New Car Seat Guidelines from the AAP Get Parents Talking

6 years ago

The American Academy of Pediatrics shook up the parenting world with their new guidelines for car seat use. For the first time since 2001, the AAP made an official change to their previous statement as to how long infants and toddlers should remain rear-facing in their car seats and how long children should be in booster seats. The change extends the time that children should be rear-facing or in a booster seat.

083The new guideline states:

The AAP advises parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their seat. It also advises that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age.

The change is a full year for rear-facing infants who were previously "allowed" to be turned around at the age of one and 20 pounds. The booster seat recommendation is a new extension of what we've seen in some state laws over the past few years.

The reasons for the updated recommendation is simple: Safety.

“A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body,” Dr. Durbin said. “For larger children, a forward-facing seat with a harness is safer than a booster, and a belt-positioning booster seat provides better protection than a seat belt alone until the seat belt fits correctly.”

The AAP explains that the #1 cause of death in children ages four and older is automobile accidents. That statistic is almost enough to make me stay at home for the rest of my kids' lives. I hate that statistic. It makes the hair on my arms stand on end. And I know some of that statistic isn't because someone turned their child around on their first birthday. It's because the minivan in front of me the other day had four children all moving around -- not buckled. It was enough to make my stomach turn.

The new guidelines have parents talking, no doubt. The news brought a deluge of tweets and blog posts yesterday, making it almost impossible not to know about the change.

On twitter, some parents have already been putting the guideline into practice for specific reasons.


Toddlers in rear-facing seat until 2 - Ruby was rear facing until 4...she was too small to turn around!less than a minute ago via Mobile WebRare Gems Blog

Some are just simply annoyed. Understanding, but annoyed.


Seriously? I can't imagine keeping my son in a rear-facing car seat until he's 2. Ugh. I mean, I get it. But, UGH. than a minute ago via HootSuiteTara Mandy

Some wonder when the guidelines will stop.


Re: today's new car seat guidelines, Grayson said, "The next guideline is going to be, 'Don't let kids ride in a car til they're 6.'"less than a minute ago via HootSuiteKatherine H

And while safety isn't a joking matter, I did chuckle when someone made the following suggestion for annoying backseat drivers. (My oldest son who is (guideline appropriately) front-facing in a booster seat is such a backseat driver.)


new car seat guidelines should include annoying backseat drivers to face backward.less than a minute ago via HootSuiteprdude

The blogosphere brought a wealth of opinion as well. In a post entitled "Safety Isn't Always About Convenience," Darlena Cunha of Tales of an Unlikely Mother talks about some of the complaints that the new guidelines aren't convenient. She makes a great point:

Car seats and car seat rules aren't there to annoy parents. They're there because babies have died. They're there to prevent your baby from dying.

Steph at Confessions of a Stay-at-Home-Mom acknowledged the grumblings going on, but pointed out something her pediatrician told her about rear-facing car seats.

My pediatrician's office (I LOVE THEM) were being vocal about this more than 2 years ago, before Little Chica even turned 1 (she'll be 3 this summer). They put it this way:

It's easier to set a broken leg resulting from a car crash (in a rear-facing car seat) than to deal with a head, neck or spine injury (....or worse...from a forward-facing car seat).

Sobering, isn't it?

Jen Christensen at News Anchor Mom wonders what took the AAP so darn long!

There is a supposedly "new" recommendation released today that kids need to stay rear facing in a car seat until 2 years old.

Duh-we've been talking about this on my blog for a very long time. When did experts first realize this? Check out this article on my blog dated May 18, 2009! If this is such a huge safety issue, why did it take them almost two years to release an official recommendation? When there's that much red tape, there's a problem in my opinion.

Dallas Mommy at My DFW Mommy admits she has mixed feelings. High five to her for discussing in the open the discussions that need to be had.

I'm not sure if you will like this deal or not...I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I am saddened because babies seem so much happier when they can see the world the way we do and as a mom, I love to be able to look in the rear view mirror and see my baby. On the other hand, if rear facing is safer, I want my baby as safe as possible!

If you're trying to figure out if your car seat will work (or if you know it won't), Cindy at Akron Ohio Moms wrote up a list with car seats that will work rear-facing with larger toddlers.

I am of the opinion that all of this talk -- and, really, there was a lot of it on twitter and the blogs and stuff just continues to pop up -- is a good thing. Whether you're quickly accepting of the change in guidelines or initially balking, the continued discussion of child safety is good.

My biggest concern is the 4'9" or 12-years-old booster seat recommendation. It's not about safety. It's about cost. I'm not saying that I don't value my kids' safety. I do. But with safety seats "expiring" after five years -- and needing replaced in the event of an accident -- it can get pricey to keep a genetically small-boned, shorter child in a seat until that age. (And, uh, yes, I'm kinda talking about my own kids. I'll pony up the dough, but I'm hoping that the car seat manufacturers won't start jacking the prices of booster seats with this new recommendation!)

When it comes down to it, the new AAP guidelines are not a reflection on any parenting choice you have made to this point. They didn't decide that children should stay rear-facing as a way of thumbing their nose at you. They aren't pointing fingers at your sister whose now-thirteen-year-old was out of a booster at age seven. They are saying that with what we know -- now -- this is what is safest -- now. Safety recommendations change; we know this. My Grandmother still complains when we "waste time" getting on the road because I have to make sure my boys are secure in their safety seats. I mean, after all, she told my mom that she should just hold me in the front seat!

Change isn't always fun. And sometimes we don't understand why it's necessary. In fact, I think this is one of those things that we -- as parents -- would really rather not understand on the deepest level. Eventually change becomes the norm and we wonder how and why we survived before. My advice? Take a deep breath and move forward. If rear-facing in a vehicle until age two and sitting in a booster seat until age twelve are the only reasons your kids complain, you're doing good. Real good.

Contributing Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and photographer.

Photo Credit: Michael Bentley

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