Monday, March 21, 2011

You can call me crazy...but you can't call me unsafe!

Today is a big day for child safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated their car seat safety recommendations.

Among the changes in AAP guidelines:

  • Children should ride rear-facing to age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. (The old policy from 2002 cited age 12 months and 20 pounds as a minimum for when to turn a seat around.)
  • Children should use a booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years old.
  • Children should ride in the rear of a vehicle until they are 13 years old.
You had to know I'd be blogging about this :-) I am THRILLED to see that now our pediatricians will be making official recommendations such as these. The AAP has encouraged parents to keep their children rear facing for as long as possible for quite some time but because they had not removed that dumb 20lb/12 month minimum, many parents still "flipped" their kids around at 12 months or younger just because they could.

These changes have gotten huge buzz online today. Many moms, like myself, as so glad that the AAP made this the official recommendation. But there are many parents and grandparents that think it is absurd.

On some of the forums I read today, there were many comments about how it was ridiculous and that they wouldn't be following it at any cost. They state that "a parent knows best" or that "moms know what is safest for their children." My genuine hope is that as this recommendation becomes less "new" and car seat manufacturers begin to slap different labels and directions on their seats and the pediatricians begin handing out different paperwork on car seats that those parents will be educated to how incredibly wrong they are.

And yes, I believe they are wrong. I try to be very open minded about parenting in most aspects. If it "works for your family" to co-sleep, then go for it, if it "works for your family" to breast feed until your baby is 2 1/2, then go for it! If formula from day one works better for you, then go for it.

But, until you can change the laws of physics, flipping a baby/toddler around forward facing will never "work better" for any child. It WOULD work much better for me (if I was in a car accident) if my children would float gracefully in the air and not hit a thing, but you know what? I can't make that happen. I can only make sure they are properly restrained so that their heads and necks are as protected as possible. I believe all babies deserve this protection. You can't fight the physics of whiplash and internal decapitation. Your big 16 month old does NOT have the neck strength/development to withstand a front end collision unharmed. This is physics. Not opinion.

ANYWAY, off my soap box...

I decided that since the new guidelines were to have toddlers rear facing until age 2 or until the limits of their seat that maybe I should try turning D rear facing again to see how it works for an older toddler. I know that children in Europe rear face until they are 4 or 5 years old, so I figured this experiment would not be THAT strange (plus lots of moms on my online parenting forums rear face until age 3 or 4 here in the states!)

D is 2 1/2 years old. He weighs 28lbs. He is 37" tall...which is very tall for a 2 year old!

His car seat is a Britax Boulevard. It will hold him rear facing until he reaches 35lbs. I knew he would still fit.

The question is, how would he REACT to being flipped around backwards after about 10 months of being forward facing. I was assuming he'd hate it. I thought he'd cry or scream.

Well, much to my surprise, he did neither. He went out to the car with me when I reinstalled his seat. I made it sound fun with the words that I chose and the tone that I used. (The same tone I use when I talk about how tasty green beans are and how good milk is for our bodies!).

He was SO excited to see the seat flipped around backwards. I think he was thinking he was getting to ride backwards....kind of like a "ride." He was eager to jump in it as soon as I got it all installed and tightened. I was very surprised how excited he was!

We then went inside and he ran to tell C about his "new seat" and how it was "flip!" When we all went out to the car to run an errand, C took one look at the change and asked me if I could flip her seat around too. She thought it looked awesome too...strange, I know!

Where did he put his legs?
-Basically, he flopped them out to the sides over the edges of the seat.
-After I took off his rain boots (I didn't want my car dirty...), he curled his legs up and sat with his legs crossed.

But he couldn't SEE!!!
-Yes he could. He could see out the back windows, the side windows, and he could see his sister's face. In fact, they talked and laughed more today in the car than they have in months. Most likely because they could see each other's faces.

He must have been so bored staring at the back of the seat.
-No, he either played with his sister or he read a book. He was perfectly fine. I promise.
-He did get mad once. It was because he wanted his sock off and he couldn't seem to get it pulled off. It had nothing to do with being a 2 1/2 year-old riding rear-facing.
I am not sure how long I will keep him rear facing. He is 6 months older than the 2 year minimum, but he is still under the rear facing weight limit on his car seat. I will go with this for a few weeks as we continue to "feel" it out.

To be fair, I will give you the downsides of this extended-rear-facing thing.
-It was more difficult for me to get him in the seat. I had to make sure he didn't hit his head on the side of the van as I lifted him in and out.
-It was a little more difficult for me to get him buckled in.
-I did feel bad when I couldn't help him get his sock off while we sat at a stop light and he was getting mad.

So....basically, those are all parental inconveniences. I think I can "inconvenience" myself for a few extra months to make sure my son is 5 times safer. The 5 times safer thing is a fact. I didn't pull that out of thin air.

This afternoon as I was driving to pick up my daughter from a play date, I thought very hard about this decision. Was I being too "extreme" by turing my 2 1/2 year old rear facing for a little while? Is the AAP making unrealistic recommendations on parents? Why are so many parents SO against keeping their child as safe as possible? I don't get it.

Just then, I got slowed up by a bit of traffic. It was then that I saw why. I passed a HORRIFIC car accident. There were at least 3 cars involved. One vehicle was completely destroyed - smashed in from the front and from the back. I couldn't even tell you if it was sports car, a 4 door sedan, or a hatchback something. All I can say was that it was blue.

The cops hadn't arrived yet. There was no EMS there yet. Just smoke coming from the vehicles and people who had seen the accident pulling over onto both shoulders. There was one man talking to whomever was in the destroyed car. I hope that person was still alive. It was THAT bad.

As I drove away, tears formed in my eyes. THAT is why D is rear facing at the moment. THAT is why C is still not in an adult seatbelt. Because THAT could be me and my family. I don't care how "extreme" you think it is. Or how "weird" it makes me. My children will not be a statistic. My children will not be a YouTube tribute video because of what "could have" or "would have" changed the outcome of an accident. I will do EVERYTHING I can in my power to provide a safe place for them.

I can't prevent them from getting sick. I can't prevent terminal cancer or a brain tumor. But I CAN provide a safe haven in my vehicle.

Thank you, AAP for taking a formal stance on this issue. I know many lives will be saved!

Here is a GREAT video made by a pediatrician all about the new AAP guidelines. It is the best and most informative video I've seen so far :-)

And I just saw online that the accident I passed had 4 cars involved, 7 injuries, and one fatality. It is so incredibly sad and scary.

I see accidents all over the place where I live. Last week we had a fatality on the same stretch of road and over the weekend there was an accident that caused a horrible car fire - all on the same road within a couple miles. Oddly, I saw the car fire accident as well. I guess when the roads you travel on frequently are so dangerous, its a good idea to be extra safe.


  1. I wonder if car seats would be as safe rear facing if car manufacturers started making seats in say minivans that could be turned around? I know one of the biggest complaints made by parents against extended RFing is what will happen to my child's legs/lower back in an accident if their legs are up against the seat. After reading about extended RFing, I am going to try to keep Annabelle RFing as long as possible, but I'll be curious if minivan makers use this new piece of info to make minivans more attractive to mommies. I think one of the minivans on the market has rear seats that can flip around.

  2. I think you bring up a great point! I know in some of the models of the Chrysler Town and Countries and the Dodge Grand Caravans, the middle seats can spin around. I wonder if you could install a seat "forward facing" and then just spin the seat around...that would eliminate the bent legs! The video I just added to the blog gives a great explanation of why bent legs are not an actual danger though.

    I think that as this information gets out into the community more and more, we will see a lot of changes in car seat safety (from car manufacturers and car seat manufacturers). A lot of families (mine included!) have followed the old 20lb/12 month guidelines because its all they were told at the doctor's office. Now that the recommendations are changed, moms and dads will be getting told this updated information. As with any change (putting babies on their back to sleep, for example), people are going to complain and say that "the old way was better...we lived and didn't even use carseats" blah blah blah. But I think in a few years time, this will become the norm and we will see a dramatic decrease in the injuries and deaths of children in car accidents. It will just take time. Education in the key. Which is why I am so passionate about getting this word out :-)

  3. Just wanted to chime in. ;) If you were in a car accident with a RFing older child, and the accident was bad enough to injur or break their legs, what does that say about what effect the impact would have had if they had been forward facing? :( Broken or hurt legs would be pretty awful for a child, but if the impact were that bad, a broken leg is far better than what they could sustain if forward-facing.

    And from all the reading and research that I (and my CPST) have done, a forward-facing seat in a rear-turned captain's chair in a van is NOT the same thing, and is NOT safe. Perhaps in time this will come, but for now, people should not do this! I can't remember all the reasons why, but I know that the recline/incline of a rear-facing safety seat have something to do with it. Imagine being hit from behind (as an adult, in the front seat) if you were the driver, and if you were a passenger with your seat laid back.

  4. Thanks Lauren!! The way you stated it makes good sense!! :-)