The American Academy of Pediatrics has modified its recommendations surrounding rear-facing car seats — namely, to extend the practice for “as long as possible.”
In the new policy titled “Child Passenger Safety,” published Thursday, the organization advises, “All infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat (CSS) as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their CSS’s manufacturer.”
Parents may recall the AAP’s previous recommendation for parents to have their children in rear-facing car seats until age 2, but lead policy-statement author Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, points out that “car seat manufacturers have created seats that allow children to remain rear-facing until they weigh 40 pounds or more.”
This “means most children can remain rear-facing past their second birthday,” Dr. Hoffman adds.
Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Parents newsletter.
Says Dr. Hoffman, who also serves as chair of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, “It’s best to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. This is still the safest way for children to ride.”
The AAP advises that when children reach the upper weight or height limit for rear-facing seats, they “should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 ft 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.”
After that, when kids can use a seat belt without an additional seat, “they should always use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection,” and, “All children younger than 13 years should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.”
RELATED VIDEO: Kim Kardashian West Defends Herself Against Mommy Shamers Over Son Saint’s Car Seat
Using the right car seat reduces the risk of death and major injury by more than 70 percent, Dr. Hoffman adds, advising parents to use a car seat every time their child rides in a vehicle.
“Car crashes remain a leading cause of death for children,” he says. “Over the last 10 years, four children [14 and younger] died each day. We hope that by helping parents and caregivers use the right car safety seat for each and every ride that we can better protect kids and prevent tragedies.”