Keep looking back – at least a little longer in car seats
Her youngest child was only 6, and her pediatrician always had told her belly was best, she said. Otherwise, they'll choke on spit-up and die, she warned me.
Aside from the fact that her last point was an exaggerated leap in logic, she was right as far as it went.
Problem was, her advice was 6-years-old and a lot had changed since then - chiefly, years of additional research that led to the Back to Sleep campaign that's credited with greatly decreasing cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
I'm in the same position today with the growing evidence that keeping children in rear-facing car seats until they're 4 and 45 pounds is safer. That's way different from the advice - indeed the law in most states - that was dished out when the guys were younger.
The current recommendation is rear-facing until 1 and 20 pounds. Many parents miss that "and," rushing out to switch the car seat the second the baby turns 1 as some sort of rite of passage.
I was criticized - as I often am for my bizarre-o notions about keeping children safe - when I waited an extra month because Big Guy's always been a scrawny little bug. "He's going to be so bored looking at the back all the time!"
Well, no he's not, because that's all he knows. Just as a kid who remained rear-facing from birth through preschool wouldn't know any different and wouldn't be likely to complain.
Now, I guarantee you Boots would scream bloody murder if I suddenly turned him back around - he's not quite 4 and no where near 45 pounds. For that matter, Big Guy's almost 6 and just cleared 45 pounds a few months ago. But it's a battle I'd willingly fight if Boots' birthday were more than a week or so away.
Screaming bloody murder seems preferable to me to emerging bloodied from a car accident.
Increasingly, that's what research in the United States, England and Sweden shows: That keeping toddlers facing the back for far longer than we currently do helps prevent death and injuries.
The American Academy of Pediatrics hasn't officially endorsed rear-facing for toddlers, though it has issued statements encouraging rear-facing seats until at least age 2.
The problem with the suggested 4/45 guideline is that many American car seats are approved for rear-facing use only until 35 pounds. In Boots' case, that would easily get him to age 4, but he's also small for his age.
And I have to wonder seats at the approved 35-pound weight were designed mainly with hefty kids in mind. There's a considerable difference in build between a plump 2-year-old and a kid pushing 4 whose legs would dangle out the sides of a rear-racing seat.
I don't know that the car seats were designed for heavier, rather than taller, kids, but neither can I find a photo anywhere of a 3-year-old sitting in a rear-facing seat.
I also know getting any change in car-seat regulations signed into law is a battle. California safety advocates failed last year to convince the Legislature to pass a bill that would have required booster seats for children weighing up to 80 pounds. That's in keeping with the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendations, though current California law requires boosters only for children under age 6 or 60 pounds.
One assemblyman actually opposed that bill because getting his 6-year-old daughter back into a booster would be a "major family fight."
I hope he was kidding. Argument avoidance shouldn't be a factor in making safety law in California or anywhere else.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.