When to Front Face Baby In Car Seat?

Cheering on your child as they reach milestones is one of the best parts of being a parent. As they develop from a baby to a toddler and beyond, you watch them grow mentally, physically, and emotionally. This amazing transformation happens before your eyes, and it is truly awe inspiring. Encouraging your child’s first steps, their first words, and their first laugh can be fun, however, there is one milestone that should not be so quickly embraced. In fact, it should be delayed for as long as possible. This milestone is flipping your child’s car seat from rear facing to forward facing. Many parents look forward to this milestone as if it is their first day of school. Some parents even take pictures. But this right of passage for a child has been done far too early in the past. Research has found that infants and toddlers are too young to face forward in a car. It is safer if they face the rear of the vehicle.

Why Rear Facing?

Before 2011, it was recommended that babies remain rear facing at least until 20 pounds and 12 months of age. However, many parents took this as a milestone and they flipped their children around after their first birthday. Recent tests have proven this information to be incorrect. As of 2011, the AAP recommends that all children remain rear facing until they outgrow their car seat and have reached the age of two years old. This recommendation has changed because of several factors.

At birth, an infant’s head is not fully developed. Infants are born with what some call “soft spots.” These soft spots on their head are actually holes where their skull has not formed yet. Slowly, these holes grow closed. For the first 18 months of their life, these holes are open. This leaves their brain vulnerable. Infants and toddlers also have fragile necks and spines so keeping them rear facing protects their immature bodies. A study done in 2007 found that children under 2 are 75 percent less likely to suffer severe or fatal injuries in a car accident if they are rear facing.

What is the Age for Forward Facing Car Seat Usage?

Well actually, there is not really an age but rather a weight. The recommendation is that your child remains rear facing for as long as their car seat allows. Some rear facing car seats go up to 40 pounds while others only go up to 25 pounds. Each car seat weight limit varies so be sure to pay attention to this number while car seat shopping. Purchasing a car seat with a higher weight range for rear facing means that your child will be able to remain in the safest position for longer. Knowing the weight limit of your car seat will let you know when to transition to forward facing car seat use.

Why Do Some People Still Turn Their Babies Too Soon?

Some parents are concerned about their child getting car sick. This may be frustrating to deal with, especially for the child. However, turning their car seat around too soon can be deadly. A parent may also be concerned with their child’s legs being too close to the back seat. This should not be of concern as your child can fold up their legs without difficulty. Some car seats offer leg room extenders which may help your child be more comfortable. Parents sometimes express concern about their child’s legs breaking in the event of a car accident, however, considering that the alternative could be death, that injury seems minor. Regardless of concerns, the fact is that rear facing is safer and parents need to be well informed on when to front face baby in car seat.

It may be tempting to turn your baby around. Maybe you like the idea of being able to see your child easily. Or maybe you believe your child will enjoy the car ride more if they sat facing forward. You may see this transition as an exciting milestone and you may push for it to happen sooner out of excitement. While it can be exciting to watch your child reach milestones and grow, this transition should be extended for as long as possible. Your child has sat backward their whole life so far, extending that time will likely not bother them at all.

What Should Parents Do?

As your child’s caretaker, your priority should always be their safety. As small, vulnerable people, they depend on you to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. With so much time spent in cars, children should be kept as safe as possible while riding in a car. Purchasing a car seat is the first step toward car seat safety but following the car seat recommendations, following the manufacturer’s guidelines, and proper use are all part of safety as well. It is up to you to follow the guidelines, keep up on current information, and ensure that your child is as safe as possible.

Conclusion

Hopefully, with this information, you will now know when to use front facing car seat orientations and when to keep car seats facing towards the back of the car. Front facing car seats can be an exciting milestone as you may feel like your child can finally join in on the conversation, but this transition should be put off for as long as possible. Refer to your car seat’s weight restrictions and wait until your child outgrows the rear facing weight limits before transitioning them to front facing. It may be tempting to flip them around to celebrate the milestone or possibly have a more enjoyable car ride, but it could cause severe injury or death. Celebrate their first words and their first day of school, but hold off on turning their car seat around no matter how much you want to celebrate that milestone as well. Your child’s car seat orientation could be the difference between life and death.


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