Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Car Seats: New AAP guidelines

[sleepy little boy]

Within the last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated their recommendations on car seats, and I wanted to share them with you! Rear facing and forward facing is a debate among many, but there are so many safety factors to keeping your babies rear facing longer. We'll touch on that in a minute!

The MINIMUM requirements were to rear face your child in their car seat until they were 20lbs AND one year old, but many parents interpreted that as the best time to make the switch. The minimum requirement still remains, but the the recommendations have been clarified/changed: they are are to keep your child rear facing until they are 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight restriction for rear facing.

A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention found that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing. 

A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body," said Dennis Durbin, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatric emergency physician and co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of the policy statement and accompanying technical report.

A lot of parents decide to switch their kids over at the minimum requirements because "it's easier," "the kids aren't as bored," "their legs aren't squished," etc. But I think as parents we should think about the potential consequences of turning our babies around too early... the consequences could be deadly.

"It's easier" and "the kids aren't as bored:" Sure, it's probably easier to get your child in and out of their car seat when they are forward facing. It's easier to talk to your child and keep them entertained, and give them things. But is the protection of our kids not greater than convenience?

"Their legs aren't squished:" I googled images of "kids sitting," and this is what I found:

Basically, most of the images that I saw were children sitting comfortably, with their legs crossed. It's their choice of position to be comfortable in the majority of cases. When you see kids sitting on a chair or a couch, most of the time, they have their legs pulled up because it's more comfortable that way. Most kids, when they are in car seats, cross their legs, and don't sit with legs straight out. As they get older and their legs grow longer, it might be a little more uncomfortable for them as they are unable to stretch as much, especially on longer car trips. As parents, we are not necessarily supposed to make our children comfortable for the sake of safety. Would you let your children do other dangerous things, like play with knives or fire or in the street because the kids want to? Obviously not. As a parent you need to choose what is best for your child.

[disclaimer: this picture was taken last July; Ryan was 5 months old. I've become a lot more "safe" when it comes to car seats since doing as much research as I have; in this picture, the chest clip is way too low on Ryan and should be up higher, about armpit level. Just wanted to make that clear! Chest clips are meant for the upper chest... and unless the strap covers come with the car seat, they are not meant to be used. These did not come with that particular car seat so I really should not have used them. I didn't know at the time, though.]

[Rear facing is still fun! Here is Ryan and my sister, Erin]

[13 months]

[his straw cup looks so huge, hehe!]

Another reason I've heard parents may give for forward facing their kids: "If they get in a car accident rear facing, they're going to break their legs." I don't know about you (and Lord willing this will never happen!), but I would much prefer my child to potentially break a leg in an accident than have his neck be snapped off internally. When your child is rear facing, and you are hit from the front, most of the impact is taken by the car seat. When your child is forward facing, your child takes the brunt of the force and is much more likely to be severely injured. Also, rear end crashes (which are the kind that "could" potentially cause damage to your children's legs) are much less common and don't usually happen with the force that head on or side collisions do. This is not to say that rear facing your kids in the car seat is 100% injury free. No, injuries CAN still happen. But they aren't as likely to be nearly as severe, nor are they as common to happen. This, to me, is reason enough to keep Ryan rear facing as absolutely long as possible.

With all that being said... we wouldn't be able to forward face Ryan right now anyways, even if we wanted to. Yes, he is 15 months old, but he only weighs 18lbs so he doesn't even come close to meeting the minimum standard for forward facing. And we do plan on keeping him rear facing for as long as we can. Watching videos and reading studies on this topic have made this something we feel very strongly about. This post isn't to get you to "agree with me." I'm just simply laying out the facts and recommendations for those who do not know them, and sharing our opinion. I would ask that you please do research, watch videos, read through some statistics, and then make an educated decision before you front face your precious one. And if you've already made the switch, there's no reason why you can't go back, should you decide to. It will take some adjustment, but it's very likely to be worth it.

Here's Joel's story. He was 18 months old at the time he was in a car accident with his mom. They were in a head-on collision, and Joel's neck was snapped from his spine. Had he been rear facing, his injuries would have been MUCH less severe. Please watch this 6 minute video that Joel's grandpa made to show the potential consequences of forward facing. It's full of statistics, photos and visuals to help you make your decision.

1 comment:

Brandi Brown said...

Great info! Thanks for sharing. :)