of my friends reads this and considers the importance of keeping their daughters and sons rear-facing.
I'm thinking about this right now because Jack had his one-year well-baby visit with our new pediatrician on Tuesday, and I was handed a printout on the care of one-year-olds. One of the first things written was that now that baby is one year and 20 pounds, he can be switched forward facing in his car seat. How silly and ignorant.
What is magical about 1 year and 20 pounds? Nothing. These babies are still developing their bodies, especially their spinal cords. Have you ever seen what happens to a baby in a car seat when a car has a crash? Please watch this, it's of crash test dummies and will take 30 seconds:
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, so how many is a video worth?
Babies don't need to forward face. They don't need to see where you're going, their knees aren't going to get sore from being bent while rear-facing. It might be more convenient for Mom or Dad to see what Baby is doing, but I think we'd all agree that we'd rather our child be safe and be slightly inconvenienced! (Personally, it's of no inconvenience to me. We don't eat or drink in the car ever, and I can't think or a reason that I've ever needed to pull over because they've been rear facing.)
The AAP has changed their recommendations that all children should ride rear facing until age two or until the highest weight limit the seat allows. For many car seats, that's well over 30 lbs! We have Britax Marathon car seats, which is a 34 lb weight limit. Beth reached 34 lbs a little after she turned three years old, and that's when we switched her around. Luke is now 2 years 8 months and still happily rear facing! He's never known it any other way.
The CDC cites car accidents as the leading cause of death of children in America, and as parents we have it completely within our power to make sure our children are safely strapped in the car! That means not only rear facing our babies longer, but making sure straps are tight enough, chest clips are properly placed, seats are properly installed and are NOT expired, putting the handle in the right position, and that babies aren't buckled up wearing blankets or coats. Here's a good video detailing how to put your baby in a car seat:
If you have questions, find a certified passenger safety technician near you to check out the installation of your seat. If you live near me, I know of a nearby place that has checks once a month.
As you can see this is a very hot topic for me! Call me paranoid, call me a nerd, call me crazy. I am in good company. :-) Rear facing is just so much safer, there are no risks compared to so many benefits. It just kills me when I see parents turn their baby around on his or her first birthday! And yes, I usually try to bite my tongue when I see babies strapped improperly into infant carriers while I'm in public places, but if I've ever corrected you before (or if I do in the future), please know that it's in love. Because you are my friends and I care about you and your babies!
Here's another video with more information, more crash test footage, and cute babies. :-)
(I have a separate but related rant about putting toddlers into booster seats when they should still be in a five-point harness. I will save this for another time, but please consider the safety of toddlers and preschoolers in addition to the babies!)
Please, please, please. Please. I beg you, keep your baby rear facing in his or her car seat until the maximum weight or height your seat allows, and if it's a low weight limit (or you have a big young baby!) consider buying a new seat with a higher weight limit. You won't regret it, not once.