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Your Child’s Car Seat Should Be Rear-Facing for 2 Years, But Most Parents Don’t Comply

rear-facing car seat, car seats

These little guys should still be facing backwards!

Ugh.  Imagine trying to deal with an 18-month-old throwing cheerios and sploshing apple juice (well, maybe not apple juice…) everywhere while facing backwards in the back of your car?  Sounds like a nightmare, but it’s the latest safety recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, who changed their guidelines back in April to say that children should stay in rear-facing car seats until the age of two.  A new poll out of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital shows that the vast majority of parents (73%) use a forward-facing car seat with their children before 2 years of age, and a surprising 30% switch from a rear-facing seat before their baby turns one.  Here’s why that’s dangerous:

“Research has shown that riding in a rear-facing car seat is up to five times safer for toddlers than riding in a forward-facing car seat,” says Michelle Macy, M.D., M.S., a clinical lecturer of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.  (For the record, though the AAP only officially changed its guidelines this year, they’ve been saying the same thing since 2009.)  According to the University of Michigan report on the poll:

Rear-facing car seats can prevent serious injury to children involved in front end motor vehicle collisions, Macy says.  “When a child is sitting in a rear-facing car seat, the stopping forces are spread out over their entire back. The back of the car seat is a cushion for the child.  However, in the forward-facing position, all of the crash forces are focused on the points of the body that come into contact with the car seat straps. The child’s head and limbs keep moving forward, pulling against the seat.”

While your baby will likely outgrow her rear-facing bucket seat before her first birthday, “that doesn’t mean it is time to turn the baby to face forward,” according to the U of M.  “The next step is to get a larger convertible car seat that can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing.”

My daughter turned two before the 2009 recommendation by the AAP, so she started facing front when she was a year old.  What about you?  Is this the first time you’ve heard this information?  If you were aware of the recommendation, did you comply or ignore?

Photo via Flickr

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