Car crashes are unfortunately a leading cause of death in children under the age of 12. In 2019 alone, 91,000 children were injured in crashes and more than 600 died. Of those who died, 38% weren’t buckled in. Making informed decisions when it comes to car safety can really make a difference should an accident ever take place.
Especially as a new parent, making a decision about car seats when there are seemingly endless options and terms to learn can be overwhelming – as if becoming a parent isn’t already an overwhelming thought at times. While there’s a lot of information to internalize, it doesn’t have to be complicated. In this post, learn the basics of car seat safety, what options are available, and what the best choice for your baby will be.
Table of contents
Car seats may not seem like much, but they make a huge impact when it comes to your child’s safety. They’ve been shown to prevent the risk of injury for children in crashes by 71% to 82% compared to using a seatbelt alone, making it a high-priority decision for parents to make as their kids grow.
Trust me. I get it! But with 1,000 other things on your mind, absorbing information about car seats can be a bit overwhelming. Like, what’s the benefit of rear-facing seats? How do you buckle your baby in for the very first time?
Everything you need to know about rear-facing car seats
First, let’s answer the question of what rear-facing means and why it matters.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that all infants should ride in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible, letting children reach the highest weight or length their car seat manufacturer allows before transitioning to forward-facing. Most car seats will enable children to stay rear-facing for two years or more.
Rear-facing means that your child will be facing the back of the seats. This position is the safest, especially for infants, because a rear-facing seat would spread the impact of a car crash evenly across the back of the car seat and the child’s body. Rear-facing seats also limit the motion of the head, reducing the risk of any neck injuries.
A commonly asked question you may be wondering is if it’s ok for your child’s feet to touch the back of the seat while they’re rear-facing? It’s not something that should raise concern. Children are pretty flexible and will find a comfortable position, and leg injuries remain rare in kids that ride rear-facing.
Research has shown that rear-facing seats cut the risk of death or severe injury in children up to 23 months by 75% compared to forward-facing car seats. It’s a staggering statistic that highlights the dramatic benefits of rear-facing seats for newborns and young children.
What are the different types of rear-facing seats available and what’s the difference
You have rear-facing only seats, which are smaller and have carrying handles. These seats typically come with a base that stays in the car while the seat itself can click in and out of the base for easy transportation. Depending on the model purchased, these can typically be used for infants up to 22 to 35 pounds or 26 to 35 inches.
There are also convertible seats available, which can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing, meaning they can be used for a longer duration of time. Unlike the rear-facing specific seats, they are bulkier and designed to stay in the car. Many have higher rear-facing weight and height limits, making them an excellent option for bigger babies or toddlers.
Then you have the all-in-one seats. These can be used rear-facing, forward-facing, then converted into a booster as your child grows. This means they can be used for a longer time and, similar to the convertible seats, tend to have higher rear-facing weight and height limits.
Once you break it down, it’s not as overwhelming as it might initially seem. The essential thing to consider is what will be safest for your newborn.
Now that you know what rear-facing means and the different car seats available, let’s chat a little bit about safety and best practices.
Car seat safety and best practices
Children should be placed in the backseat through at least 13. So, your car seat should be installed in the backseat, preferably in the very center, though in some vehicles, that may not be possible. You should never put a rear-facing car seat in a front passenger seat with an active passenger airbag. If it were to inflate during a crash, it would pose a considerable risk for your baby’s safety.
When you install the car seat, it’s essential to double-check that the seat is locked in tightly with either lower anchors or a locked seat belt. And a tip, if you can move the seat more than an inch at the belt path, then you know it’s not tight enough.
While you clip your baby in, you want to make sure the harness is snug. A good test is to ensure you can’t pinch any slack between your fingers when testing the straps at your child’s shoulders. The chest clip should fall at the center of your baby’s chest.
Another safety tip to be mindful of is that you should never buckle your newborn into a car seat while they’re wearing bulky clothing. Winter coats and other thick clothes can compress in a crash and make the straps too loose to restrain your child, creating an increased risk for injury. You want to dress your baby in thinner layers and wrap a blanket or coat around them during colder months.
Whether you’re getting ready to pull the trigger on your first car seat or want to brush up on the latest safety recommendations, I hope this video helps you feel more confident in the choices you make for your newborn. And, if you have more specific questions you’d like to address about your decision, you can always talk to a child passenger safety technician.