The American Academy of Pediatrics now is advising parents to keep toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2 or until they exceed the height and weight limit for the car seat.
Previously, the organization cited 1 year and 20 pounds as the minimum age and weight for flipping the seat. Despite experts encouraging parents to keep their little ones rear-facing until they outgrow the car seat requirement, many parents treat the minimum as a guideline, flipping the seat sooner rather than later.
For others, switching into the forward-facing position is treated as a monumental milestone. When the child is facing forward, it’s easier for parents to interact with their children, less awkward to buckle them up and gives the children more leg space.
The weight limit of a car seat usually can be found on the back of the seat and ranges between 30-35 pounds. Some car seats even are designed to keep children rear-facing up to 45 pounds.
A 2007 study in the journal Injury Prevention found that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing.
With the new recommendation come a lot of questions:
Sarah Barton, of Sequim, has a 5-month-old girl whom she intends to keep rear-facing for as long as possible.
“I feel it is much safer for the car seat to absorb any impact versus her little body having to,” Barton said.
Another local mother, Pam Bergstrom, brings up the questions of both comfort and space.
“I would say as the mother of a very tall 3-year-old and now a tall 1-year-old that I can’t follow this recommendation,” Bergstrom said, describing her eldest son’s legs as simply “too long” to remain rear-facing after 1½ years. “I respect the safety concern, but I already had to buy three different car seats for him to be comfortable forward-facing because all the new cushions and bells and whistles make the seats huge. Car seats will have to scale back if this becomes law.”
Bergstrom’s youngest, who weighs more than 20 pounds already, remains rear-facing for the time being.
Anna Swanberg, a Sequim mother of two, already has been following this recommendation and encourages others to do so as well.
“We kept our daughter — now 5 — rear facing until she was a little older than 2,” Swanberg shared. “She was on the small side and only 16 pounds at 1 year old. I thought that turning her around to forward-facing would help make car rides easier for her but that was not the case; she still didn’t like being restrained in the seat.”
Since turning her older daughter around didn’t make car rides any more pleasant, Swanberg isn’t factoring that issue into her decision of when to turn her 2-year-old around.
“She too isn’t a fan of the car, but since I know turning her around won’t make it much easier and rear-facing is safer, I am in no hurry to make the switch,” she said.
In Sweden, the recommendation is for children to remain rear-facing until the age of 4. Swedish car seats generally allow for children to sit rear facing up to 55 pounds — the highest rear-facing limit in the world.
For more information about pediatric issues, go online to www.aap.org.