AAP Releases New Child Seat Guidelines

Confused about car seats?  Join the club.  There’s just so much conflicting information being tossed around out there about how to best keep your children safe in the car.  For years, pediatricians and child experts have said it’s safe for a child that is one year old AND 20 pounds to be in a forward-facing car seat. 

 Sure, we’ve all heard the buzz about extended rear facing being the safest way for little ones to travel.  I personally am of the belief that anything I can do to up my car safety factor is a good thing. 

I spent weeks agonizing over the correct type and brand of car seat for Little Bud, eventually settling on the Britax Marathon (which I LOVE).  Sure it’s pricey, but what is a couple of hundred dollars when your child’s life is at stake?  I gladly handed over the cash at Babies R’ Us and was more than convinced that I made the right choice.  Installation was a breeze and we were on our way. 

Now that he’s a year old, many of my fellow daycare mommies have scoffed at my insistence that he remain rear facing in the center of the backseat.  Little Bud is a monster and surpassed the 20 pound mark when he was about 7 months old.  So why not turn him around now that he’s a year?  All the research I had done led me to the conclusion that my little angel is safest in a rear facing child seat.  Sure, it’s a little more of a hassle getting him strapped in, but that is a small price to pay and he still seemed comfortable.  However, I started noticing that we were in the minority.  Most parents can’t wait until their little ones reach that anticipated first birthday and they can finally transition them to a forward facing position.  

Things have just changed!  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says we should now keep our children in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. The new recommendation was published in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics article cited research that children are 75 percent LESS likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are in a rear-facing child restraint.  Following this release, the NHTSA released a new set of child seat guidelines today that echoes this finding.  

Photo Property of NHTSA

Rear-Facing Longer
It’s recommended that children remain rear facing up to the maximum rear-facing weight and height limit for the child’s safety seat or at least until the child turns two.  The rear-facing position greatly limits the stress placed on a child’s neck and spinal cord in the event of a collision. According to pediatric experts, a rear-facing child seat acts like a cocoon, cradling the child’s head, torso, and extremities.  The seat spreads the crash force over the strongest parts of the body and away from the head and neck.

Five Point Safety Harness
Forward facing children who have outgrown the rear-facing limits on their safety seats should remain in a five-point harness as long as possible and should only transition to a booster seat once they exceed the height and weight limits of the five-point harness.  These harnesses provide a much higher level of protection than the adult seat belts in a car.  

Booster Seats

It’s now recommended that all children remain in a booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. Most kids won’t reach this height until they are between 8 & 12 years old.  Many manufacturers offer hybrid seats that allow the tallest and heaviest kids to remain in a five-point harness before converting to a booster.  Once the child exceeds those limits, the seats easily convert to become a booster.  

Older Kids
We all know that children are safest in the back seat.  Once kids are tall enough to safely use the automobile’s seat belts, they should continue to ride in the backseat until at least 13 years of age (Big Bud will be bummed).  Oftentimes, kids under that age can be injured when the airbag deploys. 

Still confused?  Read the AAP’s official release here.

The best safety bet is to make sure and read the instruction booklet for you child’s safety seat carefully and make sure to not transition the child until he or she meets the maximum height and weights limits for their seat.  At every transition, children loose a measure of protection, so pediatricians are now advising parents to leave their child in each stage for as long as the car seat allows.  The great news for parents is that most manufacturers are now producing safety seats with increased rear-facing weight limits and longevity, eliminating the need to purchase multiple seats as the child grows.  

Statistics show that the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 3 and 14 is a motor vehicle collision.  Safety seats have evolved dramatically over the last few years and federal testing requirements have not kept pace with the market.  Even though the AAP has updated its recommendations, the government may be slower in updating the required testing for child safety seats.  The safest seat is one that fits your child and vehicle properly, is installed correctly, and can be used the proper way every time the child is in the car.  Certified technicians are available to check the installation of your seat. Click here to find the nearest inspection station.   

Still confused?  Check out this video for an easy-to-understand breakdown of the changes from a parent-pediatrician.  

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Veronika Smith, Editor Veronika is a full time working mother of the two craziest, greatest boys ever, ages 9 months (Little Bud) and 10 years (Big Bud). This Kentucky mom holds a degree in business from Indiana Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing a second degree in nursing. She is a slave to all gadgets that promise to make her life easier and increase her "productive abilities". With her most recent family addition, this obsession has stretched to include the wonderful world of baby-sized gadgets! She also has a passion for fashion and the nose for a great deal. Several friends have (unflatteringly?) referred to her as the bargain bloodhound. They don't call her the coupon queen for nothing!

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5 Comments on "AAP Releases New Child Seat Guidelines"

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Jenny
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I don’t think this issue qualifies as and “overprotective” parenting measure, just because the research is very extensive and it is truly a safer way of traveling. As this becomes the norm, I am sure many companies will start making more grownup looking boosters. You can watch video clips of car crash simulations on youtube and the dummies in the rear facing seats barely move during a head on crash, it’s incredible! That said, it is so darn inconvenient for a toddler to be rear-facing. Sigh…. We need to get a new car seat soon so I’ll probably be turning… Read more »
preemiemom
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Michelle – let me know how that “when your 30 getting married and having a baby of your own You’ll thank me for protecting you” line goes over. There’s being safe, and then there’s ridiculously over-protective. In my humble opinion, making your child ride in a booster up to the age of 10 (and beyond) falls in the latter category (unless you have a VERY SMALL child). Many many many many (many many many) of today’s parents really need to read the book “A Nation of Wimps” – http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/nation-wimps I am the mother of a preemie and the over-protectiveness of… Read more »
ChiMomWriter
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I turned my daughter around at 1 because she was dreadful in the car (she had been known to scream for 3 hours straight on road trips). It seemed much more dangerous for me to spend half of my time driving facing backwards trying to do anything to reach her. She’s 2 1/2 now so past this.

Baby boy is 9 months old. I’ll leave him longer, although I can’t say it’ll be until he’s 2. Ultimately, my kids’ safety is what’s important… It’s just that I gauge it by my own ability to concentrate as well as other factors.

Michelle
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I think it’s a great thing esp. since the research shows its safer. who cares about the inconvenience and i hate how most parents say their children hate rear facing “cause they cant see” screw that!!! I’m the MOM and I say your SAFETY is more important so if you want to kick and scream the whole 20 minutes to the store then fine. If you have to cross your legs in the seat in seat instead of them dangling over the car seat then fine. Ultimately, I’m your mother and your safety is my most important thing and if… Read more »
Heidi
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Mine are much too big to worry about his anymore, but I would love to see one of my two year olds rear facing! They were 30lbs at one year old! They were too long to face back then, let alone at two. Unless car seats have changed drastically, even then alot of cars can’t fit these great big rear facing seats. I always went out of my way to follow every rule, I can put in a car seat as well as professionals, but really! In a booster till in their teens? I kept my oldest in one till… Read more »
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