Car seatWhen talking to my brother about baby registries last week (he is expecting twins this fall), it reminded me of how much has changed since my son was born just 2.5 years ago. Even though I have the prestige of already wearing the Mom hat, it doesn’t mean I don’t have to keep up with various laws, rules and recommendations when it comes to children and related-gear.

When my second child is born this summer, there is a whole new set of rules to follow when it comes to car seats that I didn’t have to consider just a couple years ago. Primarily, the whole 1 year, 20 pound rule changed. It was believed that 1 year and 20 pounds was the benchmark for forward facing babies in car seats, despite contrary evidence in Europe.

Now the new U.S. recommendation is for parents to keep children rear-facing until 2 years old, or until they reach the maximum height and weight for the seat as noted in the manual. Most rear-facing infant car seats go to about 30-40 pounds, but kids often reach the height limit before the weight limit. At that point, you would switch to a convertible seat that rear-faces longer, not a forward-facing seat, which as a bonus, often takes up less space than infant seats. When they reach the age of two, you can then turn the convertible car seat to the forward facing position.

At some point they are going to outgrow the convertible car seat. At that point, new bolstering recommendations come into play, which is that children should ride in a belt-positioning booster (that means a high-back) until they are at least 4 foot, 9 inches, AND 8-12 years old.

Beyond that, it is recommended that kids stay out of the front passenger seat of a vehicle until they’re at least 13 years old.

Lastly, whether a infant car seat, convertible car seat or a booster car seat, make sure it is installed correctly. Find a Safe Kids inspection station or event and get checked out by a certified technician.

So are these new statistics the law? No. They are just new recommendations but since they are based on science, testing and research, it pays to do your homework and figure out what is right for your family. Also make sure to know what is the law in your state (and surrounding states when you travel) so you are in compliance at all times.

Safe driving!

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  1. Wow Charlene, great summary of the recommendations. My son oddly enough wants to stay in his booster (he is 8) and of course I have no problem leaving him in. He is just shy of the 4 foot 9 inch recommendation.

    Our daughter is now over 4 so will convert her to a high back booster. Will make getting in and out by herself much easier.

    I have been following the recommendations since I trained in residency (before kids) it seems like they have changed so much since 1994.

    Will share with all my patients!

  2. My pediatrician (Dr. Gregory Young of Longwood Pediatric) recommends that kids stay in their booster seats until they outgrow the maximum specs on the seat by height and weight.

    Since my younger two kids are small for their age, this might mean up to 3rd grade. Thanks for the great advice on such an important topic!

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