Infant Car Seat Safety: Rear-Facing
Infant Car Seats
If you’re like many first-time parents, you don’t quite realize the seriousness of deciding on your child’s first car seat. But if you try to do your research, you’re buried in piles of blog posts, marketing materials and friendly recommendations – much of it contradictory. Cue breakdown.
Let me make this as easy on you as possible: your child will use at least two, most likely three (depending on the seats) car seats before they outgrow car seats altogether. This is inevitable. This means there are three different stages of car seat use before just the seat belt alone. Your brand new infant will start at stage 1, obviously, which is rear-facing.
Before I jump into rear-facing, let’s go over a few basic car seat safety tips, shall we? This is by no means all-encompassing, but very good things to know!
1. Make sure the seat is installed properly and that you KNOW how to use it. Don’t assume anything. Your seat should move less than 1” at the belt path (seat bight) when you try to move it side to side. If there is any doubt at all, seek out a Car Seat Technician in your area who can check the installation or install it for you.
2. Always make sure the harness is tight to your child’s body and that the straps aren't twisted – pinch the straps to check the tension. If you can pinch them, it’s not tight enough. Always remove anything interfering with the straps being tight to the child’s body – including winter coats.
3. Always make sure the chest clip is at the chest. You should be able to draw a straight line from armpit to armpit - crossing the chest clip in the middle.
4. Make sure to read your car seat manual. Always.
In comparison with the rest of their body, and with adult proportions, infants have a large, very heavy head. Combine this with developing neck strength and it’s clear they obviously need some help in the holding-up-the-head department. Now just imagine (or don’t because it’s horrible) what their head would do if they were responsible for holding it up in the event of a frontal collision. Exactly. If you’re going to be in a collision, statistics say it is most likely going to be a front-impact collision, and so a rear-facing seat helps to absorb the energy of the crash and prevents your child’s head, arms and legs from snapping forward.
Rear-Facing for How Long?
In short: you want to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. “Best practices” say until at least two years of age. Many parents move their child from their first infant seat into a forward facing car seat, without realizing that their new car seat will (in many cases) rear face the child as well. The longer your child is rear-facing, the safer they will be in the event of a collision – even if their feet are touching the backseat. Check in your car seat manual and see what it says there regarding the rear-facing limits on the seat, many of which are around 40lbs, some of which are even higher.
The next stage, which we’ll touch on next time, is forward facing.
Sarah at Snuggle Bugz