My Forward-Facing Car Seat Dilemma

Michele Zipp
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baby in car seatWhile on vacation in the beautiful wilderness (aka Lake Wallenpaupack in Pennsylvania), we needed to drive quite a bit to get ... well, anywhere. Something my husband and I -- parents of 9-month-old twins -- aren't used to since we live in NYC. It was challenging at times, especially with my Alabama in-laws in tow, but also a great time. On our last day, we went out to a diner for lunch and met a mom and her adorable 9-month-old daughter. We chatted for a minute or two before we sat down.

They were so cute at the table and the baby was eating little bits of food with her hands. I love seeing other kids the same age as my own, particularly because my twins were preemies and it makes me happy to see their progress is in tune with babies who are "on the charts."

We all left at the same time and they were parked next to us. I glanced into the mom's car and saw that her 9-month-old was being placed in a forward-facing car seat positioned in the center of the back seat.

The position was good -- center is said to be safest since it's away from the side of the car should there be an accident with side impact. But forward-facing wasn't the best decision.

And I have to be honest ... I don't know how much I would know about this if it wasn't for friends of mine who happen to know much more than the average person about car seats. But still, this is basic information that we should all be armed with. I know it's something a lot of parents don't think about as much as we should. But we should -- we need to know more. Because babies can't read manuals and safety guides to tell us how to best keep them safe. And there is just a lot of bad information out there.

I thought about telling the mom -- in the most friendly way -- how her daughter should be rear-facing until she is at least a year old and 20 pounds. Yes, that's AND not OR. But I was afraid she would have been offended. Maybe even would have told me to mind my own business or eff off. And she would have had every right to do just that. But maybe I should have just dealt with her wrath (if there even was going to be one) just to get her to think about it -- maybe do a little research on her own and learn that she should turn the car seat around.

But I didn't. And I feel terrible about that.

Car crashes are the number one overall cause of death for children 14 and under. Babies are especially vulnerable because their spinal column isn't set in the final position until at least 1 year of age, and since most serious crashes are head-on, a forward-facing seat could cause the baby's spinal cord to snap on impact. Some European countries even say a child should rear-face until 3 years old because it is safest.

And then last night I got another reminder that I should have said something to that mom. When I was on the phone with my sister, she mentioned how she needs to turn her daughter's car seat around soon. Her daughter is almost 20 pounds and almost 6 months old. My sister and I have had great misunderstandings about parenting things -- but I couldn't hold my tongue. So I told her, in a friendly, smiling while I talk so I sounded happy tone, that it's best to wait until at least 1 year even if Dylan is 20 pounds already.

How terrible is it that I felt bad about telling her something that could save her baby's life -- my sister and the woman I met in the diner? Why is it that we are all so overly sensitive about things people know that we don't know and should know?

If you need to know more or even just a refresher, these 9 Lifesaving Car Seat Rules You're Probably Ignoring will help.

Did you know about rear-facing and forward-facing car seat rules?

 

Image via RanaAurora/CafeMom


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