Theo (at 18 months) in his Graco My Ride 65
I hate how skittish I am when it comes to blogging things that readers might find offensive. I've wanted to talk about how my kids will remain rear-facing in their car seats until they are at least 2 for quite awhile. Especially since I read this post by Mommyboots on the same subject. But the thing is, I don't want to come off like I think I'm a better mom or that I think I care more about my kids than anyone whose toddler is forward facing. My assumption is that lots of parents are misinformed - by their pediatricians even - or have never had the inclination to read the research for themselves about why rear-facing is so important. I would never want other moms to think I'm telling them how to raise their kid. I certainly don't want anyone telling me how to raise mine, so this post is just about sharing information. Is that cool, guys? If not, you better scoot along right now.
I've gotten strange looks and even a handful of (almost condescending "oh isn't that cute?") comments about how safety-oriented I am (as if that's a bad thing?) because Theo is now 19 months and is still rear facing in his car seat. That shocks me, considering that American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that ALL children remain rear facing until at least age 2 for their safety. At Theo's 9 and 12 month appointments, our pediatrician reminded us of the risks involved in turning a child age 12-23 months forward facing. I don't consider myself the nutty, hovering-helicopter type by any means. The simple truth is that this is an easy way to make my child FIVE times safer in his car seat and 75 percent less likely to die in an automobile accident. Let's face it - people are crazy and you never know who you are on the road with. Plus, these convertible seats are a pain in the butt to install. So it's actually LESS work leaving him rear facing longer. Lazy person's bonus right there.
I guess some people say their kid doesn't like to be rear-facing because they can't see out as well. If that was the only experience they'd had, they wouldn't know any better. Some people say their kid cries when they are rear-facing. Isn't that better than taking the chance of them sustaining fatal or permanent injuries? Some parents say that their kid's legs are too long. Kids sit with their legs crossed all the time. So do I. It's not uncomfortable at all. Other parents might think that kids suffer broken legs more often in a crash when they are rear-facing. Not true. More children suffer broken legs when they are forward facing.
The research shows that a rear-facing car seat deflects the impact of a collision throughout the back of the car seat, the child's back, head, and neck. In a forward facing carseat, the neck takes the brunt of the impact. I can't cite all of this information because it has come from multiple sites and articles that I have read, but if you take 10 minutes to google how long should by baby stay rear-facing and thumb through the results, you'll read all the same things.
The law is currently that a child cannot be turned forward facing until they meet minimum requirements of 20 pounds and 12 months. The law is not that they must be turned forward facing at that time. I look for the laws about this to change soon - the research strongly supports favorable outcomes for children who rear-face well beyond 12 months.
Courtesy of University of Michigan Child Passenger Protection
Just look at the image above from a 2007 crash test comparison. It's pretty convincing when you see the difference in how the baby's body is affected by the impact. According to this article, "the mass of the head of a small child is about 25% of the body mass whereas the mass of the adult head is only 6%! A small child's neck sustains massive amounts of force in a crash. The body is held back by the straps while the head is thrown forward - stressing, stretching or even breaking the spinal cord."
I'm like the next mom - I have a love/hate relationship with milestones (and turning your toddler forward-facing is certainly a big one). I love moving to the next exciting developmental stage, but I hate how that always means that we're leaving the newborn days further and further behind. Even though I know it will be easier to interact with them when they are forward-facing....even though I suspect they will enjoy road trips much more when they are forward facing....I'm not rushing this milestone.
If you don't believe me, because I'm certainly not an expert, please check out some of the resources below.
If your 12-23 month old child is currently forward-facing, I hope you'll consider repositioning his or her car seat. And I hope I haven't made you mad - it's just because this is really important to me and because I sincerely care.
Comments, questions, ridicule, and suggestions are very welcomed.