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Monday, March 8, 2010

The great car seat debate.

I’ve been a witness to some pretty heated discussions when it comes to forward-facing or rear-facing your child after s/he turns 1 year old.  The old school mentality of forward-facing after 1 year and/or 20 lbs. is slowly fading out as the norm and quickly being replaced by the “rear-facing is safer” mentality.

There are many facts and fables being thrown around by experts and so-called experts, but I came across a blogger who listed great information on her blog based on fact and research.  I’m not going to tell you which way is right and which way is wrong, nor will I judge you for any decision you make for your child.  I just want to pass along this information to anyone who reads this blog, and hopefully it will help you make your decision (regardless of which route you choose to take).

So, here’s my introduction to Chantal from  The information below can be found in this post on her blog.

As my babes are nearing their first birthday, I started to wonder about the milestones and changes they would be facing. I pictured them trying milk for the first time, weaning a tad off the nursing every few hours (and mom getting to maybe wear a regular bra again), and whether or not it was time to turn their car seat.

I am an information junky, so before I do anything big I like to do my research. I read books, talk to friends who are parents, stop parents in the street or at the mall, go online, etc. So when it came to the car seat question that is exactly what I did. What I didn't expect was the passion some people feel about this issue. I went into it casually, and entered into a burning hot flame!

I found some of the standard "1 year, 20 pounds" and thought that sounded reasonable and what I recalled hearing in the past. I then posted the question on a parenting forum and was met with some parents who turned their kids at 18 months and 26 pounds and the like. They mentioned that their kids were happier that way and it was easier on them. THEN some parents entered into the conversation that believe that children should be rear facing AS LONG AS POSSIBLE and were VERY passionate about it. It got nasty fast! However, as I stepped out of the conversation and watched it unfold, I learned quite a bit and started to see the reason and logic behind the passion.

Here is what I learned:

  • Car crashes are the #1 cause of death for children and adult ages 1-34. I guess that puts the "how important is this issue" into perspective. Source
  • Between 1988 and 2003 children 12 to 23 months old were 5 times more likely to be seriously injured in a forward facing car seat then a rear facing car seat. Ok, I'm listening.. Source
  • Toddlers are more then 5 times safer riding rear facing until at least their second birthday. There goes that 1 year guideline. Source
  • Toddlers are safer staying rear facing until they reach the maximum weight and height requirements for rear facing in their convertible car seat. That squashes the 20 pound guideline because our Britax Boulevards have a max of 35 pounds. Source
  • A child's spine is not fully fused until age 3-6 years old, and therefore unable to protect itself in a forceful accident, causing internal decapitation. Source

The pictures show a child's spine and vertebrae: the left is a 1 year olds and the right is a 6 year olds.

  • There is more to car seat safety then just how it faces. The straps have to be perfect as well. Source
  • It is OK for the child's feet to touch the back of the car's backseat and this is not considered unsafe. All though it may be a tad uncomfortable, parents can teach kids how to cross their legs or dangle them on the side of the seat. Here are some pics of how older children manage: here and here. Source
  • Sweden has the record for safest car seat standards, and have children facing rear until 55 pounds. Between 1992 and 1997 only 9 children who were rear facing died in an accident. Those accidents were labels catastrophic and had little to no other survivors. Source
  • Many parents measure incorrectly when measuring for the 1inch rule for maximum height of rear facing in their car seat. Source
  • A child's head is much larger in proportion to their body which increases the risk of internal decapitation. If a child's head weighs 5 pounds and is in a 30mph crash, that is 150 pounds of force on the neck. If the spinal cord stretches too far in a crash, a mere 1/4 of an inch, the child can suffer from paralysis or death. Source

And just when I thought things couldn't get more in depth, I was sent to see this little boy's story: Joel's Journey. It was quite an intense couple days as I was researching this information. My husband and I have used the information to make a decision for our family, and you can use the information to make the right choice for your family. I encourage you to click on the links and do some looking around. I am glad I started this search, because there is so much I didn't know! Knowledge is power in my opinion.

Leave a message for Chantal on her blog with any questions you have about her blog.  If you want to discuss any of this here, please feel free to leave a message in the comments section.


Kristin said...

Thank you so much for all of your information. My daughter is 10 months old and only in the 15th percentile. Though I turned my now 3.5 year old forward at 1 year & 20lbs, I plan to keep my younger daughter RF until two. I keep hearing people say, "She'll enjoy the car so much more when she's forward." It bothers me because wouldn't they rather her be safe? And how would she know the difference anyway, she's never been forward to compare!!

Mommy said...

Thank you SO much! I've been wanting to research this for the last few days. Buggy will be 1 in a few months and I've been going back and forth. I want to do ERF but the hubster and parents all think forward would be fine. I can't wait to show him this info. We are definitely going to ERF now!

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