Thursday, March 10, 2011

Forward facing, rear facing...

Bug has been in a convertible car seat since he was 5 months old, because, like everyone else in my family, he's tall. He outgrew his infant seat at 5 months, and we moved him to a Graco MyRide 65.

As you can see, he's still rear-facing.

A few of my mom friends and I were talking about this the other day, as most of us have children who have already turned one, or are near that exciting milestone. They were all saying how excited they were to turn the car seat around so that their child would be forward facing. I heard a lot of comments on how their kids don't like being rear facing, how much more convenient it is, and while I understood what they said, it doesn't change how I feel one bit.

That kid is going to be rear-facing until he positively doesn't fit that way.

There is, apparently, a HUGE difference between forward and rear facing. I had no idea. I knew that there were some moms who were extremely passionate about extended rear facing (keeping their babies rear facing past the minimum requirements of one year and twenty pounds), but I had absolutely no idea why.

So, if you're like me and don't know, here's why.

Apparently, there are SIGNIFICANT benefits for extended rear facing. If you're in a car crash, the most significant injuries (assuming you're in a harnessed seat) are always to the head and neck. I have mercifully only been in one accident (which, by the way, wasn't my fault--my brakes failed and I tapped the guy in front of me), and I had a lot of inflammation in my neck--and my car was barely going ten miles an hour when I hit the guy! The chiropractor had to work on me that day. And my head is only about 6% of my body mass.

Well, for a baby/toddler, the head accounts for about 25% of their body mass. So in the event of a car accident, the baby can sustain all sorts of injury to their head and neck, including stretching, stressing, or even--and this is horrible--breaking the spinal cord. This is apparently because, especially in a forward facing seat, the child's head is thrown forward while the rest of his body is restrained. This can cause permanent damage--or even death.

However, in a rear-facing seat, the head, neck, and spine are all kept in alignment, and the child will receive little to no stress to the head or neck, especially in a front or side impact crash. The head is also way less likely to come in contact with debris or any other flying objects that may cause injury.

My pediatrician's current recommendation is to keep Bug rear-facing until age two. I am hopeful we'll be able to do that--his car seat rear-faces up until 40 pounds. While he weighs somewhere around 27 now, growth apparently slows between ages 1-2 so I hope that he will make it to two. Otherwise, it will be until he reaches the maximum height and weight requirements!

Researching this reminded me of when I was pregnant and we took Bug's baby seat to get inspected. In Virginia, the local police stations offer free car seat checks. They will make sure that you have installed the seat correctly, and if you haven't, they will fix it for you. There is actually a website called Seatcheck.org where you can go to find a car seat inspection station near you. While we were there, we were lectured on making sure that everything in the car was properly restrained while driving. I have an SUV, and I use a net to cover groceries or my stroller or any other objects that could potentially fly over the seat in a crash.

So, that's what I learned about extended rear facing. For more information, be sure to check out www.cpsafety.com.

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