How Long To Keep Your Child In A Rear-Facing Car Seat

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Many parents wait until their kid’s first birthday to face the car seat to the front. Some parents wait for one more year. But are there any safety instructions that you should follow? Is it too early to change your child’s rear-facing car seat to the front? Here are a few things you should know before you make the change.

The American Academy of Pediatrics updated the recommendations on children’s car seats. For the sake of your kid’s safety, it’s best to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the maximum weight or height limit. Though previously it was recommended to keep your child in the rear-facing car seat for at least until their 2nd birthday, now they have removed the age-specific recommendation. In the previous study, it was found that the risk of injury was lower in kids between 1 to 2 years old who were sitting rear faced (1).

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Rear-facing car seats for kids are manufactured by most car companies in such a way which allows kids to be in them if they weight 40 pounds or more. This allows most kids to be in rear-facing car seats past their 2nd birthday. The AAP Council of jury’s lead author of the policy statement and chair, Benjamin Hoffman says that kids should be kept in the rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. Their study was based on car simulation data, biometric research, and research done in Europe on kids sitting rear faced.

Car seats reduce the risk of injuries and potential death to a great extent if you are in a car crash. But there aren’t enough data to support the claim that kids should be sitting rear faced for only until 2 years of age. And there isn’t enough data to support with certainty at what age kids should be forward-facing while traveling in a car. So, the safest option is to keep your child rear-facing as long as you can, according to Dr. Hoffman.

When a child is sitting rear faced, the car safety seat will be able to support the head, spine, and neck of your kid much better than in a forward-facing position. If you get into an accident, the car seat will be able to absorb almost all of the crash forces ensuring better safety. This way, all the vulnerable body parts that are yet to completely develop are protected. But if your toddler is sitting forward-facing, the head will be thrown forward because of the crash forces resulting in spine and head injuries.

Here Are A Few Things You Should Do For Maximum Safety

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  • Read the instruction manual of the car seat safety and check the maximum height and weight that is allowed (2).
  • Put your child in a rear-facing seat until they reach the limits on maximum height and weight. Only then transition to the next phase.
  • Once your child transitions to the forward-facing car safety seat, use the harness as long as you can.
  • Kids who are 4 feet 9 inches tall and around 8-12 years old should sit in a belt-positioning booster seat up to the time that your car’s shoulder and the lap seat belt is the right fit for them.
  • If the child has grown enough to use the vehicle seat belt, make sure they use both the shoulder and lap seat belts.
  • Children who are below the age of 13 should be in the rear seat for maximum protection.
  • To lower the risk of injury in a car crash, never compromise on the quality of the car safety seat. Using the right one, whether it is a car safety seat or booster seat will provide optimal protection during a car crash.

Parents always look forward to their kid’s milestones whether it’s the first crawl or their first steps. So, it’s natural to be excited about any transition in their little one’s life, which includes moving from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing one. But transitions may not always be positive. And delaying might be a better option as in this case. When your child approaches the right requirements for the next transition, only then move on to that stage. Until then, be patient.

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