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Four Years AND Forty Pounds

My four-year-old son has one big wish: to move into a booster seat. You see, despite turning four in early January, he's been afflicted with a mom who follows car-seat guidelines to the letter (or in this case, number). And those guidelines say he can move when he's four years old AND forty pounds. Unfortunately for the little guy, he's got another four pounds to go.

Even more unfortunate for him -- and anyone driving with him -- is that his friends all drive around in boosters. Now try explaining that 100 times to a four-year-old.

"Sorry, kid, you come from short parents. I can't make you grow faster. Yes, I know friend X has a booster seat. He's bigger than you. Yes, I know your brother is in a booster, but he's 6 and you're 4. Yes, I know friend Y is in a booster and you're bigger than he is. But I'm not his mom."

The move from rear-facing to front-facing (1 year AND 20 pounds for those unsure) went much smoother. Ah, the glorious days of babies who don't talk back. Plus, moving a baby from rear to front is much easier on parents. After all, it allows us the backward stretch to hand water, snack, tissue, etc. to a child in need -- all done at red lights, of course.

At least there's one bright side to driving the kids around -- six year old hasn't yet asked to ride without the booster. In fact, after a family discussion about the importance of car seat headrests during a drive, he asked for his to be restored to his booster.

How much pressure do your kids put on you to upgrade their car seat status? Did you move your kids from seat to seat based on their pounds, their age or both?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 5, 2008; 8:30 AM ET  | Category:  Preschoolers
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Comments


I admit it- I moved my kids from rear-facing to front-facing, and from front-facing to booster seats before the guidelines say to do. (about 10 months for each in the first move- they were already 20 pounds each). Oh, the horror of using your own judgment. I'm such a bad mom, I let them drink juice and eat cookies too.

Posted by: acorn | June 5, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

We didn't go RF to FF early, but when DS was over 40 lbs we put him in a booster. Now he is 4 years old, 44 lbs, and in a backless booster, which he loves and we are comfortable with.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Oh, God. Another topic for windbag AB.

Posted by: On Balance reg | June 5, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I believe the weight limit on boosters with a back is 30 lbs. I think height is more the issue than weight. Our 40" 35 lb daughter rides in a booster seat with a back as a backup to her regular car seat.

Posted by: AugustMom | June 5, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

"Oh, God. Another topic for windbag AB. "

Can you imagine living with this guy? Endless, smug lectures based on Wikipedia...

Sheesh!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

We went RF to FF a month early because I was driving him (by myself) on a long trip and it was better/safer to be able to hand things to him, etc. He was way over 20lbs and a month undre 1 year.

We recently switched to the Apex model seat, which still has a 5-point harness, but converts into a booster. We needed to get something because at 2.5 and 37 lbs and 40 inches tall, the other car seat didn't fit him. We plan on using hte 5-point harness as long as possible for safety.

Posted by: md | June 5, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

"My four-year-old son has one big wish: to move into a booster seat. You see, despite turning four in early January, he's been afflicted with a mom who follows car-seat guidelines to the letter (or in this case, number). And those guidelines say he can move when he's four years old AND forty pounds. Unfortunately for the little guy, he's got another four pounds to go."

Your life choices are now being dictated by a GRACO lawyer in a cube somewhere. Sheesh. Have you ever considered that the age and poundage minimums are simple proxies for development and are not the Eleventh and Twelfth Commandments?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

"six year old hasn't yet asked to ride without the booster. In fact, after a family discussion about the importance of car seat headrests during a drive, he asked for his to be restored to his booster. "

Is that the kid who sucks his thumb while he masturbates 24/7?

"How much pressure do your kids put on you to upgrade their car seat status?"

Who's in charge??? THe kids or the parents?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

The latest guidelines for switching from rear-facing to forward facing include the statement, "It is best to ride rear-facing until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat's manufacturer."

Personally, we switched my daughter to forward facing when we took a trip to Yellowstone when she was about 15 months old and 23 pounds, so she could see the wildlife better. She's still below the 33 pound rear-facing limit of her seat and 2 years old, but I figured it was easier for me for her to be forward-facing and she wanted to be forward-facing. I haven't had to deal with the conversion to a booster seat yet.

My very small 10-year old nephew, who is about 55 pounds, is finally able to ride without a booster, partially because his friends were teasing him!

Posted by: Leslie | June 5, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

If you watch some crash test videos, you' re likely to think that the legal minimums are WAY too low. Using the car seat to it's maximum capacity is usually a safer bet.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"Your life choices are now being dictated by a GRACO lawyer in a cube somewhere. Sheesh. Have you ever considered that the age and poundage minimums are simple proxies for development and are not the Eleventh and Twelfth Commandments?

Posted by: | June 5, 2008 9:19 AM "

Um, no. These "choices" are being dictaed by state law, sheesh!!!

http://www.sha.state.md.us/Safety/oots/trafficsignalsandlaws/childpas.asp

Posted by: Father of 2 | June 5, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

For those with "backless" boosters -- are you talking about the kind that once used just lap belts? Where (back in the day) in an accident, the child could fly right out? Please make sure you are using the shoulder strap, too!

http://www.usa.safekids.org/skbu/cps/boosters.html

Posted by: WDC 21113 | June 5, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

My older daughter never said much about moving to a booster seat, which she did at 5 1/2 years old, shortly after starting kindergarten. Now at age nine and 49 inches tall, she'd like to move out of it. She is sure that she is the only one in her class still in a booster seat, and I am sure she is right.

My younger daughter was very anxious to make the move to the booster seat as well. She wasn't 40 lbs until she was six years and 4 months old. It was a huge deal for her. I'm sure I will hear from her about leaving the booster behind as soon as her sister stops using one.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I think the laws vary from state to state as to when a child is allowed to use a booster seat. For example, my pediatrician told me that in NC, a child can't use a booster until age 5, regardless of what the seat specs are.

The seat choice thing is simply not up for discussion in my house. Sorry, but I don't give a rat's you-know-what if my child wants something that's not age appropriate or safe. It's not up to them!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 5, 2008 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I have several friends who have switched their kids way too early and it angers me. Why put your child in danger like that? Most of these people have 5/6 year olds in NO BOOSTER at all. They are no where near the weight limit (60 or 70 lb, I forget), yet the kids just sit on the regular seat.
My girls are very tiny and will probably need to be in a carseat forever. They are almost 4 and are not even 30 lbs yet. So for now, real carseats it is. But I will ask the pediatrician at their 5 year check up next summer if we can switch to the booster with a back. Seems kind of silly to have a kindergartener still in a carseat that 1 year olds sit in! It's not like they will be in a carseat on the school bus!

As far as RF to FF, the pediatrican said I could switch before the required weight since my girls were so tiny, but could obviously hold their heads up and do OK in a collison head/neck wise. It was getting annoying having two 1 1/2 year olds facing the back of the car for every long trip. I couldn't really talk to them or hand them anything!

Posted by: LBH219 | June 5, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"For example, my pediatrician told me that in NC, a child can't use a booster until age 5, regardless of what the seat specs are."

I would check the law for myself. Unless the doctor attended law school.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

LBH219

"As far as RF to FF, the pediatrican said I could switch before the required weight since my girls were so tiny, but could obviously hold their heads up and do OK in a collison head/neck wise."

Is the pediatrician going to pay the fine when you are ticketed by the cops?

Posted by: Wow! | June 5, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I moved my son into a booster before he was 40 pounds but it has a back and uses the shoulder strap. He is tall for his age and we needed to be able to quickly and easily switch the booster back and forth between husband's car and nanny's car. I know a 5-point harness is the safest thing but my nanny uses her car to drive the kids and has teenagers herself. So she really didn't want a carseat installed in her car. It was a matter of months before he reached the weight limit.

My daughter is 8 a little over 60 lbs and she complains about having to use her in a booster, backless. Most of her friends ride without but I say too bad. I'd rather have you safe. She has realized that the seat belt is not as comfortable when she sits without the booster because she's too low. She even likes to use the booster with the back for long trips because she can rest her head on the side bumpers to sleep. So, it's not really a battle, just an occasional whine that I just ignore.

Posted by: Pt Fed Mof2 | June 5, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

My son is about to outgrow his regular car seat, height-wise, though he's still a good 5-6 pounds short of the weight-limit on the seat. We went out and bought a Nautilus, which uses the 5 point harness until 53" and 65 pounds. He is very excited about the new seat (it has a cupholder :) ), and has not expressed any desire to move to a booster, even though several of his friends have already been moved to one. It probably helps that his cousin is still in his Britax Marathon, though. I plan to keep him in the 5-pt harness as long as possible (though the seat converts to a high-backed, and then a backless booster). I remember my sister and myself riding in car seats until we were each about 6 yrs old or so, and that was in the 70s. I don't remember ever complaining about it.

Posted by: Cath | June 5, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Wow!:

Can you give me a link to a site that says your child MUST be a certain weight/age before going FF? Or one that says there is a fine if your child is FF instead of RR? I cannot find one and to my knowledge, the guidlines for RF to FF is merely a reccomendation for your child being the safest. I know there is a law about being 6 yrs old/40 lbs for a booster seat. Is there a fine for that too?

Posted by: LBH219 | June 5, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Could someone explain to me how a backless booster protects an 8 year old child? Seriously, I'd like to know. From my view, all it's doing is raising the child up about 3 inches. That's it. What exactly is that 3 inches doing for the child?

Posted by: Tom | June 5, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Tom- that is the point, to raise them up so that the seat belt works properly.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I worked with a woman who just moved her tiny kids based on age because her friends did. This included moving a 70 lb kid out of a booster altogether.

Posted by: DCer | June 5, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Lots of cars are designed now a days with seat-belts with adjustable heights. Why should I be forced to buy a booster when my car allows me to fit it to my child? Besides children are not all uniformly the same height. My child is 95th percentile for height and weight. 2 doors down he's got a friend who's the 6 months older and at least a foot shorter

Posted by: Tom Ryan | June 5, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

(sorry hit submit too soon) both they both use the same booster. That seems ridiculous to me.

Posted by: Tom Ryan | June 5, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"Could someone explain to me how a backless booster protects an 8 year old child? Seriously, I'd like to know. From my view, all it's doing is raising the child up about 3 inches. That's it. What exactly is that 3 inches doing for the child?"

So the seatbelt works as it's supposed to. The protection is from the seatbelt, not the booster itself.

The Freakonomics guys addressed this in the NYT maybe a year or so ago. In short, there is zero data to support the notion of the full carseats for kids older than 4. All of the data involves younger kids, no carseats at all, or really old data (like dating back to the 50s). If I recall correctly, they didn't find much of anything to show that carseats or boosters were helpful for kids older than about 4 -- and apparently no one has even tried to gather data showing whether a full carseat provides any more protection than backless boosters.

Personally, we currently use a full-back booster for my 50-lb 7-yr-old, and a regular forward-facing seat for my 35-lb 2 1/2 yr old. We did move up the older child a little early, both to forward-facing and to the booster -- well, more accurate to say she met the age and height criteria, but wasn't at the weights yet. Those were basically common-sense decisions based on the fact that she wasn't fitting into the carseats (and I suspect we'll have the same issue with the booster in a few years. I also use full-back boosters because of the issues with the badly-designed backless boosters a few years ago (the ones that were causing kids to jacknife in an accident).

Posted by: Laura | June 5, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

apparently no one has even tried to gather data showing whether a full carseat provides any more protection than backless boosters.
-----

I know when I was a kid carseats were entirely different, some were like nets you sat in, but none were seats like we have today.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

We moved our daughter at 4 into a booster and she was around 37 lbs. One day I was driving and I heard her say "Hi Mommy." To my surprise, she was sitting right next to me. She totally got out of her car seat. It scared the ba jillies out of me.

Nevertheless, we put her back into her standard 5 point harness car seat. Now we are searching for a five point harness seat that can hold a child larger then 40lbs.

Does anyone know if the Graco Nautilus requires a latch? We found another brand but it requires a latch and one of our cars does not have a latch. I would like to purchase the Graco one but can't tell online if the Nautilus requires the latch or not.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 5, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

LBH219: Here's a link to NHTSA's recommendations:
http://www.nhtsa.gov/portal/nhtsa_static_file_downloader.jsp?file=/staticfiles/DOT/NHTSA/Traffic%20Injury%20Control/Articles/Associated%20Files/4StepsFlyer.pdf

And here's a list of laws by state (NHTSA has this on their site somewhere as well, but the link is eluding me right now):
http://www.iihs.org/laws/ChildRestraint.aspx

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | June 5, 2008 11:55 AM | Report abuse

"We moved our daughter at 4 into a booster and she was around 37 lbs. One day I was driving and I heard her say "Hi Mommy." To my surprise, she was sitting right next to me. She totally got out of her car seat. It scared the ba jillies out of me."

Don't sweat it, the kid is a future astronaut.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 5, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Thanks. So they are reccomendations for the RF to FF thing. No law orfine.

Posted by: LBH219 | June 5, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

We put our child in a booster at age 3 - he weighed 40 lbs and nothing else fit him. we found one that did not allow him to get out.

Posted by: priscilla | June 5, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse

LBH219:

It looks like there are 9 states that require under 1 yr/under 20 lbs to be in a RF seat. Other states are following suit and it will only be a matter of time before most have this law in place.

Here is the IIHS website link listing all of the car seat laws and fines. You will see the RF laws listed on here.

http://www.iihs.org/laws/ChildRestraint.aspx

Posted by: Kristin | June 5, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

On RF to FF I'll just explain it the way my doctor did. In the most common collisions, it protects the child's head and neck from the hardest wave of force. Because a child's head still is significantly larger as a proportion of body mass and the neck muscles still relatively undeveloped it's the safest... right past 1 years old. She said to keep our son RF until we hit the seat limitations, and we pretty well did.

For the arguments against boosters and FF carseats, I don't really buy them. I think the way carseats are tethered now they are safe, and I think the risk of the child coming out of the seat or the seatbelt popping open are reduced.

My son will be in these seats until he hits the weight limits and he'll just have to deal with it.

Posted by: Shandra | June 5, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I think some of this has gotten out of control. No wonder minivans and SUV's now have all the back-seat entertainment options - kids are imprisoned in/on some sort of safety seat until they're almost in 3rd grade!

(Not saying child safety isn't important, but every time I turn around, it seems that child safety line is inching closer and closer to tween years.)

My mother-in-law is 4'11" (barely), and keeps herself around a very trim 100 lbs. We bought her a booster seat as a joke...but when she sat on it, she pretty nearly fit in the darn thing. Ridiculous...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | June 5, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Following guidelines, my 12 year old, who is 75 pounds, should still be in her booster. She's 5' tall and long waisted so if she sits in a booster, her head is way higher than the van's head rest which is actually more dangerous, not less. Parents need to use common sense.

Posted by: momof3 | June 5, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

While I think it's not a big deal to get into a booster seat a few months/pounds early, it's also not cool to feel "pressured" by a youngin. You can express you understand their frustration, but this isn't up for debate.

I still remember bawling my eyes out the day after my 5th birthday- in Feb. I had been told I'd be allowed to go to school when I was 5. I've always been a literal person. That day, no school. Quite unfair.

Posted by: Liz D | June 5, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

My mom told DD at age 6 she didn't need a baby car seat any more. DD is barely 40 pounds and 45 inches high.

I said she needs one at least until she is 8 because we drive in Pennslvania and New Jersey where the age is 8. For the record I won that decision. DD stayed rear facing until 16 months because that is when she tipped the scales at 20 pounds.

Posted by: shdd | June 5, 2008 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The law varies from state to state...here in Pa it is 1 year and 20 lbs to go front facing, and 4 years 40 lbs to move to a booster and 8 years 80 pounds to be out of a booster. Unfortunately for one of my girls who will be 4 in a few weeks, she is only 28 lbs and will probably not get a booster for a few years.

The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recomends that children be 4'9" before moving out of a booster as height has more to do with it than weight.

I am pretty strict about car seats. I did let my 9 1/2 year old stop using the booster, but she does use an adjuster to keep the seat belt properly positioned.

Posted by: Momof5 | June 5, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Please visit this website: http://www.kyledavidmiller.org/. This family lost their son after an accident and advocates for keeping larger/older kids in 5 pt harness seats rather than boosters that use the vehicles' own straps. After seeing them on TV, we bought my 38 lb almost 4 yr old a Sunshine Kids Radian 65 rather than a booster and she loves it. Looks like a booster, but it has its own 5 pt harness and is indeed a carseat. It is very slim and even folds up for travel. They have a model that goes up to 80 lbs as well. Britax and a few other companies also make seats that go up to 65 or 80 lbs. We found the Sunshine ones to look much more like a booster.

Posted by: jill in nc | June 5, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Our 4 year old is in a booster, has been for ~6 months. Our one year old is now front facing.

One of the problems that no one here seems to mention is that there is the potential for fatality in ANY accident, whether one is in a car seat or using the regular belt. Depending on the safety rating of the vehicle, the nature of the impact, etc., the seat/belt/etc. may or may not fully protect the occupant. And really, the statistics out there really don't analyze all of the contributing factors.

I say this NOT because I don't think you should use the appropriate seat for your child's age/weight, etc. but because I think it's too easy to cite stats without really adding much to what we already know: When installed and used appropriately, car seats, boosters and seat belts save lives. Short of that, there are no guarantees.

Posted by: Bethesda | June 5, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

My 3 1/2 year old would love to move up to a booster, since he sees his 5 1/2 year old brother in one. But he seems to understand that he isn't big enough yet. I think he might even remember that his brother didn't sit in one until he was 4 1/2. (My kids are tall, but slender, and my older son didn't fit the weight limit before 4 1/2.)

I do have to say I am SO glad my older son is in a booster and that I look forward to when my younger son is as well. They are so much easier to move from car to car! But, safety has to trump convenience for a bit longer.

I remember being in carpools as a kid. All the other kids were allowed to sit in the "way back" (no seatbelts). I had to sit buckled into my seat and watch them having fun every time. Definitely a bummer, but my mom insisted on safety. Interestingly, within a short amount of time the other parents also said no "way back" and seatbelts were mandatory. I don't know if my mom ever said anything (other than that I had to be buckled); maybe they just felt guilty?

Posted by: nvamom | June 5, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

foamgnome: I'm pretty positive that the Nautilus does not require LATCH. Apparently, many of Latch anchor points are only rated to forty pounds (I think that must be 40 pound child + car seat). But you can go to the Graco website and download the entire User's Manual from there (warning: it's rather large). They're also good about answering questions- I couldn't find the height limit on the seat and emailed them about it.

Posted by: Cath | June 5, 2008 10:42 PM | Report abuse

One thing that seems to be missing in this conversation is the reality that, on almost every spot check given, around 80% of car seats are found to be incorrectly installed.
Keep your baby in it until he's married, if you like - if it isn't installed correctly, it won't help him.

Posted by: marshlc | June 6, 2008 8:32 AM | Report abuse

i have a care safety brochure that said if your child can sit in a car's seat, as opposed to a car seat/booster seat, with his/her back against the back of the car seat & can bend his/her knees at the edge of the seat then s/he does not need a booster seat. the whole issue of car seats/booster seats is to help the seat belts which were made for adults work effectively for a child.
having said that, my son has a friend who does not ride in a booster seat. as a matter of fact, his parents let him walk around the van while they're driving so of course, this child sees no need for my safety precautions.

Posted by: quark | June 6, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

fr quark:

>...having said that, my son has a friend who does not ride in a booster seat. as a matter of fact, his parents let him walk around the van while they're driving so of course, this child sees no need for my safety precautions.

I'd be telling THAT little darling and his "parents" that he is no longer welcome in my car unless he buckles in and STAYS SEATED.

Posted by: Alex | June 6, 2008 9:55 AM | Report abuse

No evidence that car seats and bosters are any more effective than lap belts for children over 2. Read Freakonomics!!

Posted by: KS | June 6, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I keep my children inside at all times where there is no chance of getting hurt.

Posted by: Kat | June 6, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

5pt harness for kids bigger than 40lbs doesnt look like it is easy to find. I suppose you could replace the seat with a racing seat and a five-point belt!

To keep

http://www.autobahnpower.com/products.asp?category=Seat%20and%20Harness%20Belts&subcategory=Corbeau%20Seat%20Belts

Posted by: Fo3 | June 6, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Not to throw too big of a monkey wrench into all of this, but did you know that in Maryland and Virgnia the child restraint laws do not apply to taxis and buses? Other states (e.g., California) do not make this exception.

Posted by: Dream Out Loud | June 6, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

ITA with posters talking about the benefits of extended rear-facing. It doesn't matter if a baby can hold his head up on his own - it's about the the inability of the neck muscles to prevent a neck from snapping when you've been rear-ended.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 6, 2008 7:36 PM | Report abuse

"No evidence that car seats and bosters are any more effective than lap belts for children over 2. Read Freakonomics!!"

I suggest you look at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's work on the topic. They'll tell you how wrong that statement is.
http://www.chop.edu/consumer/jsp/division/generic.jsp?id=77974

Posted by: ekw | June 7, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

There is a 5 point harness that converts to a backless booster for kids over 40 pounds -- it is pricey and it requires a car that uses Latch:
http://www.safeguardseat.com/go/index.htm

I started using it after I saw a video on You Tube of a child who was killed in a car accident when his boster didn't work right. I didn't do any research about whether the video is true so if it isn't please forgive me, I just personally decided (and car seats are my area of being really picky) that I felt more comfortable using the 5 point harness until my 4 year old was more than 40 pounds, partially because of my concern that being so light the seatbelt would not work properly. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azgBhZfcqaQ

Posted by: mary | June 7, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Foamgnome--you do not have to use latch with the Graco Nautilus, we just bought one and installed it in the middle seat--no latch there in our vehicle. You can only use Latch up to a certain weight, anyway.


Posted by: Anonymous | June 9, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

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