In March 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics published its latest car seat recommendations, which specify that children under the age of two years remain rear-facing in their car seats unless the child's height and weight exceed the car seat manufacturer's rear-facing specifications. According to Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP (lead author of the new policy), "a rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body."
Note that this contrasts the prior and longstanding car seat recommendation advising rear-facing positioning only until babies are one-year-old or 20 lbs. I advise all parents to abide by the new policy and also consider the following child passenger safety tips:
1. Never, under any circumstance, leave your child unattended in a vehicle.
2. To avoid forgetting that your child is in the car (yes, it can happen!), always put your important belongings, such as cell phone and purse/wallet on the floor of the back seat and make a habit of checking for your personal items before locking up -- whether or not your child is typically with you in the car.
3. Never place a car seat in the front passenger seat -- rear-facing or not -- just so you can see your baby. The airbag poses a serious risk. Always make sure the car seat is installed properly, ideally using a LATCH system, rear-facing in the back seat.
4. Do not try to place a pacifier in your baby's mouth, physically soothe, or provide snacks to your baby while driving. Calming with your voice or even loud music may help.
5. Pull over and stop the car to check on your baby if you have any cause for concern while driving.
6. Thoroughly review passenger safety information with your child's caregiver and/or confirm transport safety policies with the day care facility your child attends.
Parents should contact their pediatrician if they have any questions regarding car safety or visit their local fire station if they are unsure about car seat installation.
Editor's Note: I have posted previously in event roundups about car seat installation safety events and will continue to include them as I hear about them.
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