December 14, 2008

A word about safety

It seems like our culture has gotten safety-obsessed, especially with children. Everything from playground equipment to antibacterial gel--we wrap our children in a bubble to protect them. And while I think that some things make sense--for example, requiring bike helmets--others are quite simply fear-based and capitalize on germ-phobias like shopping cart covers. Never heard of a shopping cart cover? Apparently Oprah did a study or something and found that out of all the surfaces we touch, the one with the most and nastiest germs are shopping cart handles, which of course we touch and babies sometimes chew on. Enter the shopping cart cover:

Seriously--that's $40 at Babies R Us.

Anyway, Kevin and I are both firmly of the belief that not all germs are bad (and I can't even say how relieved I am to have a husband who feels the same way about this issue). In fact, I believe that increasing evidence shows that creating these "sterile" environments for children is counter-productive and actually harmful. You can't develop an immune system without exposure to germs. If we insure that every surface is disinfected and constantly wash with antibacterial soap and spread antibacterial hand gel over everything, all we are doing is creating antibiotic-resistant bugs that none of us will have an immune system for. In fact, I've heard extremes where people insist that anyone who touches their baby use an alcohol gel on their hands first--and that alcohol, if not dried, gets absorbed by the baby's skin and system. Not such a good idea.

At any rate, as a new parent, it's hard to sort through all of this hype and fear tactics to sell products and pick out the good information. There is one thing, however, that I do plan to stand firm on, and that's rear-facing in a car seat.

It seems like official recommendations change every day. Currently the American Academy of Pediatrics say it's okay to turn an infant in a car seat from a rear-facing position to a forward-facing position when the child reaches both 1 year and 20 pounds. However, the AAP also adds that the child should rear-face as long as possible. Most people don't know that last part--I certainly didn't until I started to do the research.

What I've read is pretty clear. In a rear-facing seat, if the car is involved in a frontal impact--which the vast majority of serious, injury-causing accidents are--the seat cradles the child and absorbs the impact. In a front-facing seat, the child's body is thrown forward just like adults are. A 5-point harness helps keep the child's body in place, but the big concern is the weight of the child's head. A child's head is 25% of its body weight (as opposed to an adult's 6%). The force of an impact throws the head forward, and with that much mass and motion, can cause serious spinal cord injury (internal decapitation) because the child's neck simply isn't strong enough to hold back 25% of the child's entire body weight in the momentum of a car accident.

The following video helped me solidify my decision to keep Biff rear-facing as long as the seat allows it. (don't worry, the video isn't gruesome and doesn't contain actual crash footage)

Posted by Shelby at December 14, 2008 05:33 PM
Sadly, Further Comments Have Been Disabled ...

Due to a never-ending flood of comment spam, we've decided to disable comments for all blog entries past a certain age. If you'd like to comment on a closed blog entry, say something in one of the newer entries or E-mail the author.

-- Apologies, The Management