i noticed a lot of you said you moved them coz their legs looked squashed. They have not outgrown the seat in height until their head is within 1 inch of the top of the shell.
Babies have heavy heads and fragile necks. In a crash, an infant’s soft spinal column can stretch, leading to spinal cord damage if he is riding facing forward. The baby could die or be paralyzed permanently. This is true even for babies who have strong neck muscles and good head control. The neck bones are flexible, and the ligaments are loose to allow
If the baby is facing forward in a frontal crash, which is the most common and most severe type, the body is held back by the straps — but the head is not. The head is thrust forward, stretching the neck and the easily injured spinal cord.
Older children in forwardfacing safety seats or safety belts may end up with temporary neck injuries or fractures that will heal. But a baby’s neck bones actually separate during a crash, which can allow
the spinal cord to be ripped apart.
Picture what happens if someone yanks an electrical plug out of a socket by the cord, causing the wires to break.
In contrast, when a baby rides facing rearward, the whole body — head, neck, and torso — is cradled by the back of the safety seat in a frontal crash. Riding in a rear-facing safety seat also protects the baby better in other types of crashes, particularly side impacts, which are extremely dangerous, if not quite so common.
If the baby is riding in an infant-only seat — the type that usually has a handle — it should be replaced with a rear-facing convertible seat when the baby reaches the maximum weight specified or the top of the head is within an inch of the top edge of the seat. Most babies outgrow the typical infant-only seat before they are nine months old, but they are not ready for a forwardfacing seat.
Children in Sweden ride rear facing until they are three to five years old, lowering traffic death and injury rates substantially.
For the best protection available, children should ride rear facing until they are at least 18-24 months old.
There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about the crash environment that lead even the best intentioned parent or pediatrician to believe a child is "safe" facing forward when she/he is still very young. These come from obsolete ideas and advice that may still appear in older pamphlets and pediatric literature but that have been updated in recent years. The most prevalent misunderstanding is the idea that muscle strength and control have anything to do with whether it is reasonable to face a child forward and subject his/her neck to the extreme forces pulling the head away from the body in a frontal crash.
When a car hits something else at, say, 25 to 30 mph, it will come to a stop at a deceleration rate of about 20 or 25 G. But, due to the time lag between when the vehicle stops and the occupants eventually do, the head of a forward-facing adult or child may experience as much as 60 or 70 G. Even strong neck muscles of military volunteers cannot make a difference in such an environment. Rather it is the rigidity of the BONES in the neck, in combination with the connecting ligaments, that determines whether the spine will hold together and the spinal cord will remain intact within the confines of the vertebral column.
This works for adults, but very young children have immature and incompletely ossified bones that are soft and will deform and/or separate under tension, leaving the spinal cord as the last link between the head and the torso. Have you ever pulled an electric cord from the socket by the cord instead of the plug and broken the wires? Same problem.
This scenario is based on actual physiological measures. According to Huelke et al,1 "In autopsy specimens the elastic infantile vertebral bodies and ligaments allow for column elongation of up to two inches, but the spinal cord ruptures if stretched more than 1/4 inch."
Real accident experience has also shown that a young child's skull can be literally ripped from its spine by the force of a crash. Yes, the body is being held in place, but the head is not. When a child is facing rearward, the head is cradled and moves in unison with the body, so that there is little or no relative motion that might pull on the connecting neck.
Another aspect of the facing-direction issue that is often overlooked is the additional benefit a child gains in a side impact. Crash testing and field experience have both shown that the head of a child facing rearward is captured by the child restraint shell in side and frontal-oblique crashes, while that of a forward-facing child is thrown forward, around, and often outside the confines of the side wings. This can make the difference between a serious or fatal head injury and not.
There are no magical or visible signals to tell us, parents, or pediatricians when the risk of facing forward in a crash is sufficiently low to warrant the change, and, when a parent drives around for months or years without a serious crash, the positive feedback that the system they have chosen "works" is very difficult to overcome. When in doubt, however, it's always better to keep the child facing rearward.
In the research and accident review I [Kathleen Weber] did a few years ago,2 the data seemed to break at about 12 months between severe consequences and more moderate consequences for the admittedly rare events of injury to young children facing forward that we were able to identify. One year old is also a nice benchmark, and the shift to that benchmark in the last few years has kept many kids in a safer environment longer and has probably saved some lives, some kids from paralysis, and some parents from terrible grief.
As a side comment, some convertible child restraints indicate in their instructions that a child should face forward when his/her feet touch the vehicle seatback, or alternately when the legs must be bent. This prohibition is not justified by any accident experience or any laboratory evidence, and we are hoping that these instructions will soon be revised. The only physical limit on rear-facing use is when the child's head approaches the top of the restraint shell. At this point, she/he should be moved to a rear-facing convertible restraint, or, if the child is already using one, to its forward-facing configuration.
Parents and pediatricians need to know what the real reasons for the push for extended rear facing are, in order to be able to make an informed judgment. Perhaps this will help spread the word.