AAP's New Car Seat Guidelines Change Rear Facing & Booster Rules

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Rear-facing 18 month old and 3 year old.

Everything you thought you knew about car seats is wrong. Okay, not everything, but things have changed and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced new guidelines today. And it's big news! The recommendation is that children rear face longer and they also changed the details for kids in boosters.

It was believed that 1 year and 20 pounds was the benchmark for forward facing babies in car seats, despite evidence elsewhere that that was still dangerously early. Now, hopefully, with new guidelines, parents and doctors can get on board and spread the word about the safest practices for children. Here are the details.

New Rear-Facing Recommendation: Parents are to keep children rear-facing until 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat as noted in the manual.  

Safe Kids agrees. Two years is a goal easily met, considering even some of the lowest cost seats now rear-face until 40 pounds. When your baby outgrows their infant carrier, that is when you buy a convertible seat that rear-faces longer, not a forward-facing seat, which you can put upright up to 30 degrees when kids are bigger with better head control, often making them take up less space than infant seats.

New Boostering Recommendation: Children should ride in a belt-positioning booster (that means a high-back!) until they are at least 4 foot, 9 inches, AND 8-12 years old.

Jennifer Hoekstra, the Safe Kids Program Coordinator at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, shared:

In working with parents, we educate them beyond the law and share with them the best practice for keeping their child safe. We strongly agree with the new AAP policy and support the extended rear-facing limits as well as the new booster seat advice.

It's best to keep children in their harnessed seat until they outgrow it, which is into elementary years with the height and weight of most convertible seats and even harness-to-booster seats these days. But they will outgrow it and go into a booster, and eventually they need to meet all points in a 5-point test before they're ready to sit in a car's seat without a booster of any kind. Remember that these belts are designed to fit an average adult. Best practice is also waiting until children are 80-100 pounds as well.

Beyond that, all kids need to stay out of the front until they're at least 13 years old.

While 2 years or 8 years may now be the minimums, we don't parent by minimums, do we? Buying a high quality (not necessarily high cost!) seat to start, after you do all your research to choose the best seat for your child, can easily help you meet these recommendations.

Make sure you're using the car seats correctly, too. There's a lot of intricacies for both harnessed seats and boosters. When in doubt, find a Safe Kids inspection station or event and get checked out by a tech. And hopefully more and more pediatricians, with these new recommendations, will be on board as well, and we can maybe put an end to vehicle related-injuries being the number one cause of death in kids ages 2-14.

Are you glad the recommendations are finally being updated across the board?

 

Image via MelanieLouise/CafeMom

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