Just when we thought it was safe to take the toddler out for a drive, you issue new safety recommendations for car seats.
It seems like this new info has set parents all up in a tizzy and unsure how to proceed. Before you trek out to the garage to wrestle with the seat, let's look at the facts.
Per the official press release from AAP, parents are encouraged to keep their toddler rear-facing until the age of two, or until the child reaches the weight or height max for their particular car seat. There were also some guidelines for older kids, such as staying in a booster seat until they are four feet, nine inches tall, and are between the ages of eight and twelve. Kids are to remain in the back seat until the age of 13.
Which is good, because in just three years, those same kids are going to be driving the vehicle independently.
Ack. Let's not think about that.
A 2007 study in Injury Prevention found children are essentially safer when they are rear-facing. Children under the age of two are 75% less likely to die or sustain serious injury in the event of a crash when rear-facing. The reason is because the head, neck, and spine are better supported in the rear-facing position. Although the child's legs may be squished (a professional term, no doubt), leg injuries are preferable to spinal injuries.
Based on everything I've read, this recommendation appears to be built around the size of each individual child and the particular car seat model being used. While smaller children will benefit from remaining rear-facing longer, other children will reach the weight/height max of their seat before the age of two. Therefore, if the child exceeds the max of the rear-facing weight requirement, the parent has two options: purchase a new car seat with a greater rear-facing weight max, or turn the child forward-facing.
Scotty is right in the wheel house of this group. He's a big boy.
Oof, my aching back.
We have the Britax Marathon, which has a rear-facing weight max of 35 pounds. The Bear, per the scale this morning (which he stood on so nicely! What a good boy), weighed him in at a whooping 32 lbs, 6 oz. We are exactly two and a half pounds away from the weight max.
If I had a child that was significantly below the weight max for the car seat (say, 21 lbs on a 35 lb seat max), I would definitely turn the seat around. I'd give the child a good 5 days to acclimate to the new position, and try to keep car trips in the early days as short and quick as possible. But - if they were a little bigger, a little older, and more savvy (read: opinionated), AND they screamed bloody murder for those five days, I would probably consider turning it back around to forward-facing. Because at this point, what's worse: a child in a forward-facing car seat or a distracted, flustered driver who cannot concentrate because of the ruckus in the back seat?
I hate these kinds of questions. This is what makes Parenthood so tough. There are no clear answers.
I think it's about common sense here. I say this after I received a phone call from a good friend last night at 9pm. (Sorry friend...I'm outing you.) She was pretty upset about the new recommendations (which, FYI, are just that: recommendations. It is not law. And AAP are the same group who recommended women breastfeed for one year. A lot of women didn't follow that rec, and everything turned out just fine. None of our toddlers are serial killers.) My friend said she had just sent her husband out to the driveway to switch the seats around and per my dear friend, this news was so upsetting she was (jokingly, I think) considering going on Xanax.
Okay, this is where I draw the line.
Because driving while on a controlled substance, whether obtained through prescription or not, is FAR more dangerous than having your children rear v. forward facing. And so it texting while driving. Hell, so is talking on your cell phone (something I am very, very guilty of).
So let's take these new recommendations with a healthy dose of common sense and 1.) BREATHE and 2.) look at everything that is contributing to the chance of being in a crash. Don't drive under the influence. Don't text while driving. Don't talk on your cell phone. Don't pass your child graham crackers and bop-bops in an effort to keep him busy. (whoops...) Let's turn driving back into just that: driving, and not some multi-tasking expedition that also happens to involve getting from one place to another.
Also...I can't help but mention this...if you do turn the seat around, make sure it's installed correctly. I don't remember the official stats off the top of my head, but the majority of injuries to children in car seats were a result of improperly installed car seats. And now, thanks to the AAP, last night millions of dads were just cajoled into turning the seat around at 8pm at night by a near-hysterical mom, in the dark, after a long day at the office, and lord knows there are lots of buckles and straps and clicks to hook on properly.
Whatever you choose, just make it right for your family.
Thoughts? Comments? Feedback? I'd love to hear your opinion.