New Car Seat Advice

I am sure that many of you have seen this column in the New York Times which reports the American Academy of Pediatrics updated advice on rear facing car seats.  We got similar advice from one doctor somewhere along the way, to keep the child rear facing as long as possible and to use height and weight rather than age as a guideline for use of car seats and boosters.  We are pretty intense about our carseats, but we have not always been able to follow this advice, perhaps because we just thought it was overly conservative.  I mean, it sounds like, based on the “orphan seat” quote, that we should just ALL be rear facing in the car, and in five point harnesses.  So where do we draw the line between safety and convenience?

My children are huge, PT was 20 pounds at 4 months, so we had to buy a bigger carseat to keep him rear facing even until age 1.  These days he is nine years old and 4’11″, 90 pounds.  We have set a very standard “graduate from your booster” rule at age 8, the kids do think of it as a milestone, but 4’9″ is a pretty tall height recommendation, I think that this will keep many kids in their boosters long past age 8.  I had to buy a bigger car to accomodate 6 carseats/boosters, because even a larger mini-van didn’t fit the extra width of the carseats.  I know that others have decided to just move their kids out of the boosters sooner to make the Odyssey work.  My kids are really well conditioned to the car seat situation, the older ones have a complete freak out if they are asked to sit in a seat that has only a lap-belt, they respond as though I had asked them to juggle knives.

And then I remember the beginning of the seat belt movement, and how my parents had some work to do to convince us, as school age children, to buckle up at all.

I think it will be interesting to see how quickly, without legislation, rear facing car seats to age 2 becomes the norm.  Will information from pediatricians and nurses be enough, along with a collective guilt/responsibility movement in the Mommysphere, to get us all to change?

  • Sullibe

    :)nI had to laugh on two accounts.nOne- I am, too, bothered a little at the 4’9″ rule for moving out of a booster seat. I was still 4’8″ when I started 6th grade and the idea of of sitting in a booster sit in sixth grade is still a little creepy, 21 years later. Of course, back then, most back seats of cars didn’t have shoulder belts.nnBut I really chuckled at your comment about how your parents had to conjole you and your siblings to wear your seat belts. For my sister and I, it was the opposite. I can remember being in the back seat of the car, and, in a sing-songy tone, reminding my dad to buckle up because he usually forgot. It wasn’t a habit yet for him. nnAs far as rear-facing carseats go. While I acknowledge that there is an increased measure of safety if children are facing backwards, like you alluded to – at some point I have to trust that even turned around, facing the world, they will be safe… to think other wise is paralyzing, at least for me.

  • Kat

    My babies are big, too! I must say that in the bucket seats of the minivan, the rear-facing position always felt a bit wobbly, even when it was strapped in properly. Forward-facing just feels sturdier and safer to me…nnToo many choices as a parent these days!

  • Erin

    I heard this info on NPR about a month ago, and the story compared our “old” (2002?) guidelines (forward facing at 1 yr) to guidelines in Europe which all seemed to keep the kids backward facing much longer. We also have a huge babies–especially in height, however, I’m going to keep the almost-one-year-old turned around as long as his legs can take it. nnAlso, I noticed when we turned our bigger boy forward facing at one year, he was so excited to see all the sights and watch mom and dad that he couldn’t sleep in the car anymore! Oh how I regretted turning him around for the first time on a 4 hour trip to the grandparents’! nnFinally, my dad’s wife is a very petite 4’10. Does she still need a booster?

  • Anonymous

    I think Tex needs a booster seat! haha!!nnBut in all seriousness, our 15 month old screamed her head off in the car. Once we turned her around to face forward, she stopped. I’m wondering how many accidents her lack of screaming has prevented ;-) Were her legs uncomfortable? Was she experiencing motion sickness? Was she just frustrated that she couldn’t see? Who knows, but I know I couldn’t take the screaming!nnLike a lot of things in life, I think this is about striking a balance. What this study tells me is that we shouldn’t just switch our kids to forward facing on their first birthday, viewing it as some sort of milestone, but rather we should wait a bit longer until we have a reason to switch them around. I’m not going to go buy a new carseat, and have my sassy 18 month old face backward after she has been riding forward and loving it for 3 months…but I will keep my next baby rear facing for longer. nnWhat is safe and recommended will always be evolving and changing, which is why it is so important that we not judge our parenting on how well we follow every standard safety practice. Obviously we would all be better off if we ate nothing but organic food and we all faced backwards on every car ride in our little cocoons! But safe isn’t always practical…so we must strike a balance and learn not to worry too much.

    • Texas Mommy

      If PT doesn’t have to be in a booster, I don’t have to be in a booster! nnHoping this means I’ll be bigger than my boys until at least age 9! I anticipate my kids maxing out their 5 point harnesses at the 85 pound limit, because our eldest with mild special needs needs that restraint and I can’t put a younger brother in a booster and leave him in his harness without chaos. I am all for keeping them strapped in as long as possible. nnMy kids were all long (obviously taking after their dad, not me!) and I kept them rear facing (Also having been advised by our ped several years ago) until their knees were in their bellies, sometime around 15-16 months. There is just no room for their legs rear facing!nnThe other thing that was very stressful for us rear facing was Jack-Jack’s breath holding spells. Eventually our 2 year old at the time would tell me if his brother had passed out. But I’m sure the constant turning around to check on him made me a much less safe driver. nnWhat I find so bizarre about the car seat policies is that there is such a innate desire to protect our little ones physically, but when they are just a bit bigger, no communal desire to protect them morally or emotionally but to push them out and help them to be “all grown up” and liberated in an age inappropriate way. I’m sure some of you have seen this article about how girls dress: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703899704576204580623018562.html?KEYWORDS=jennifer+mosesnn

      • Erin

        This is so reassuring! Our almost one year old holds his breath too, and I’m constantly asking the 2.5 year old, “what’s your brother doing?” – I can’t tell if he’s peacefully looking out the window or turning blue!– which then often results in me turning around to try to see him. Luckily, anywhere we have to go around here is surrounded by lots of traffic lights, so I get a lot of breaks to check back there. I’m just glad someone else has this issue too!

  • B-mama

    I recently listened to a talk given by a local ped. who is a huge car seat safety advocate. He was awesome and so informative. Afterward, he gave us all car seat checks… He was really great.nnIn the talk he stressed the new car seat advice and emphasized all of this is really for the child’s safety in a front end collision (of which most crashes are). Rear or forward facing will make no difference in a side impact crash (logical). He also enlightened with the notion that not one brand of car seat is recommended by the AAP over another. He said the higher $$ on most seats is associated with bells and whistles and convenience.nnWe asked about the 5 point harnesses and whether or not to keep kids in those over moving to a booster with a seat belt. He said that of course the 5 point is safer, but often less practical. He said the practicality of the matter outweighed the safety benefit when considering his own younger elementary children. He and his wife opted for the $20 backless boosters and he makes sure to check the kids after they are belted in to make sure they have their lower backs pressed against the seat (most important). I was amazed to hear this, esp. from a guy who is UBER intense about car seat safety. nnThus, we have now moved our oldest kids to the cheapo backless boosters. Good enough for the intense ped., good enough for us!

    • Mary Alice

      I totally agree about the $20 boosters, but I have found that in the carseats for the younger children, more expensive ones (Britax) are easier to use, and therefore more likely to be used properly, and perhaps more comfortable – we get less complaining. It is easier to adjust the straps to the proper height, tighten to secure, etc, and the covers are more easily washed. The Britax ones are also bigger, but have a smaller base, so we were able to fit one into a three seat row with two booster seats for a smaller child.nnFYI, we went to a carseat fitting at a firehouse once where they determined that our carseats were no good and they gave us all new ones — this was when I only had two children, but still, it was amazing, and the firemen installed them. They also told them (this was 6 years ago) that the “mighty tight” that we were using to get them super tight was dangerous, as are any “after market” products added to your car seat. The seat’s don’t have to be super tight in the car, in fact your seatbelts are made to have some give in them, so they come back, too tight and they will snap instead. nnI would encourage all mothers to look out for these in your area.

      • B-mama

        Yes, we also use Britax (Marathons) for the younger ones. They are great seats and so user-friendly. I’m willing to spend the money on something that will bring me more sanity!

  • sara

    A few years ago I read somewhere along the way that rear facing was much safer so our son is still backwards at 2. People always think it is strange so I was glad when this not so new information finally made it to mainstream media and made it public knowledge. My son is also huge and was out of the infant carseat at 4 months so I made sure to purchase a car seat that would fit backwards in our small car. He doesn’t mind it so I don’t change it. I also ride in the back with him when my husband is driving so maybe that makes a difference? I don’t know? Maybe all moms do that so it wouldn’t matter. I have never really paid attention to other cars so I don’t know. If he was crying and having a fit all the time I would probably change him. When the next one comes along I will turn him around because it will be easier. He will be on the left, the infant in the middle and me on the right. It will be sight to see! nI do take car seat safety very seriously and am horrified sometimes by the way some people so casually and loosely strap the seats into a car (I am sure it is only done out of ignorance). Before our son was born we went to a car seat safety check and it was eye opening. It took two people, who put car seats in all the time, a good 15 minutes to put the seat in properly! They said if you aren’t sweating, you’re not doing it right. Despite how serious I am with car seat safety, I do weigh it with practicality. I even think it is probably best to try and keep them backwards until three but if I don’t I know it is not the end of the world. nI also can’t imagine a 6th grader in a car seat! That is a pretty funny image.

  • JMB

    I think this conversation is so funny because my youngest is almost 9, she weighs 65lbs and is 4’5″. Is she supposed to be in a booster seat? Really? Ask any mom whose been out of the baby/toddler/preschool years and she will have no clue, like me. I drive a Suburban and all I can say is that nobody’s getting back in booster seats over here. I gave them away years ago.

    • Mary Alice

      JMB, it will be interesting to see if that changes with time. At our little league you often see parents dropping kids off with boosters to get a ride home, I don’t know what happens at schools, or on school buses for that matter, but I do think that if more people do it, parents will find it easier to insist on carseats for longer. n

      • JMB

        Maybe, but I think not. I’m in a few carpools for my 3rd grader (they are all the youngest in their families) and not one mom has asked me to put the child in a booster seat in the past 2 years. nI know there are valid safety concerns about children and cars, but all these rules and regs make it easy to just plain ignore them. At some point, there are so many rules on the books that aren’t being enforced that it’s a non-issue.

      • Anonymous

        So are you saying that Tex will use a booster in the future?

        • Mary Alice

          I don’t get given boosters for 3rd graders (over 8), but I do for kids younger than that, people seem fairly strict about boosters from age 6-8.nnVolvo’s have height adjusting seats (built in boosters) in the back, so maybe in the future all cars will have either height adjusting seats or adjusting tops of the seat belts, even for adults. The way things are going, they will also have to have wider seats and seat belts with higher weight limits. In seriousness, I think that Tex is 2 or 3 inches over the limit, but for someone who is under 4’9′”, the shoulder belt is going to cut right across their neck, which must be uncomfortable.

          • Texas Mommy

            Hmm, my husband has a 2011 Volvo and I don’t remember seeing the built in boosters…maybe I installed a car seat right over it? I’ll have to check tonight!nnI do love the idea of built in car seats as there is no room for error in parent installation and not the “stigma” of being in a seat and you won’t have to deal with squeezing three huge seats in one row. nnAlso, I just had a biometric screening today for our health insurance (which is another issue for discussion, high deductible policies and prorated policies for good health, low cholesterol, etc) and I am officially 5’1″ (my drivers license says 5’2″) but with the sky high platforms that are popular today, I could probably top the charts at 5’5″. It is still a mystery to me why my kids are in the 100 percentile for height!! But I do love the adjustable shoulder strap height for seatbelts.


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