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Would you knowingly put your childs life at risk?

Updated on October 3, 2011

My toddler in her car seat

Maya very happy rear facing in her car seat
Maya very happy rear facing in her car seat

Facing front or facing rear

Someone once told me that you spend the first year of a child's life teaching them to talk and walk and the rest of their lives telling them to "shut up and sit down!" As parents we often embrace each milestone and want to rush forward to the next.

I remember when my twins were a year old thinking "Oh yes! Now they can sit forward in the car!" And how exciting this new milestone is... So, without research or thought, I turned my twins around and from approximately 1 year of age, they were facing forward in a car.

Little did I know the danger I was putting them in and I thank god every day that I didn't have an accident in the first 4 years of their lives. It's quite simple, knowing what I know now, the fact is they would have been unlikely to survive.

I joined a forum before my youngest daughter, Maya was born. I was lurking on one of the threads and remember seeing one about extended rear facing. The concept intrigued me and I found myself reading through the entire thread. Now, I'm not one to sit back and just accept what's being said. I research - and to the frustration of my husband, I often research something to death (his words, not mine!). I discovered there really was something to it. I found an amazing website - carseat.se and was lucky enough to get into a dialogue with the owner. I fired off question after question and his answers came back fluid and honest. The fact is, under the age of 4, their bodies are unlikely to be capable of withstanding an impact in a car accident. Interestingly, neither are ours, however we are more able to handle it than them.

What happens when the child outgrows the infant seat? Of course naturally we want to move them into a seat which they can use for a long time. Often it is not ideal to buy another seat which will need replacing later. However, did you know that it's five times safer for a child to be rear facing? Scandinavian children are rear facing until they are 4–5 years old (25kg or 55lbs). As a result there are much lower number of children injured or killed in car accidents compared with the rest of the world. So we can see that rear facing is safer - but why?

The highest speeds and forces are a result of frontal collisions. These are also the most common type of car accident. A forward facing child will be flung forward in the seat, and thrown into the harness. When this happens, stress is placed on the spine, the neck, and the child's internal organs.

As a result, the child's neck is catapulted forward. Muscle power is irrelevant to this kind of impact. Consider yourself and how your own head is whipped forward when the breaks are hit. It is the body's spine that needs to withhold the impact and hold the neck in place. It is important to remember that a child's skeleton, including the spine is still growing and is therefore still soft. In a worst case scenario, the child's neck will stretch to the point that the spine simply snaps. This is called internal decapitation and basically means that the child has been internally beheaded. A human spine is incapable of stretching more than a quarter of an inch before snapping. In tests, it's been seen that the crash test dummy's neck is stretched as much as two inches as a result of this type of car accident.

As a child's rib cage is also soft, the ribs are unable to protect the internal organs either. As a result, as the ribs bend instead of snapping under impact, the heart, spleen and other vital organs are vulnerable.

In a rear facing car seat, the child is flung into the back of the seat and the force of impact is distributed along the whole back of the seat. The neck, spine and internal organs are not subjected to the stress of the force and are therefore protected.

The more I researched, the more scared I became. I found some other statistics for three children who weighed under 33lb who were forward facing.

fatal case #23: 18 lb, FF, decapitation, arm fractures
fatal case #56: 30 lb, FF, brain injury, unconscious, flaccid
fatal case #100: 32 lb, FF, decapitation

All of the above children were properly restrained in a forward facing child safety seat.

It struck me that as a parent, I committed to keeping my children safe from the moment I got pregnant. In my womb, I ate what I was told and stayed away from danger. Once born, I nourished them and met their needs in every way I could. Why on earth, now, would I put them in danger?

So the fact is, I would never knowingly put my child's life at risk - I know now, therefore Maya is proudly rear facing and will stay that way until she's at least 4. I love my daughter!

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