When I was pregnant we made a registry. We put our infant car seat on it based on what other people liked, used, and recommended. I tried and looked up safety ratings, but with all the things we needed I just picked one and forgot about it. When Mac was about 9 months I started looking for his next seat. A Convertible. This seat Rear Faces (RF) to a certain weight and height and then Forward Faces (FF) to a heavier weight and height. He still fit in the infant seat but it became too heavy for me to take in and out of the car. So we left that seat in Daddy's car and bought a convertible for mine. Again I went with recommendations.
At 1 year he grew out of his infant seat. We needed to get a seat for my car and move the that seat to Jim's. Here is when I started really leaning about car seat safety. I was shocked about how misinformed and uneducated I was. The information is out there and easy to find if you are looking for it. If your not looking for it however, you will miss it. Kind of like not seeing what's on the back of a shelf in the store unless you move things around.
Here is what I leaned. Car accidents are the # 1 killer of children ages 1 -14 in America. 57% of these deaths are because the children were unrestrained. Even scarier many more of them were improperly restrained. Think about it, 57% of these deaths could have been avoided if people used their car seats, booster seats and seat belts properly.
Most people think that their car seat is installed correctly. They also think that they use it properly as well. In the US the misuse rate of child restraints is 80% and as high as 95% in some areas. That's high! These people are not bad parents. They just don't know. I didn't either. No one educates you about it in main stream baby society. I only found out because I happen to read about it on some social networking site for parents. Otherwise we would be going by the minimum requirements that most car seat manufacture tell us. But is the minimum what's best for our kids? Not for me. So here are some general information.
At 1 year AND 20lbs you can turn your child Forward Facing. Yes, you can by law in most states but this really isn't as safe as you child could be. The AAP is recommending the new minimum be to turn them at 2 years and 30 lbs. But did you know most convertible car seats can Rear Face (RF) much longer? You can get seats that RF to 35 or even 40lbs! Why is this important you ask? Well because a child's bones do not fully fuse until around age 3 . Rear Facing your child as long as possible lowers the risk of internal decapitation (where the child's head is separated from their spine internally), or a broken neck resulting in death or permanent damage to your child in an accident. In an accident a RF the seat will take the brunt of the force instead of the child. Here is a great video to explain what I am talking about.
My goal is to keep Mac Extended Rear Facing (ERF) until 3 years old. Many people think I'm crazy, but it physics that helped make my decision. He may not make it to 3 but we are going to try. The next questions I get deal with the legs. For instance, where do they put their legs? They hang them over the side, sit with them crossed or rest them on the seat. Here is a great video of kids of all ages ERF, and how they sit.
Mac ERF at 21 Months
Next people ask about broken legs. Mine and many people's answer to this is: 1. Wouldn't you rather your kid have a broken leg than be dead or paralyzed? 2. If the crash is so bad that your child's legs are broken Rear Facing than they they would most likely would be broken if Forward Facing with other injuries. 3. Think of the kids, not you. They are so much more flexible than us adults. Just look at the positions they get themselves into that we can't even imagine doing ourselves. If they are not complaining than they are comfortable. Don't fix it if it ain't broke.
Then comes they like Forward Face better. Again if they have never FF they don't know any better. So in the future they might like it better, but why rush it? They don't know what they are missing. Next is usually they can't see out the window. Yes they can! Mac is chatting up a storm these days and he tells us everything he sees out the windows from buses, cars, trucks, to trees and signs (well shapes of the sign anyway). He see birds and clouds and tells us.
Those are just the usual questions. There are more questions people ask and want answers too. Here is a great site Car-Safety.org that can answer all your questions and really explain what I'm talking about.
However I do think there are circumstances that Forward Facing your child at the minimum is not the worst thing. There are things like heat, car sickness and other medical conditions to consider. Also as long as you use the seat correctly it's better to FF than not to use a seat at all or move too a booster too soon. Like anything in life it's not always B&W.
A booster is a seat that no longer uses a 5 pint harness to restrain the child. Instead you use the seat belt with a booster to help position the seat belt on the child correctly. This is the one that upset me the most. People move their kids to boosters way too soon. When it's time to Forward Face your child say anywhere form age 1 to 4 depending if you ERF or not, they are in a 5 point harness. This is the next safest thing. Keeping them harnessed as long as possible will keep your kids safer longer. Again there are seats that you can keep your child harnessed up to 80 lbs! The minimum for a booster is usually 4 years AND 40 lbs. However most 4 year old's are not mature enough to use a booster correctly. So when I see kids under 3 in boosters I get so upset (and I see it often). Here is a video if a crash test with a booster and a FF 5 point harness seat.
When it is time for a booster you first get a High Back Booster (HBB). Then as they get older you move them to a Low Back Booster (LBB) That will be their last seat. Each state has different laws. NY for example says children must be restrained in a car seat or booster until the age of 8. Yes 8 years old! It is also recommend that sitting up front not be allowed until 12 or 13 years old.
I know this is a long post but I have a few more tips.
1.In the winter, puffy jackets are a danger. You strap your child in nice and tight right? In an accident the jacket will compress and then straps will be too loose to restrain the child properly. Fleece jackets are great! They are thin but super warm. Some are warmer than a standard down jacket. Some people use car seat ponchos.
2. All aftermarket products are a no no. If they are not tested with your seat by the seat manufacturer then they void your warranty. God forbid your seat doen't do it job. You will have no legal recourse. Products like the Bundle Me for the infant carriers reroute the straps which can result in the restrains not doing their job to the best of their ability. Get a shower cap style cover instead. They don't interfere with the straps or any working parts of the seat and are just as warm.
3. Car seats expire! Usually after 6 years. Over time the materials start to break down due to use, and exposure to the sun, heat and cold. Again using an expired seat won't protect your child as well as one that is not.
4. Be wary of used seats. It you don't know the history do not use it. Also there have been many recalls over the years. Make sure your isn't one of them.
5. If you are in any kind of accident whether the child was in the seat or not, it is likely you will have to replace it. You can go on the manufactures website or call and see if your accident fits the criteria to keep or replace the seat. Most car insurance companies will pay for a new one.
6. Get your seat installation checked! It' free and your local police, fire department or safe kids.org has places you can get it checked all over the US and Canada.
As parents we make choices for our children every day. We may not agree with each other on what's best for them, but the fact that you love them and care is the most import thing. Here are some great websites to start doing your own research on car seast if you want.
A fairly comprehensive article from CPSafety.com
A website started by Joel’s grandfather when he was injured while FF in a crash. Warning this is emotional.
A fairly comprehensive article from Car-Safety.org
Yet another fairly comprehensive article for thecarseatlady.com
Highlight of the policy - for optimal protection, the child should remain rear facing until reaching the maximum weight for the car safety seat, as long as the top of the head is below the top of the seat backAlthough this isn’t policy at this point, the AAP is working on developing a new policy, which hopefully will more strongly encourage RF
One Family’s Story of Being Rear-Ended While at a Stop by a Car Traveling at 60-65mph