Times certainly have changed for parents. While it was quite possible that you regularly rode in a car unrestrained as a youth, modern parents would not even think about traveling with a young child without a properly designed and installed car seat. Car seats save lives according to carefully documented statistics. Just in 2010, studies showed a 3% drop in the deaths of children in car accidents. The agencies that collected this data attribute this number to increased car seat use and parental education. It is true that understanding car seat recommendations can be confusing. When is a rear-facing seat appropriate? Is a forward-facing only seat just as good? What do you need to know that keep your child as safe as possible?
Rear-Facing, Forward-Facing and Convertibles
There are three main types of car seats that parents use for infants and toddlers. The rear-facing seat is often referred to as an infant seat and is more likely to be the bucket style. Parents often use this interchangeably as an infant carrier because it is so portable. The forward-facing only seat is designed for babies over a year old and cannot be safely installed as a rear-facing car seat. The last widely-available option is the convertible seat, which can be installed as either a rear-facing or a forward-facing seat.
Who Should Not Use a Forward-Facing Only Seat
The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend that babies be kept in a rear-facing car seat until they were twenty pounds or one year of age – whichever came later. However, recently, the association has revamped their recommendations based upon new safety studies and data. The AAP released a new report that updates the prior recommendations, which date from 2002. Instead of changing your baby to a forward-facing seat when they are one year old, pediatricians are being urged to promote keeping your baby rear facing at least until they are two years of age and, preferably, until they actually outgrow the seat entirely. Studies have clearly indicated that there are fewer child fatalities in accidents when children are in rear facing car seats. The structure of the car seat provides additional protection for the child.
Appropriate Use of a Forward-Facing Only Seat
Convertible seats are convenient and affordable because the same seat can be used for your baby from the time they are an infant to when they are a toddler. However, convertible seats are more expensive. They are also cumbersome to use as a carrier. A forward-facing only seat provides a nice transition from an infant bucket seat to forward-facing riding. This is the system favored by many parents. However, when moving to a forward-facing only seat, be cautious that you keep new recommendations in mind. Ultimately, the safety of your child is what properly using a forward-facing only car seat is all about. Keep your baby in a rear-facing seat, either an infant seat or a convertible seat, for as long as possible before moving them into a forward-facing only car seat. Using a forward-facing only seat is a developmental milestone, but only make the switch when your child is ready for it.