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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Car Seat Safety: Beyond Age 2

Awhile back I wrote this post on car seat safety. Today I want to discuss what happens after the age of 2. By now everyone knows, I hope, that children are to be left rear facing in their car seats until age 2. What you may not know is that it's actually best to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It's safer. Period.

The ability to rear-face for an extended period of time comes down to having the right car seat. The world of car seats is SO overwhelming and the sad reality is that all seats are not created equal. When my babies are infants I use an infant carrier type seat (I love the Chicco Keyfit 30). Once my babies reach the height or weight limit for that seat I then invest in a convertible car seat. Not only are all car seats different, but car seat companies are constantly tweaking things and coming out with new models. It's important to do your car seat research prior to buying a new seat, every time. Just because you loved "such and such" seat for your older child doesn't mean it's the best seat for your current child. Improvements are being made constantly, especially in regards to extended rear-facing!

Tess recently moved out of her Chicco and into her convertible car seat. I did a lot of research and decided to purchase the Graco 4ever. The #1 thing I recommend looking for in a convertible car seat is how long they will be able to stay rear facing. That's the most important thing as ALL seats must pass certain standards in crash testing. But not all seats may have the ability to allow for extended rear-facing. With this seat Tess will be able to be rear-facing until 40 pounds and it does not have a height limit for rear facing. Meaning the shell for the seat is tall enough where she shouldn't be limited by height for the ability to rear-face! Britt is 3 ½ and is only 30 lbs so I'm assuming Tess will be able to rear-face until probably age 5 in this seat. 

In addition it's one of very few seats that gets positive reviews in all positions. Rear-facing, forward facing, and even in the high back booster mode. I was debating between this and another extended rear-facing seat and went for this one due to it's high reviews for the high back booster. That's something rare! Most seats that are convertible don't get good reviews in the booster mode! I also like that with this seat she will be able to forward face, using the 5 point hardness until 65 lbs! 



My rear-facing beauties!


You'll notice that yes, Britt is still rear facing. She turned two back on Dec 6, 2013. That means she will be turning four on Dec 6th of this year. Not only is she much older than two, she's also among the highest percentage for height for her age. At her 3 year well visit she was 38 inches tall and in the 90th percentile for height. Yet, she is still rear facing!



When I first transitioned Britt from her infant carrier to her convertible car seat I did a lot of research (Notice a trend? DO YOUR RESEARCH!) and decided to get the Graco Siz 4Me 70 (you can read my review of it here).  This seat allows for rear-facing up to 40 lbs and/or 40 inches. The negative of this seat is that there is a height limit in rear-facing. At the time I purchased the seat this was a standard thing in rear-facing positions so it wasn't something I was too concerned about. 

Since Britt was 38 inches at her 3 year well-visit in December and most kids grow an average of 2 inches a year I was hoping she'd remain rear-facing until her 4th birthday. However I do think she may have had a growth spurt as on the first day of school they measured them for a cute little project they made and they said she's 40.5 inches. We are going to go ahead and move her to forward facing this coming week as I don't want to risk her being above the height limit!

I know very, very few (if any!) parents who keep their children rear facing as long as we have Britt. The comments I get about it are pretty hilarious and just show the lack of knowledge most people really do have about car seat safety! We had a teacher at Britt's school approach Mrs. Charlotte one afternoon about how dangerous it was for Britt to be rear facing. No joke! And how uncomfortable she looked and how miserable she must be. I have to say I have an awesome mother-in-law. She's not going to let anyone bad mouth us ;) She told the teacher that Britt's parents would rather have the inconvenience of her rear-facing in order to know she's the safest she can be. BOOM! ;)

In reality though Britt has NEVER, not once, companied about being rear-facing. She's never said she's uncomfortable. She's never had issues with her legs. She's perfectly content in her seat. She actually thinks the rest of us are the ones with a disadvantage haha! She has asked before why Kye's seat is facing front and hers isn't and we just simply told her when she's bigger we will turn her seat around. And that was that. If your children only ever know rear-facing then they aren't going to have an issue with being faced that way! It's all they know!

I will say that car manufactures need to step it up with making vehicles more accommodating for extended rear-facing. I have a van and it's been a struggle to figure out how to set up two rear facing convertible seats as well as Kye's seat and the ability for him to access that third row. Last school year since Kye and Britt went to the same school I had both of them in the third row which allowed access to it through the second row (we actually took out one of the seats in the second row so it was mega easy access). However with Britt rear facing it was tricky to get her in and out of her seat. I actually would open the trunk of my van every time I picked her up or dropped her off and climb in my trunk to buckle or unbuckle her. Yes. I got looks. And probably some whispers. But I know my baby is SAFE so they can laugh all they want :)

Now that Kye is at a different school we re-arranged things so the girls are both in the second row. WAY easier! Yes I still buckle and unbuckle Britt. Buckle placement and strap tightness are both very crucial elements to keeping our children safe. What's the point of having the seat if you aren't going to buckle it correctly?

This was taken prior to me buckling her in, just to give an idea of how well a child at almost the height limit of the seat fits!

Once Britt is forward facing she will stay in her same seat with the 5 point harness until she is too big and needs another seat. At that point most people move to a high back booster. But did you know that staying in a 5 point harness for as long as possible is also important to the safety of our children? I highly recommend reading this article regarding booster seats. 

We bought Kye's convertible car seat before he was even born. We didn't do research. We were clueless in the realm of car seat safety. It was also 2008 which was before all the studies on rear facing and it's importance. Needless to say, the seat Kye was in (which was Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite) wasn't the best seat when I started to do more research into car seat safety. I was extremely concerned when he reached the limits for the seat in forward facing and it was time to convert it to a high back booster. He reached the limit for the 5 point harness in that seat younger than I would have liked and I in no way thought he would be ready for a booster nor did I like the reviews/safety ratings of that particular seat in booster mode.

I went into some heavy research and had to do a LOT of convincing with Zach but we ended up purchasing a new car seat for Kye. Yes. A car seat. Not a booster. At 5 years old he got a new seat that gives him the ability to remain in a 5 point harness for a much longer time period. I purchased the RECARO Performance SPORT Combination Harness to Booster and, lucky for Zach, it's the last seat Kye will need. It allows for the use of the 5 point harness until 65 pounds/49 inches tall (which will probably be how Kye outgrows it...since he was 45.5 inches tall at his 6 year well visit I assume he will be able to stay in the harness until probably age 8)

I really, really love this seat. The lines on the straps are simply genius. Why don't all car seat companies put white threading on the straps so they don't get twisted? SIMPLE! The only negative is the lack of a cup holder but Kye's seat is always near one anyway so it hasn't been an issue. Kye is able to get in and out of the seat on his own and buckles himself (as well as unbuckles) we do check to make sure it's tight enough and he does know proper placement of the chest clip (but of course we check that too!). 

Most likely we will convert it to the high back booster and just keep Kye in this same seat. But depending on how things workout I could also see Britt using this seat as the harness option when she's too big for hers and then getting Kye a new high back booster. Speaking of boosters...use a high back one until your child outgrows it then do invest in a backless one! And if you've heard about the "bin the booster" campaign...don't let it alarm you! Read this post for the facts! 



We don't care if Kye's one of the only kids in the carpool line in a harness! Safety is much more important than coolness :) 


I do also want to take a minute just to point out that I don't favor a certain brand of seats. I'm a firm believer in researching the actual seat and what is best suited for your needs. Brand names are cool for purses, but not for car seats. Y'all wouldn't BELIEVE the number of people who are hardcore Britax seats but don't have any research as to why. Just because everyone says it's the "safest" or the "best" doesn't mean that's necessarily true. I'm not knocking Britax as a brand, but I'm just simply saying that in all my personal research none of their seats were even in my top 3 when making my car seat decisions for each of my children. Just because "everyone" owns a certain brand of seat doesn't make it the best and just because it may be a more expensive brand also doesn't mean it's any better than other brands. Just putting it out there as a reminder to: DO YOUR RESEARCH!

I hope this post helps others to see that extended rear-facing as well as extended-harness use are both very do-able. All of my kids ride happily in their seats (and we travel a good bit!) but most importantly I can rest easily knowing they are as safe as possible. I know I've done all I can to protect them. Car crashes are THE leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 12. #1 cause of death guys! So yes, use sunscreen and feed your kids healthy foods and have talks about stranger danger. But most importantly keep them safe in the car!!!

I am by no means any type of expert with car seats nor do I have any bias towards a certain brand or company. I also may not be super helpful with specific questions but I due just urge everyone to please, please research the best seats for your child at each stage and follow car seat safety practices every time you ride in the car!



Several of us are sharing safety tips on a range of topics today...be sure to visit the Babywise Friendly Network Pinterest Page for pins from all of our sites including a board on Safety!

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