The authors of Heading Home with Your Newborn answer important questions from moms about infant and baby care
Pediatricians, moms and authors, Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP offer a wealth of "parent-tested, pediatrician-approved" advice in Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, Second Edition (American Academy of Pediatrics, September 2010). Available on the American Academy of Pediatrics official Web site for parents, HealthyChildren.org . Also available in bookstores nationwide. Here they answer a few questions from fellow moms:
Question: The new recommendation for rear facing car seats is two years now, not one year. There are moms out there who say, 'no you switch them as soon as they start kicking the back of the seat, because if there's an accident they're going to break their legs' or 'I don't want my seat to get dirty'.
Dr Jana: I've actually spent several years as an Instructor in child passenger safety. So there's almost nothing that we haven't heard before along those lines. Specific to your question about breaking the legs if they're going to touch the seat... crash dynamics tell us that when a car is in a crash, everything moves towards the point of the crash, which is usually the front of the car. If they're in a rear facing car seat, their car seat presses their whole body into the car seat as it moves towards the front of the car. Yes, there is some rebound to the seat, but if you're in a serious enough crash, even if your child is protected in a car seat, what do you want to protect more, their head and torso or their legs? That becomes a very easy choice in terms of why we keep rear facing longer. Technically the recommendation is to keep kids rear facing as long as possible within the limits of their seat. The bare minimum is 1 year and 20 pounds, and then I always add on; and I don't know a parent, who when it comes to the safety of their child wants to settle for the bare minimums.
In Heading Home with your Newborn, even though we already had an extensive section on car seat safety in the First Edition, the field has changed so much that we did a huge update on that section of the book with the absolute latest in child passenger safety recommendations. In a book that is meant for new and expecting parents about newborns, we give parents an overview of car seats in general, knowing that it may be the last time that parents read about car seats. We obviously spent the most time on infant car seats and making sure your baby is secured correctly in an infant car seat, because we're talking about newborns, but we give parents a perspective of what is in their future, because really parents should be dealing with car seats for the next 10-12 years.
Dr Shu: I think where parents might be nervous about something happening to the legs are mostly a theoretical risk. We really don't see reports of damage to the legs from rear facing car seats, where we do get reports of whiplash and brain damage and death from babies who are forward facing.
Comment: Most instruction manuals should have a set height limit for rear facing.
Dr Jana: In fact you can find those limits on the boxes when you're walking the aisles of the store. They all very clearly say, once you know what to look for, they will all say 'rear facing height and weight limits for seats that are meant to be used, rear and forward facing'. The other thing for parents, and partly why we were committed to including that big picture view is, there are some seats that may say they can be used up to 80 pounds, but they're talking about the entire life of the seat, but rear facing can only be used up to a certain weight, and then it has to be turned face forward. That is something that people want to take into account when they're buying car seats. If they want to be able to use this longer rear facing, then one of the criteria is to buy a seat that has a higher rear facing height and weight limit.
Question: Are the latch limits in the car seat manual or are they in the car manual?
Dr Jana: You need to look at both, because cars can have limits. Every vehicle has its own individual uses and cannot use recommendations for the vehicle itself. We felt it was so important to include these as a substantial chapter of the car seats, because if you're going to pick the single most important thing in terms of preventing unintentional injury to children, all the way up to the age of 14, it is going to be motor vehicle crashes.
Question: Do you recommend in your book that parents go ahead and go to the fire station or someplace where they can have their car seat checked out once they have it put together?
Dr Jana: Absolutely, and we tell people where to go on the website, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to go find by zip code where your closest fitting station is.