AAP RF statement misinterpretation?


New member
"All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat (CSS) until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their CSS." - American Academy of Pediatrics 2011

I had commented recently on the excellent recent series on the blog about the statistics regarding and benefits of extended RF that I think the wording of the AAP statement is problematic. It seems to get interpreted as saying that children should be turned forward at 2 yo rather than 2 yo being a minimum. The message about the benefits of ERF is lost. I was just wondering what everyone else's experience has been regarding interpretation of the statement?

Because of this site, DD is still RF at 5, but I have gotten criticism for years from people who think I should have turned her FF long ago. In a horrifying example, a woman came up to DH in a parking lot after seeing our RF seats and told him in so many words that we were going to kill our kids because we hadn't turned them FF yet. I realize that the original intent of the statement was to move the minimum age to turn forward from 1 to 2, and it seems to have been successful at doing that in many people's minds. RF height and weight limits on seats have improved in a short time, and it is much easier to keep a child RF to 2 than it was at the time of the statement. Because of the wording, though, I think many people don't realize that they should stay RF beyond 2 if the seat has the capacity. The AAP statement seems to carry particular weight because it is concise, and it is what pediatricians tell parents. I just wanted to see what everyone's thoughts are on this?
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Active member
I agree that the AAP statement is confusing so use the opportunity to educate! The AAP states that children should remain RF until they have reached the upper limits of the seat which your children have not and you have worked with certified child passenger safety technicians to ensure they are as safe as possible. There have been many changes in the last few years, especially in car seats. Suggest she look further into ERF so she can make her own mind. Smile and move on.


Admin - CPS Technician
My own personal interpretation of that has always been that they want kids to rear-face until 2 but are ok with kids being turned sooner if they outgrow their seats before then. It's one of the reasons I don't quote the AAP statement often, because most people don't interpret as meaning a MINIMUM of 2.


My own personal interpretation of that has always been that they want kids to rear-face until 2 but are ok with kids being turned sooner if they outgrow their seats before then. It's one of the reasons I don't quote the AAP statement often, because most people don't interpret as meaning a MINIMUM of 2.
This is my interpretation as well.

My understanding of the bigger picture is that AAP statements are always supposed to be based on evidence. And, while there is a study showing that RF is safer up to age 2, there are no studies (or, weren't any reputable studies as of the writing of the AAP statement) showing that RF is safer after age 2. And since there are no studies supporting RF beyond age 2, the AAP statement also does not outright support RF beyond age 2.


CPST and ketchup snob
Staff member
My understanding is that they did that in purpose, and it was hard even to get that done because of internal politics.

I use the NHTSA guidelines instead. I much prefer their wording.


New member
I'm with PPs. I go with the NHTSA wording.

As an aside, more than a year after the AAP recommendation came out, our pediatrician was still recommending FF at age 1. :(


New member
Yes, I just went back and read the full text of the AAP policy statement and accompanying technical report. It seems that they truly did intend it as RF until 2 rather than beyond. They cited the Swedish data regarding RF until 4, but because the US study only went to age 2, they used that as the cutoff. Interestingly, though, the lead author's press statements somewhat encouraged longer RF.

“Parents often look forward to transitioning from one stage to the next, but these transitions should generally be delayed until they’re necessary, when the child fully outgrows the limits for his or her current stage,” said Dennis Durbin, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement and accompanying technical report.

“The ‘age 2’ recommendation is not a deadline, but rather a guideline to help parents decide when to make the transition,” Dr. Durbin said. “Smaller children will benefit from remaining rear-facing longer, while other children may reach the maximum height or weight before 2 years of age.”

So, I think I'll just go with the NHTSA statement.


CPST and ketchup snob
Staff member
Yeah, the lead author wanted a different wording... Like I said, internal politics and compromises. :/


Ambassador - CPS Technician
I will add, though, that some zealots take the NHTSA wording to the other extreme.

NHTSAs intent was NOT to expect parents to buy new convertibles if their kid is in a RF seat that is outgrown at 3.5 but there are seats that will allow them to RF for another 6 months...kwim?

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