Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Great Car Seat Drama

The thing about having giant babies, that grow into giant toddlers and then giant preschoolers is that doing the safest thing when it comes to car seats is hard... if not entirely impossible... and that is what this rambling post is about.

This week was one of those weeks where a big expense comes along and surprises you.  The surprise came when I realized that every single one of our car seats was only rated for 40 lbs front facing.  These were big beautiful plush car seats my mom had gotten at Costco last year and while I'd been meticulous about checking the rear facing limits (because I know how quickly we surpass them in pretty much every car seat... sigh...) I had apparently not looked at the front facing limit in a while... or maybe I had and had just thought that that limit must be the rear facing limit because it was much, much too low.

We bought one car seat in the store that was rated for 65 lbs and after trying it out, we quickly returned it.  The lower strap was not adjustable (you could move it forward or back but it was one length and one length only for any size child) and no matter how loose the upper straps were it cut into Sadie's legs.

Finally after receiving a few more orders yesterday, and going back to the store without luck, I ordered a Britax Marathon.  This has been my dream car seat since pretty much forever.  And I figure we'll have a kid in it until it expires, which will make it worth the slightly heftier price tag.

We were given a Britax before Sadie was born (it will work for one more baby before it expires!), a lovely blue infant seat with a base, and it pretty much solidified my love of Britax car seats...  although our kids usually grow out of their infant seats in the first six months...

Now for my confession:

The rear-facing-front -facing-thing is something I have seriously struggled with this past year.  I know even writing that opens me up to be blasted as worst-mom-of-the-year-in-the-entire-universe... Here... I'll say it... My kids are facing forward because they outgrew their car seats rear facing limit before they reached their second birthday, with their insistence on being tall and heavy at such a young age...  Honestly, I'm practically afraid to post pictures of our kids in car seats, no matter how cute they are, because the analysis is so critical.

I understand how to get them to sit cross legged so they can fit rear facing.  I do not understand where I can find a car seat that tells me they aren't way, way too heavy to do so, however.

Having a child that exceeded the rear facing limit on all of our car seats by the age of two was difficult for me.  We own quite a few car seats now.  One goes up to 110 lbs.  They range in price from moderate to expensive.  But rear facing above 40 lbs?  No such luck.  And even now, having spent a huge amount on one of the best car seats out there, I still am left with a car seat that has a rear facing limit that Sadie exceeded before her third birthday.

And I get really really tired of being told that my children are going to be internally decapitated by facing forward, and that mothers who face their children forward before their kids are 15 are horrible and obviously don't love their little ones, or care enough to find a better car seat, when there isn't another option out there for my little ones not so dainty bums to sit in.

I could have sat in the new seat rear facing until I was in first grade... maybe second...

I could have sat in one of our seats as a booster when I was 22.

Our Jumbo Babies exceed them (rear facing) before 36 months (I blame their father for the tall, muscular genes he keeps insisting on passing on to them).

The new seat goes up to 65 lbs forward facing.  I'm hoping that another growth spurt doesn't propel us beyond that milestone anytime soon (right now she's 43 inches tall though and seems to be getting taller and taller while not gaining much weight... so for the moment I can breath a sigh of relief).  I'm doing everything I can to avoid a booster until she's quite a bit older.  I feel bad enough when I hear that I'm risking her life by not having a custom car seat designed to fit her so she can face backwards until she's in second grade.

I've been told quite a bit online that I just need to pay more and I'll find one that fits.  The thing is, not many car seat companies intend on having a 45 pounder facing rear... so until the car seat companies catch up with the growth rate in our family... or until we win Power Ball and can have a custom super heavy baby car seat designed for us... I'll have to accept the car seat limitations they hand to me in the store.  I've asked for the names of these magical 45+ lb rear facing car seats in the past... but I've never actually been given an answer...

I think the car seat facet of the Mommy Arguments that Abound over What's Right and What's Wrong in Absolute Terms is one of the ones that bothers me the most, because I feel like I just can't win...  unless I pop out a smaller baby this time, I'm always going to be making changes too early... and I'll always be afraid to post any cute pictures we snap in the van online less I be branded Worst-Mommy-Blogger-of-the-Year.

Please try to be kind in the comment section... I've heard enough about what I "should" do at this point and have searched long and hard for answers... and I'm settling for my Britax front facing Marathon...


  1. Cammie, if you are following the weight and height limits on the seats then you *are* doing the safest thing. It's not age, but weight and height that are significant. I think the issue people see is that so many people don't use car seats properly. You are using them properly. So you're golden! FWIW I *think* that Diono seats go up to 45 lbs RF and 120 FF, and up to I think 70? with the five point harness. But don't quote me on that. Britax are very good seats! Again if you are using them as they are meant to be used, then you're being as safe as you can be.

  2. I was just going to write everything that Shannon wrote. So ditto what she said. You are doing exactly what you should, Cammie! You can only work with the tools you have.

  3. Since these recommendations came along after M was past 2, I'm not sure what I'll do when our youngest hits the 1 year or 2 year mark. All my kids were turned around at age 1. They all survived. I think you do the best you can and ignore the rude people.

  4. I don't think you're a horrible mom. My kids turn forward facing when they reach 20lbs and are 1 year old.

    Their pediatrician (like a good doc will do) reminds me that the new standards say to wait until their 2. And then she tells me, take it for what it's worth, it's a suggestion.

    It might be "safer" to have them rear facing until their two, but it'd be safer for all of us to be facing the rear, it'd also be safer to wrap them in bubblewrap before they learn to walk (lest they trip and scrape their knee or bump their heads), never climb stairs higher than three feet (lest we fall), never feeding anyone anything other than breastmilk (lest we choke on something), etc... etc...

    And no one has ever called me the worst-mom ever, though I'm sure there will be a first time for everything.

  5. When I would see posts with photos of the girls facing forward I knew they were just too big to face backwards. The US is way behind the car seat times so I completely understand you dilema. Add to that, you are on a very limited budget so you do the best you can with what you have and can afford.

    The only place I know of, and I'm sure the are more, that sell car seats for older and heavier children rear facing is in Sweden where the child is rear facing to four years old.

    Maybe write letters to the car seat companies you like and want for seats and tell them your problem. There are lots of really overweight toddlers out there that have the same problem whereas your children are naturally tall and muscular. There is a market out there that's not being satisfied by supply. They only changed the recommendations last year so maybe they will come out with new seats soon.

    Sorry you're getting the hate mail. We just try to do our best and have to take the criticism. Try to be patient, this season of babyhood will pass.

  6. I don't like booster seats, especially if you little ones tend to fall asleep driving. We got one for Ella (6) and she promptly fell asleep and fell over -right out of the seat belt. We went back to her car seat which goes to 100 lbs. It's used as a booster seat (which is great because she can buckle herself) but because it's a car it has the head rest sides that catch her and keep her safe.

    If Ella had stayed in the rear facing seat until she was 2, her ankles would have been up beside her ears. Crossing her legs?? That's a rather uncomfortable way to expect children to travel, especially if you are going to be more than 5 minutes in the car.

    You are following the rules/recommendations, then you are doing what you should to protect your children.

  7. I don't like booster seats, especially if you little ones tend to fall asleep driving. We got one for Ella (6) and she promptly fell asleep and fell over -right out of the seat belt. We went back to her car seat which goes to 100 lbs. It's used as a booster seat (which is great because she can buckle herself) but because it's a car it has the head rest sides that catch her and keep her safe.

    If Ella had stayed in the rear facing seat until she was 2, her ankles would have been up beside her ears. Crossing her legs?? That's a rather uncomfortable way to expect children to travel, especially if you are going to be more than 5 minutes in the car.

    You are following the rules/recommendations, then you are doing what you should to protect your children.

  8. I'm so over the mommy wars, especially when it comes to car seats. I may not have a ton of trust in the government, but I trust them enough know that they're not going to let car seats or booster seats that are flagrantly unsafe on the market. So anything you buy should be good enough assuming you're using it properly (meeting weight and height standards, installing correctly, etc.).

  9. We turned DD shortly after she turned two and she was maybe 22 lbs at the time. At almost three is is about 25 lbs and very petite. Our car is small (Toyota Matrix) and our carseat huge (Britax Marathon) and I was the only one who could drive that car for two years as my husband is very tall. We waited until she was two to forward face her, but that's all! The way DD is growing she could probably rear-face until six or older, but our car just does not have the room. Now we've added another rearfacing infant seat for our son due 6/15, and my husband now can't sit in the passenger seat, and I can barely fit either! Not looking forward to being scrunched up there in labor on the way to the hospital. We did get the Chicco keyfit 30 for him so hopefully we'll be able to use an infant seat for longer. With our history our son will likely outgrow it by height far before he does for weight.

    Don't let people make you feel guilty. You do the best you can with what you have, and that's all that matters.

  10. Goodness. I'm out of the loop--kids are supposed to be rear-facing until 2 years now? When our youngest was little it was 1 year and 20 pounds, so about 1.5 years for most of the people in my family.

    I can't imagine trying to squish a two year old into a rear facing seat, especially one that weighed 40 pounds! Where do the legs go? Everyone in my family was mightily squished long before they reached 20 pounds and were allowed to be turned around. No bad mother comments from me! (Although, as someone who's not a mother, I wouldn't throw such names around anyway!)

  11. I think if you can rear face for longer than a year, and up to two years you should. If your child is still within the rear facing limits of the available carseats, then why turn them forward facing?

    Car accidents are one of the top causes of infant death, why not make them as safe as you can given what you have? (this is in response to those who forward face at one year just because they can, not you)

    My daughter will be rear facing for as long as she can in her given car seat. I won't turn her forward just because I can.

    Wrap them in bubble wrap? Well no, but honestly, if you're given a tool to make your child safer, why wouldn't you use it until it no longer works?

    I'm not hating on you Cam here. If your child out grows a rearfacing car seat, then by all means, do what you need to do. But I do get a bit upset when people don't listen to a recommendation just because they don't have to, when it's obviously safer.

    I honestly just don't see why you wouldn't do something that is safe. Why not if you're able?

  12. I hate the new law on waiting until they are 2 to turn them around. By the time my kids are 1, they need to sit with their legs crossed or up to their chins to sit backwards.

    I've been told, oh just have them sit with their legs crossed, they'll be fine. First of all, I sure as heck wouldn't want to ride like that all the time, so I think it is nuts. Secondly, for long car trips, just what the heck are the poor kids supposed to do?

    I just think it has gotten way out of hand, like most government regulation. I don't know what I'm going to do after this new little one is born and turns 1, other than want to take the car seat and chuck it at a politician who wants to regulate everything possible. You want to make recommendations? Be my guest. Stop passing laws about every possible thing.

  13. My oldest outgrew the Britax Marathon and was in a booster seat before her 4th birthday. Now, she wasn't 65 lbs, but she was too tall, height-wise. With forward facing seats, their shoulders can't be above the top shoulder straps, so a child that is 65 lbs, but still short enough to fit with their shoulders under the top shoulder strap is probably going to be quite overweight. When it comes to forward facing, height is more the limiting factor than weight is. Most kids outgrow the seat by height long before they outgrow it by weight. So when looking for a long-lasting carseat for bigger kids, it's probably more important to look at top strap height, than actual weight limit.

    Rear-facing is a bit different, because with rear-facing their shoulders have to be ABOVE the shoulder harness strap, so most kids outgrow rear facing by weight before they do by height.

  14. Here's my theory: You do the best you can with what you have available. Looks to me like you're an EXCELLENT mom, so try not to give too much thought to those who blast you for (basically) having big babies!

  15. As an engineer, I'd like to get my hands on the actual data behind these guidelines. Sadly the best I can do is crunch some statistics, but no meaty causation/correlation numbers.

    What I see is that a child under the age of 2 (so I guess 0-2 they don't give a lower limit) is 5.2x (or 520%) safer facing the rear than forward. (I assume sideways wasn't considered.) The 5-95 percentile range for a girl of 24 months is 26-38 lbs.

    According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, a child age 1-3 years should remain rear-facing until she reaches the top of the height or weight limit of the seat, then they can travel forward facing.

    The highest weight capacity rear-facing chair I can find in the Anglo-phone world is 45lbs. The best I can find from Sweden (rear facing till 5years) is 55lbs for the great price of $400.

    Ergo, by NHTSA standards, you should be fine.

    My dad would joke that he, being the 8th of 9, was relegated to the rear-facing seat of the station wagon until he was almost old enough to drive.

  16. as my neighbor says it should be about height and weight with some consideration for age. I think some european models have high rear facing weights but that could gt pricey.

    my oldest (2 years) is only 27 lbs so we keep him rear facing. my youngest is already 20 lbs so he may be turned around before his brother

  17. My comment is pretty much in line with the others, yet from the other end of the spectrum. Do what is best for your children and your family.

    When my son was young, I held him a lot in the car because he would scream in his car seat. For him and for me, it was better for our emotional and psychological health that he be in my arms in the back seat rather than crying in his car seat. Sometimes people forget that physical health is not the only important factor.

    He turned forward facing before he was nine months old. (He had been 20 pounds for some time.) He actually used his carseat much more at that point than when he was rear-facing and was therefore safer.

    I feel like carseats themselves are almost torturous, and especially in the manner they are used today. Some children almost never come out of the infant carriers anymore. And for long trips, to have a child strapped so tightly that they cannot move (which is the "proper" method of use) in a seat made of hard plastic without any padding is, well, torture.

  18. So funny that you wrote this today; I happen to be awaiting delivery of two Graco MyRide 65 convertible carseats. I have my nearly 14 month-old grandson 3 days a week while our daughter is in grad school and needed one for my car, as well as hers. Ben is too tall, and very uncomfortable in his rear-facing Chicco infant seat, so it was time, even though he is only 21 lbs.

    We researched and it came down to this one or the Britax; we went with this one because of toxicity issues. Though they may have solved the problem, the Marathon had rated among the highest in terms of toxic materials (has to do with flame retardancy, I understand.) I think there would be a problem ONLY if it leached out, and no one has shown it does, but better safe...

    That said, unless your kids chew on their carseats, it's likely not a problem.

    I just hope he doesn't outgrow this one anytime soon!

  19. If you're a horrible mother then I must be a murderer or something--I turned my son around forward-facing when he turned 1. Why? Because he SCREAMED in the car, constantly, until I turned him around. Once he could see me, and I could reach back and tickle his toes, suddenly car rides were totally awesome. I'm a safer driver without my son howling.
    So, moral of the story is: if anyone says you're the worst mother ever, at least you can say you know of a worse one! Or just tell them to mind their own business, because what direction your child faces is none of theirs.

  20. If my parents had used the restraint rules they have in place now when I was a kid, I'd have been in a booster seat until almost high school.

  21. I had my daughter rear facing until she was 4 1/2 because the limit on our seat was 45 pounds. You may think I'm going to be critical as a result, but I'm actually writing to say I love this post.

    I got asked so much about why I still had her rear facing, why wasn't she in a booster, etc. I can relate to your frustration! Just keep doing what is best for your children, and ignore as much as you can!

  22. Not having read all the comments -

    1. If your kids outgrow the limits before 2 then they outgrow them before 2. The highest RF limit I've seen in the US is over 40, but not by much... its 45 and honestly I can't afford it either (is almost $300.. and for the record is the Radian something or another). Am I completely comfortable FF at that age? No... but if your child is over 40 lbs or above the height limit then you're doing a lot better than turning them at 1 or worse as an infant (saw an infant seat rigged to FF not too long ago in a parking lot) and keeping them RF in a seat that's not built for that is way less safe than FF.

    2. I get where you're coming from too... My kids (so far) aren't hitting the weight limits early, but height... Oh good grief. Kalila made it a little past 2 but just barely and she was nowhere near 30 lbs... in fact she was closer to the 20 lb minimum for FF, just barely made it to that in time to outgrow the height in her seat. I did worry about an accident with her FF and I still do, she's built like me and way more likely to get hurt. We have a hard stop and we both end up with whiplash.

    ZJ we got a better seat and he is still RF but 5 lbs from 30lbs still (and stuck at his current weight for months) and quickly approaching height limit too. I'm happy he reached 2 and seems to be able to go a little longer than K and at least he's built more like Jas. At this point we're specifically looking for height w/ Keiran but I'm not holding my breath over it either.

    But yeah, don't let anyone make you feel bad. You've done your research, you're obviously following the seats requirements and not turning them early or letting them ride w/out a seat or sideways and lopsided out of a base (yeah saw that two days ago too).

    Hope your seat comes in soon btw! I like the sound of Britax but haven't ever been able to get one.

  23. Btw, I am so sorry people are giving you a hard time. Not cool. Like Hani I get it on the other end because mine can make it to 2 even if barely lol... and because K is still harnessed. I would not do that to another mama in your situation.


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