rear-facing until age 22 is the new1.

This is kind of like, “brown is the new black.” But different and more important.

Two is the new one. When you’re a toddler. And when you’re at least 20 pounds.

And you’re in the car.

Let me explain. This is important for a number of reasons. One, not a lot of people (even pediatricians) know this yet because new data hasn’t been incorporated into policy statements. And two, it could save lives. Three and four: it could save lives.

Listen up and tell your friends. Scream from the rooftops.There is good news and bad news to this story. The bad news first, of course…you’re not going to be advised to turn your little one-year-old forward facing in the 5-point car seat until they are two years of age. Yes, yes, I know, you did that with your other child. So did I. I didn’t know any better. We evolve, science moves forward, new findings surface. And we now realize facing-forward is a no-good-right-of-passage for a 1 year old.

Keep your 1 year old rear-facing. Or go into your car and turn that seat back around. Then pass go. Believe me. Let go of that dream of doing air high fives in the rear-view mirror with your 18 month old.

Your small little love is 75% less likely to die or incur a serious injury if rear-facing when riding the car.

Gasp.

A commentary published earlier this year by the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends that all children under age 2 years be in a rear-facing car seat. Even if their legs hit the back of the seat. The rationale: children are five times safer in rear-facing seats in this age group. Dr Marilyn Bull reviewed studies completed by her team of researchers and the AAP recommendations. She says that in kids we rarely, if ever, see spine injuries in children in rear-facing car seats. She continued, “We will see head injuries or we will see a few other injuries, but the vast majority of serious injuries occur when children are forward facing.” To form these opinions, she used data from a study that evaluated US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration vehicle crash database in children under age two from 1988 to 2003.

Here’s the good news: Your beloved little babe is five times safer in a car crash while riding rear-facing when between 12-24 months than if you flipped them forward facing.  Say that with me, “five times safer.”

5 times safer. 75% less likely to die or have a serious injury.

put real facing

Turn your baby around.  This is one of those rare, no brainers.  There aren’t many of those out there any more.

Funny thing is if you look on the AAP website today or other car seat safety web sites, it may be hard to find this information. Although hard to find, it doesn’t make it any less true. Policies and car seat manufacturers are catching up. Dr. Beth Ebel, a pediatrician and safety expert says that the AAP is looking into this and hopes to have new, revised recommendations in the coming months that incorporate these new findings.

The beauty of science and research is that it changes current recommendations. Making things confusing, of course, but ultimately better. And hopefully safer for all of us. Frankly, we’d all be safer if we were riding backwards in the car in an impact at high speed. Not entirely practical to redesign the auto at this juncture but we can improve the way we protect kids.

Some science and rationale:

  • When you stop quickly or are involved in an impact, your body continues to fly forward at the velocity the car was going. This sounds likes a 8th grade math word problem; it isn’t. Infants and toddlers have disproportionately big heads for their necks and bodies (read: bobbleheads) so as the car slows, their heads and and upper neck continue to move forward rapidly while the straps of the car seat hold their body in place. This motion puts them at risk for cervical spine and severe neck injuries.
  • When rear facing, the head, neck and entire body can absorb the impact at once. This rear-facing position can prevent neck injuries leading to paralysis or even death.

So, we were wrong saying it was okay to turn your baby around when your baby was 20 pounds and a year old.

2 (years) really is the new 1 (year).  See?

Spread the word. You may just save someone’s life. Now that’s a nice little something to check off your to-do list today.

Do This Now:

  • Get a car seat safety check if you have any concerns about how you installed the car seat or booster your child rides in.  Many injuries in children are related to not using the car seat correctly.
  • Make sure you and any one who drives with your children uses the 5 point restraint correctly! In Seattle, you can come here for help.
  • Inform yourself about how to use your car seat.  Watch this video
  • Keep your 12-24 month old rear-facing until at least their 2nd birthday if not over the weight based restrictions of the seat.  Most seats accommodate up to 35 pounds rear-facing.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if you have questions or leave a comment below.