Car seats: Keep children rear-facing as long as possible

SAFETY IS KEY: Car-seat safety is so important that even hospital staff must clear parents before discharge by ensuring that parents have and know how to securely strap their newborn in their car seat before leaving the hospital.

Car-seat safety is likely the most important training every new parent receives prior to the birth of their child.

Many parents can get this training in parenting classes, a car-seat safety class from community providers or through baby gear experts.

Car-seat safety is so important that even hospital staff must clear parents before discharge by ensuring that parents have and know how to securely strap their newborn in their car seat before leaving the hospital.

Like many things new parents learn, car-seat safety information can get blurred over time, especially as children grow over the years and local laws change.

In Guam, children under 4 years old must be in a car seat. Children between the ages of 4 and 11 years old and under the height of 4 feet, 9 inches are required to use a booster seat.

But when do we move from rear-facing car seats to forward-facing car seats? When do we use a convertible car seat? Why get a convertible car seat? How old does my infant car seat last?

These are all questions every new parent will ask. And with each generation, change in technology and time, the answers vary.

In the past, children were turned from facing the back of the car to facing the front when they reached their one-year milestone. It was common practice since the thought was that they had become old enough to face forward. Today, car-seat safety experts advise parents to keep their children rear-facing for as long as possible.

Why? Because today, safety experts see a child’s physical development as a factor in addition to age in regards to handling the force of car accidents. Also, because: physics.

Having children in a rear-facing position will distribute more of the force of impact to the back of the car seat.

Think about the whiplash adults receive in a small fender-bender.

Now, imagine a 2-year-old’s body, forward-facing in the same situation. Both arms and legs, along with the baby’s head, move forward upon impact, then retract to the seat.

If the same child, in the same situation was in a rear-facing seat, the force of movement their body makes, would be absorbed by the car seat itself. Avoiding whiplash movements by rear-facing seats keeps children 70 percent more safe. In fact, research shows that children are more seriously injured if they are forward-facing than rear facing in a car seat. This includes side-impact crashes.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics advise parents to keep children in rear-facing car seats until they are at least 2 years old, there is a movement in today’s parent community to keep children rear-facing for much longer.

Many parents choose to keep their children rear facing for 4 or 5 years, the age range at which most children’s vertebrae fuse, protecting the spinal cord even further upon impact.

Additionally, children should only continue to use their car seat as long as they are height and weight appropriate according to the car seat manual (usually the top of the ears to the top of the shell of the car seat).

If measurement surpass the car seat standard, move from an infant car sea, for example, to a convertible car seat that can sit rear and forward-facing for taller and heavier children.

Or purchase a convertible car seat from the get go, like we did for E.

With an adapter to accommodate newborns, our Maxi Cosi Pria 70 convertible car seat saved us at least $200 by not having to purchase an infant car seat that we’d need to replace in a year or two.

And E can use this seat until she’s 70 pounds, keeping her 70 percent more safe rear-facing, until she out grows the seat.

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