Your guide to car seat safety

Keeping your little one safe and sound in the car is a vital part of being a parent. From the first drive home from the hospital to all of the little league practices in between, you want to make sure your child is as safe as possible in the car.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has changed some of the car seat recommendations in recent years. Here’s a round-up of everything you need to know about when to move your child from rear to front-facing along with some helpful car safety tips.

When to turn the car seat around front-facing

It used to be recommended that your baby stay rear-facing until the age of one year old. Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that toddlers remain rear-facing until at least two years old or the recommended height and weight on your car seat.

Most car seat manufacturers have rear-facing car seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they are at least two years old or weigh around 20 pounds. Many popular seats allow children to actually stay this way up to four years old.

One thing to keep in mind is that babies and toddlers don’t know any differently when it comes to rear or forward-facing. If you can hold off to turn them until they are two years old, they will be a lot safer.

pgbsimon / Pixabay

Car crash physics: Why rear-facing matters

Luckily, around 60-80% of all car crashes are rear-end collisions. In a rear-end collision, your child is in the back seat and you are hopefully both harnessed in by the car seat and seat belt.

When a collision happens in the front of a car, you are your child are forced forward. With a five-point harness system, your child’s neck and spine will remain where it should be. When they are facing backward, the impact of the crash is far less severe than if a child is facing forward.

When a child who’s spine and limbs haven’t fully developed is in a car crash, if they are forward-facing, all of the force from the crash can severely injure the child.

While it can be tempting to turn your baby around sooner because of an older sibling or an older relative’s outdated recommendation, think about your child’s safety. Is it worth it to turn them around if they aren’t properly protected in a car crash?

Bringing your newborn home in a rear-facing car seat

You’ll need a current, infant seat properly installed before you can leave the hospital with your newborn baby.

Typically at the hospital, you’ll need to have whoever is driving you home, bring up your child’s car seat for inspection. The nurse will have you place your baby in the car seat and they will help you make sure they are securely fastened.

While a generous relative may offer to give you their old car seat, there are expiration dates on car seats so you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s website.

When you install your car seat base, you can bring it to a fire or police station for a safety check as well. These professionals are trained in car seat safety and they can help you make sure your car seat is installed correctly.

Types of rear-facing car seats

When your baby is an infant in a rear-facing seat only, you can keep them in their infant seat until they reach the maximum height and weight allows for their seat.

These rear-facing only seats come with a detachable base. You can take the car seat off the base to carry your child in and out of places. You can also get additional bases for other cars if needed. These seats will only work in the rear-facing position and they come with a five-point harness.

After the infant seat, you can switch to a convertible car seat which allows for both infants, toddlers, and preschoolers to sit rear-facing. These car seats can’t be removed to carry your child. Once your child reaches at least two years old, you may turn the seat forward-facing. Children up to four, however, can still remain rear-facing.

What’s next for older children

Once your child reaches the maximum height and weight recommended for the convertible car seat, you can switch to a forward-facing seat with a harness. Most of these seats accommodate children up to 65 pounds.

When your child outgrows these seats, you can move them to a belt-positioning booster seat. These booster seats are designed to make sure your child can sit safely with a seatbelt. If the seatbelt is too high on a child without a booster, they can suffer from serious injury.

A child can remain in the back seat of the car in a booster until they are between eight and12 years old. If your child is on the small side, keep them in a booster in the back until they are closer to 12.

KateCox / Pixabay

Car safety tips

There are a couple of other important safety tips to keep in mind.

When installing your car seat, never add anything additional to position the seat that wasn’t included with the seat. Follow the manufactures instructions when installing your seat.

For older children, it is recommended that they remain in the back seat with a seatbelt until they are at least twelve years old.

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