We all know that car seats play a vital role in the safety of our children. During pregnancy, we obsess over finding the perfect car seat that provides safety and functionality. Once the baby arrives, one of the prerequisites for leaving the hospital is knowing how to properly install the car seat and safely buckle in the newborn. All that being said, there is a lot of confusion about car seats. However, we are here to help you! Here’s the latest information to keep your child safe while in the car.
Rear-facing Car Seats
One of the biggest questions parents have about car seats is how long should a child be in a rear-facing seat? Since 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children stay in a rear-facing seat as long as possible. Thus, a child should remain rear-facing until they exceed the weight or height requirement by the car seat manufacturer. For example, most convertible car seats have height and weight limits that will permit children to ride rear-facing past their second birthday. As car seat manufacturers increase these limits, more children can stay in rear-facing car seats well into their toddler years.
This recommendation by the AAP was based on the anatomy of young children. Since young children have large heads, when compared to their body, they have a higher center of gravity. Also, the vertebrae in their spine are shallow and ligaments are looser. These aspects of a child’s anatomy increase a child’s risk of a spinal injury during a car crash. A rear-facing car seat will protect a child’s back and spread out the force of a sudden stop or a car crash. This will reduce the risk of neck and spinal injuries.
Forward-facing Car Seats
If your child has outgrown a rear-facing seat based on his or her height and weight, it’s time to consider moving the convertible car seat to forward-facing. It’s important for all children 4years and under to remain in a harness style car seat for optimal safety. There are two main types of car seats that are safe in forward-facing mode: convertible seats, such as 3-in-1 seats, that will transition with your child from rear-facing to forward-facing and combination seats with a harness buckle that can be used for children who weigh up to 90 pounds, depending on the model. When installing your convertible car seat to forward-facing after being used as a rear-facing seat, it’s important to remember to move the shoulder straps. Make sure they are at or just above your child’s shoulder. If you are using a seat belt to safely buckle your child, make sure that it runs through the belt path of the car seat correctly. It also should be locked and tightened to ensure your child’s safety. Additionally, make sure you check the car seat safety instructions for height and weight requirements.
Your child has officially outgrown their forward-facing car seat once certain criteria are met. These include the following: that they reach the weight or height limit for their forward-facing car seat with a harness; their shoulders are above the top harness slots or the tops of their ears have reached the top of their seat. Once these requirements are met, they can start riding in a booster seat. The booster seat is to make sure that the car’s seat belt fits the child properly. Typically, a standard vehicle seat belt will fit a child once they are 4 feet and 9 inches. Most children will require a booster seat until they are 10 or 11 years. It’s also important to note that all children under 13 years should ride in the back seat.
Keeping your child safe is always on your mind as a parent. We are happy to provide you with information to help you with this. If you have specific questions about your car seat and its suitability for your child, please come visit our office.