Guest Post: Car Seat and the regulations

To Turn or Not To Turn…

Hi everyone! I know Melissa has so many loyal readers and I am {again} so honored that she asked me to guest post. I am Heather from Our Girls Keep Us Moving where I write about my two girls, ages three and one. Most of the time I don’t post much more than Wordless Wednesday and Top Five Saturday Laughs, but occasionally I do find some time to actually write about other things.

My youngest, Natalie just turned one on the April 9th. She is a little peanut of a girl, 29 1/4″ long and weighing in at 18 lbs, 5 oz at her one year well baby checkup. This is so new for us, our first is quite the beast and always has been. She was 17 lbs at 6 months! I digress, but I don’t know what to do about Natalie and the car seat situation.

I know the general rule when Claire (our three year old) was a baby was 20 pounds and one year. Since we had no problem hitting either mark, on her first birthday the seat was turned around and she’s been facing forward ever since. Our pediatrician told us that the law in Michigan is that kids can turn and face forward at one year. I’m sure most of you have heard that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is now recommending that “All infants and toddlers should ride in a Rear-Facing Car Seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer.” (healthychildren.org)

Here is the dilemma, Natalie HATES the car. She hates that she can’t see what is happening around her. She’s constantly trying to turn around to catch a glimpse of the fun. We ditched the infant carrier quite awhile ago and have had her in the rear facing convertible seat for almost six months now. The question now becomes forward or rear facing?

Legally, we can turn her around since she’s one. However, she’s not  20 pounds yet and if we go with the AAP we have to wait another year. We really don’t travel very far with the kids in the car (our max trip is 20 minutes or less – most of the time ~10 minutes) and still another year of crabby car baby doesn’t sound very appealing. Yet again, I would feel horrible if we did get in an accident and she was hurt as a result of facing forward.

Has anyone else faced a similar situation? How did you handle it? I would love any wisdom in this department.

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21 comments to Guest Post: Car Seat and the regulations

  • We are having the same dilemma at the moment!

    We originally said keep him rear facing until 2 years and/or 35 lbs, which is the maximum weight for his car seat to be rear facing. The seat can be forward faced for 20-40lbs.

    He’s 19 months old now, 33in and 30 lbs, and is starting to get very irritable when in the car for longer than 10-15 minutes. I think it would help if he could face forward, so we may be going ahead with the switch soon. I am just a little scared though because we aren’t meeting AAP’s recommendations yet.

  • That is a tough call! I have two girls and the first was a beast so we had no issue turning facing forward on her first birthday. I would wait until she hits the 20 pound mark then turn her. It may only be another two months or so. Both of my girls hate being strapped in so turning them around definitely helped make the car rides more enjoyable for everyone. You have to do what makes you comfortable! Good luck!

  • We’re in the same situation except Rebecca doesn’t mind being backwards. She is also a peanut. She’ll be 15mos next week, but she is just breaking 18lbs. I am still going to follow the guidelines of 1yr AND 20lbs so she will stay rear facing until at least 20lbs. My husband asked about turning her come the fall if she still wasn’t at the weight and I said we’d see about it, but he also thinks that she has to be 22lbs and I’m going to keep him thinking that way. Shh.. don’t tell.

  • Sweet16

    I can soooo relate! Our 18-month-old is a decent size, maybe a little long and about 24 lbs. We take long weekend trips (4 1/2 hours)and she would get pretty irritable. I wanted to hold off but my husband, who is her primary driver, really rallied for the face-forward convertible. We tried it rear-facing but it just didn’t fit in our seat very well and actually gave her less leg room. I must say, our first long trip with her front-facing went waaay better than recent rear-facing trips. I still feel uneasy about it, but I justify it by saying to myself it’s still just a recommendation and not the law.

  • aimee

    my last two have hated the car until they got older. do you have a mirror on the back of the seat so maybe she can see whats going on around her? it might just be a recontamination but she is much safer rear facing.

  • Thanks everyone on your recommendations!! It is so great to know that I am not alone and that the 20 lb mark is acceptable to others as well. That’s the direction that I am leaning, such a tough call!!

  • hippie4ever

    I recommend rear facing. My understanding is that forward facing in an ccident can cause internal decapitation, the skull ripped off the spinal column by the force of the collision. My son is >3 yrs over 33 lbs and still facing rear.

  • Erica Bradley

    I recommend rear facing til at least 2. I would prefer my child be un-happy and safe than to be put in harms way.

  • I would recommend rear facing your daughter till she reaches either the height or weight limit of her convertible car seat and until AT LEAST 2 yrs old. Reguardless of her weight or size I’d keep rear facing. The thing is a 1yr old who is 20lbs has the same bone structure as one who is 30lbs. Babies have soft flexible bones for obvious reason. 1 being they need to squeeze through the birth canal and 2 they fall a lot when learning to walk and exploring flexible bones don’t break as easily. As time goes by bones harden, this process is called ossification. The neck of a 1yr old is very flexible and weak compared to a child who is 3-4yrs of age. Another reason young kids are safer rear facing is the size of their head. Children have bigger heads than adults. As they grow the they grow into their heads so to speak. A child’s head takes up 25% of their body weight; adults are only 6%. So you have this big head on this weak neck. This is not something that changes at a certain size but at certain ages.
    Children who are rear facing are less likely to have head or neck injuries. You can watch this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2DVfqFhseo&feature=youtube_gdata_player You can see how different the head movement is in those crash test. When children have underdeveloped bones the neck can stretch so much it actually will internally decapitate. This is normally very deadly. I have more written at my blog http://louisianacarseatmom.blogspot.com/2011/08/rear-facing.html

    With your daughter wanting to look around I’d look in your vehicle manual to see if their were any objection to removing the seats head rest. This could possible give her a better look. Also keep in mind that at 1yr she is at the prime of her exploring stage. Being strapped down no matter were she is facing is against everything her body and mind wants. She is busy discovering and the car seat is not good for that. This will die down a bit with age. My daughter went through a similar phase and by 18-20 months she was fine. So try the head rest thing, try soft toys, and put the car seat as up right as the manufacture allows. :)

    Oh and don’t worry about legs. There are no reports of broken legs with rear facing children. It’s actually the 2nd most common injury to forward facing children. Right after neck/head injuries. Also broken legs are easy to fix in comparison to neck and head injuries.

  • Why was my post removed?

    • Melissa

      Whitney, it went to spam for some reason. When I get home from vacation, I will make sure it goes through

  • Jade

    Please, consider the reason why the AAP recommends waiting… it’s called internal decapitation: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/boy-suffers-internal-decapitation/story?id=12035541#.T6Pd6OhYvPQ

    This child was already two years old. I think a little irritability is worth dealing with than the trauma this child went through. It’s not a recommendation for no reason. Laws rarely keep up with the times. Look how long it’s taken for cyber crimes to be considered in laws, including cyber bullying.

    We will rear face my daughter until she’s outgrown her seat by weight or height.

  • Crystal

    I would recommended rear facing as long as possible
    my 30 pound 2½ year old and 22pound 1½ year old are and will remain rear facing AAP recommend’s that Children under 2 should be Rear facing in the car and the NHSTA recommend’s rear facing until age 4 in a accident a baby’s large head will be thrown forward as there body is held back if his head whips forward to far to fast it can sever the spinal cord and cause “internal decapitation” to see what happened to a 30 pound 18 month old little boy who was forwars facing in a minor accident check out http://www.joelsjourney.org all car seats rear face to 35-40  pounds and your daughtet would be 5x safer Car accidents are the #1 cause of death for children in the USA
    for more information check out
    http://carseatblog.com/5168/why-rear-facing-is-better-your-rf-link-guide/

  • Jessica W

    When my daughter was born in 2008, I didn’t know anything other than the 1 AND 20 recommendation. It wasn’t until I started researching convertibles when she was around 6 months old, that I started learning about extended rear-facing. It definitely wasn’t there “norm” in our city, and I definitely got a bunch of weird looks from family, friends and strangers. We made a promise to keep her rear-facing until 2, and we made it! We turned her shortly after her 2nd birthday, and by that time I was expecting #2. My son was due in August (my daughter had been forward facing since February), and when I was installing his infant seat, she asked to be rear-facing again. She said she wanted to sit the same way as her brother. I was VERY skeptical, especially because she had been forward facing for 5 months already. I reluctantly turned her back around, and you know what? She loved it. She sat rear-facing until shortly after her 3rd birthday. She currently rides in a forward facing only seat but has been asking at least every 2 weeks to turn back around. Unfortunately, she is nearing the rear-facing limit on our rear-facing seats. My son is going to be 2 in August, and he is still rear-facing at around 26lbs and 33″. We are hoping to make it to 3 with him. I won’t lie, we have had bad stages with both kids. My daughter cried constantly in the car from about 15-18 months, and my son is starting to cry on and off now. I think it is more from the fact that he doesn’t like being buckled in.
    Yes, it would be SO easy to turn him, but I can’t take the risk. I have been reading a blog about a child that died in a car accident. He was just over a year, and was forward facing. His spine was severed. I also know a local family that was involved in an accident where the were rear-ended by a semi. The rear-facing infant lived, but his forward facing brother died. Sure, its called an accident for a reason, and chances are rare that I will be involved in such an accident but what if? I would live the rest of my life wondering why I was in such a hurry to turn them around, and really waiting another year is such a short amount of time compared to a lifetime without them.

  • Tracy

    “Here is the dilemma, Natalie HATES the car. She hates that she can’t see what is happening around her. She’s constantly trying to turn around to catch a glimpse of the fun. ”
    Momma I hear ya, but I also wonder how much of this is our adult interpretation? Often times as older babies become toddlers they don’t want to b confined in anything, the only thing from above that you know is; she keeps trying to turn. The rest is your inference. Your little one doesn’t really know anything other than RFing, so to suggest that she wants to go ff is kinda silly. Like when adults project adult emotions lik manipulation to a toddler, kwim?
    So how can you make it more fun. -can you get the older child to engage the 1 yr old.
    There seem to be 2 car seat questions that come up a lot- when to ff and when to booster. The laws are the just the minimum safety requirements. Best of luck :)

  • Rebecca

    I know it’s difficult to keep them RF when they start to become crabby in the car. Believe me, my daughter was queen of the car fits around 18 months. But it is a phase and even if it is a long phase, sometimes you as a parent have to choose to do what is safer rather then what is more convenient. My daughter has always been small (she was born 3 months early at 1 pound, 6 ounces). She is currently 3.5 years, 27 pounds, and 37″ tall. She is still RF and wil be until I can’t find a seat that RF her anymore. She is actually getting fairly close to outgrowing her Britax Blvd RF and I’m going to be buying two new Diono Radians, so that I can continue RF her. The fact that you don’t drive far doesn’t matter – actually, the majority of car accidents happen within a few miles of your home. And truth be told, internal decapitation is real. Take a couple minutes to google “Joel’s journey”. He was an 18 month old (30 pounds) who was internally decapitated from FF in an accident. It would also be helpful to look on YouTube for Rear facing vs forward facing videos. I don’t know how anyone could watch those and not want to forever keep your child RF. We as adults would actually be safest riding RF. It’s just cold hard facts that until 4 years old, RF is safer. It isn’t until 4 years old that their spine becomes stronger to be able to withstand crash forces FF. My daughter went through the worst car seat phase, but she actually loves RF now. But to be honest, even if she still hated it, I would still RF because I’m the adult and I know that it’s safer. And it’s my job to protect her. I would rather listen to a screaming child every single car trip then to get in an accident with her FF and have something happen to her where I would never hear her scream again. I hope you will do some more research and continue to RF your daughter until at least 2. If you want more info, I’d be happy to help.

  • Melissa

    My son was a teeny tiny peanut also. He did not reach 20lbs until just over 18mths old. I had heard the AAP’s recommendations on rear-facing until 2yrs of age so I thought “why not continue now?” I only had 6 more months until he was 2 anyways. I then looked down at his carseat and saw on the sticker on the side that he could rear-face until he was 35lbs. I then started researching rear-facing for myself and found out it is 5x safer. We are still rear-facing and he will be turning 3 in a few months. I have no intentions of turning him until he he raeches the height of weight limit of his new carseat. His new seat rear faces weight wise until 45lbs. My husband and I joke that he will still be rear facing at 7 because he gains weight so slowly. :) Good luck on your decision and I hope you look into it yourself.

  • Pamela

    Rear facing is 500% safer. Whenever my husband and I get a little frustrated with rear facing our 2 year old I watch YouTube videos of why RF is safer till at LEAST two. It always reminds me that my child isn’t a minimum and he will ride to the maximum.

  • My oldest daughter was pretty petite (and still is at 5). She was 19lbs at 1 year and 24lbs at 2 years. She kicked, screamed and arched her back when I tried to get her into her car seat. I don’t think it would have mattered what direction she was facing — she didn’t like being restrained. The car seat she was using at a 23lb minimum FFing weight limit — which pretty well forced me to rear face her to 2.

    By the time she was 2 and we had the option of forward facing, she was no longer kicking, screaming and arching her back. She would talk to me about the cars around us, the sky, the trees or we’d sing along to the Wiggles. She rode rear facing until nearly 3 full time and occasionally rear faced until 4 or so (upon her request when her little sister wasn’t with us).

    Best of luck with your decision.

  • Jenna

    Rear facing is FIVE times safer. My three 1/2 year old is still rear facing, and will be until he outgrows it. We should get 6 more months or so out of the radian before he’s and inch 1/2 below the shell. I’ve even considered getting an import to rear face longer… I’m willing to do what I have to to keep him as safe as possible for as long as possible.

  • I know it is hard to keep them RFing, but it is so must safer! My daughter and son both used to hate being in the carseat. I thought it was because they were RFing so I turned my 2 year old daughter around, turns out she just hates the carseat, doesn’t matter which way it is turned. She is almost 3 and still rearfacing and now loves her carseat. My son is still fighting it. He is 17 months and rearfacing, but we are keeping him RFing as long as possible. If you are willing your kids will do fine! :)