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Monday, November 7, 2011

The Great Car Seat Debate

Now that C is one, I've been asked by several people when we plan on turning his car seat around to face forward in the car. The truth is that we have no plans to move his car seat any time soon.

For some reason, the whole car seat thing gets Moms all in a tizzy, so let me preface this post by saying this is my own opinion and the information I've gathered from our pediatrician and various online safety sites. I'm going to talk about what we plan on doing as a family and why. Chill. Moving on.

Before I had C, if you would have asked me about car seats, I would have told you that kids get turned around forward facing when their legs his the back of the seat. This is a very common misconception and one that can lead you to make a potentially scary decision. While most states have a MINIMUM age and weight requirement (1 year and 20lbs), the American Academy for Pediatrics, the Child Passenger Safety Organization, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and many other child health organizations agree that children should stay rear facing until they outgrow the weight limit of their convertible car seat. For many newer convertible seats, this is close to 40lbs. Twice the legal minimum.

Vintage Charlie gives his car seat two thumbs up!
"But if we are in a crash, won't my child break their legs?" The Child Passanger Safety Organization reported that not a single incident of broken legs or hips has resulted from a properly restrained child sitting rear facing during a crash. I was surprised to read that too. Regardless, a broken leg can be healed. A severed spinal cord or serious head trauma cannot. Plus, kids sit with their legs folded up anyway. Ever see a kid sitting on the floor playing with their legs straight out in front of them? Not really. If you're curious what a bigger kid looks like in a car seat, the CPS has a great gallery of children happily sitting in their rear facing seats - some of them four and five years old!

Then, there are the videos. If the experts don't convinced you, the videos will at least make you think twice. During a crash, the force exerted on a child sitting forward facing is tremendous. A child's head makes up around 25% of their entire body weight. In comparison, an adult's head is only about 6%. That's a lot of weight being thrown around. When rear facing, the child is pressed into the seat and rides out the crash without jerking around. Forward facing ends up looking like this. Yes, this is a properly restrained dummy in a tightened up car seat.

Forward Facing Crash Test

Rear Facing Crash Test

In the second video the child hardly moves. Its amazing. In the first, the child risks something called internal decapitation amongst other blunt force traumas.
Knowing this information and taking into consideration C's small stature it was a no brainer to keep him rear facing as long as possible. Would it make it easier to put him in and take him out? Maybe. Would it be easier to adjust the car seat straps? Probably. But a slight convenience for me is not worth risking my child's life. That's all there is.

C currently rides in style in his Graco My Ride 65 convertible car seat. It is rated for 5lbs to 40lbs rear facing and 20lbs to 65lbs. forward facing. He is currently 22lbs. and therefore has 18lbs to go. Taking into consideration the typical slow down in weight gain after 12 months, he'll probably still fit in it beyond 2 years old and that's fine by me!

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