Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Do you know what the number one cause of death for Canadian children is?

Car Crashes.

I know this seems like a very serious topic for a blog post, but this is something that is really important to me. It can be so easily prevented.

The law in Canada says infants must be rear-facing until they are a minimum of 20Ibs. Unfortunately most parents take this as an opportunity to turn their kids around as soon as they meet this requirement, even if the child is still quite young. What most parents fail to realize, is that 20Ibs is the bare minimum, and that weight should not be the only factor to determine if your child is ready to turn forward facing.

The AAP(American Academy of Pediatrics) now recommends children remain rear-facing until at least 2 years old(please take the time to read this article). The AAP states, "A recent analysis of the protection provided in rear-facing compared with forward-facing car safety seats has revealed that children under the age of 2 years are 75% less likely to die or sustain serious injury when they are in a rear-facing seat.". Wow, 75%! That's pretty compelling.

So you might be thinking, "ok, but my child is only 9 months old, and has already hit the maximum weight limit of their rear facing infant seat, so what now?". Answer: convertible car seats. There are many car seats out there that rear face up to 35Ibs, some even to 40Ibs. Those same seats will last years. Once your child has reached the upper weight/height limit for rear facing in these seats, you can turn it around forward facing. Most will go up to somewhere around 50-65Ibs forward facing. There are some that will even convert into a booster seat up to 80Ibs.

The older the child, the better their body will be able to support the stress of their head traveling forward in an accident. Small children have a relatively large head in proportion to their body. A forward facing car seat stops the body from traveling forward with the straps, but there is nothing to stop the head. This can lead to excessive stretching of the spinal cord. If the child is still rear-facing, the head is cradled, and the entire body absorbs the shock.

Still not convinced? Please watch this short video.

Which would you rather be your child?

It is important to note, that your car seat must also be installed properly. According to the NHTSA(National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) 72% of all car seats are being used improperly. Please be sure to read the directions that come with your car seat or watch a demonstration to ensure it is properly installed. It will most likely be a struggle.

Infant seats must have a proper recline, not only for protection in crashes, but also to protect their airways. A seat that is not reclined enough can cause the infant to struggle to breath, and become hypoxic. The base of the seat should not move more that 1 inch side to side(I usually have to lean into my knee in the car seat just to get this level of tightness). If you can, it's best to install the seat in the middle of the backseat, to further protect from side collisions. A locking clip should be used if needed. Harnesses must be used properly. I don't know how many pictures I've seen of floppy shoulder straps on children. A harness should be snug enough that you should only be able to fit one finger between the strap, and the shoulder, at collarbone level. An easy way to tell if your harness is tight enough is to pinch the strap at the collarbone, and if you can fold it over, it's not tight enough. While rear facing, the harness should be in the shoulder slot resting below the shoulders. The chest clip should rest at arm pit level.

Now that winter is coming, I would like to caution you to be careful of the type of clothing you put on your child while in a car seat. If you have to loosen the straps to accommodate a winter coat, they should not wear it. It could compress in a crash, and cause the infant to be ejected from the seat, leaving the coat behind. Infants should wear warm clothing(or a fleece jumper), and then once they are strapped in, place blankets on top of the baby in the seat. If you must use a bulky winter coat, do the coat trick(demonstrated in the video below), where you pull the coat out and around the straps. Or you could just put the coat on them backwards. You can also buy car seat covers, just make sure they only go over top of the seat, and not behind the harness. There are no federal guidelines governing after market car seat accessories, and the extra material could interfere with the function of the harness.

Coat Trick:

I've done my best to summarize and share the most important aspects of car seat safety. I've spent many hours researching this topic. A lot of these things, I learned through trial and error, simply because I never knew, and it doesn't seem to be common knowledge, so no one told me. I managed to stumble across little bits of info on parenting forums, that made me research further. Thankfully I was never in a car accident while my daughter was in her car seat, with the too loose straps, and the puffy winter snow coat underneath the harness. Hopefully I've informed some of my other Mommy friends out there too, and inspired some with young babies to keep them rear racing for at least their first two years.

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