1 Year and 20lbs - how you pain me!!!!
The kids were dropped off early at school today as Daddy was going in for a little outpatient surgery. As I was getting the kids out of the car, my eagle eye (as always) spotted that the car seat in the vehicle next to me was not installed correctly - the lower anchor LATCH strap was all twisted. I hummed and hawed in my mind about whether I say anything to the Mom as I followed her into the building behind her. I decided I had to mention something - just a quick in passing, "hey, noticed your car seat is not installed correctly - I'm a tech - I could take a look at it for you on our way out if you like?" Thankfully, she agreed! It was a Britax Marathon, forward-facing for a 2.5 year old (who looked like she was under 33lbs, so could have been rear-facing still).
As I went about untwisting the LATCH strap, I discovered that they were still set up for a rear-facing installation (you have you swap the straps over when you turn the seat around so that the thick part of the plastic anchor is on the top). I also discovered that she was not using the top tether anchor - "they told me when I used the lower anchors, not to use top tether" - SAY WHAT!?!?!?
Since we were both on our separate ways and my time of her attention span would be limited, I discussed the correct installation of this seat, the importance of continuing to rear-face to the max (internal decapitation, ossification of the spine around ages 3-6 which protects the spinal chord, 1 year and 20lbs being the absolute minimum to forward-face but really not a good idea at all) at which point she tells me that a lot of her girlfriends have infants and they are all getting ready to turn their babies around since they reached 20lbs - they think you HAVE to turn a baby forward-facing at 20lbs. One is a mother of 9 month old triplets who were about to be forward-facing JUST because they were hitting 20lbs and the mother thought you HAD to at that weight.
Well, some internal expletives were muttered in my mind. Damn you 1 year and 20lbs!!! Damn you!!! People are latching onto this (and even incorrectly) and turning the children around - putting their children in danger!!!
People! 1 year old AND 20lbs is the absolute MINIMUM for a child to be turned forward-facing - the child has to reach both the age and the weight. But seriously people, when have you EVER wanted to do the minimum for your children? Today's car seats rear-face to between 30 and 35lbs! Your aim should be for your child to rear-face FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE!!! That is until they reach either the 30-35lbs OR there is 1 inch of hard car seat shell above the top of their heads. Rear-facing is 5 TIMES SAFER than forward-facing!!!!
PLEASE, I implore you - keep your children rear-facing for as long as you can! My 3.5 year old little darling still rear-faces in his seat. He is very comfortable that way. I never hear any complaints from him. He sits with his legs crossed - that's right - leg length has NOTHING TO DO WITH A CHILD'S ABILITY TO REAR-FACE.
Please take 3 minutes of your time to view the following video. It was produced by a caring grandfather who almost lost is 18 month old grandson. Joel was forward-facing in his car seat - he was 33lbs - a big boy. He and his mother were involved in a low speed (35 mph) impact and Joel's neck was broken. Thankfully, his spinal chord was intact and Joel is currently undergoing physical therapy to regain the use of his arms and hands. It only takes a second for the unthinkable to happen. Please do everything in your power to protect your children - TAKE IT TO THE MAX - REAR FACE FOR AS LONG AS YOU CAN!!!!