Picking, installing and placing your baby in a child car safety seat is probably one of the most stressful tasks many parents deal with. Yet even after all of that research and careful installation a parent can do, many of them are doing one thing wrong.
It turns out that most parents are flipping their baby’s car safety seat around too soon to be forward facing. Baby brand Chicco did their own study, which found 72 percent of parents didn’t want to point out to other parents that their seat shouldn’t be forward facing so soon. What's more alarming, according to the CDC, is that 59 percent of car seats are improperly used to reduce their effectiveness in protecting a young child.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has made it clear with their guidelines that infants and toddlers should ride in car seats that are rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight limit that's set by the manufacturer of their car.
When should you make the switch then? Most child safety organizations agree that you should keep your baby or toddler buckled rear faced for as long as possible- until they reach the maximum limit. Check the literature that came with your car seat, or look up the manufacturer and model online to see what the company recommends. If it seems like your child's too cramped for the rear facing seat, keep in mind they are much more flexible than adults.
There are plenty of places to get help so you don’t have to guess your way through car seat safety. Safekids.org is one such great resource for first time parents or any parent who needs a refresher. They can also help you find checkup events happening near your area. Check with your local fire or police department as well. That's because they often have car safety seat events where you can drive your car up, and a certified technician can check if your seat has been properly installed.
If you have a friend who may have switched their car seat too soon, you can always gently remind that that rear facing is one of the safest options. Also, be sure to check your car seat because they come with an expiration date. It should be on the seat or somewhere on the label. Car seats usually expire within six to ten years after they are manufactured. Knowing how to avoid making any car seat mistakes will ensure that your child is safe while they're in the car with you. It will give you the peace of mind that you need.