Not all celeb moms decide to share glimpses of their family lives on social media, but those who do know that there's often one particularly frustrating consequence: mom-shaming. While no one is ever truly immune from receiving judgmental unsolicited parenting advice from strangers, famous moms who post about their kids are pretty much magnets for all kinds of criticism from online strangers telling them they're doing everything wrong. Case in point? Kim Kardashian West posted a pic of her son in a car seat to Facebook on Friday, and while she likely just intended to share a cute photo of her growing little boy with her fans, the comments section quickly blew up into a debate about whether the reality star had made a big error buckling him up.
At this point, it seems like it would be safe to assume that Kardashian has enough experience parenting as a public figure that she likely doesn't even bother reading the comments that are left on photos she posts of her kids — I mean, why would she do that to herself? But judge-y remarks from sanctimommies notwithstanding, the car seat photo of Saint might actually be one she might want to pay attention to, for one very important reason.
According to The Daily Mail, Kardashian posted a sweet photo of her growing boy just hanging out in his car seat, chilling with his PAW Patrol sippy cup, and honestly, he looks adorable. But it wasn't long before commenters swooped in to take Kardashian to task for appearing to have her son in a front-facing position in the back of her car.
The problem? According to CBS News, according to a California law that came into effect Jan. 1, 2017, all children younger than 2 years old must remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach either 40 pounds or at least 40 inches tall (which doesn't usually actually happen until around around 3 or 4 years old for most kids). Having celebrated his first birthday in December, Saint definitely seems a long way off from that mark, but outdated ideas about car seat safety still linger, and the fact that the rules vary from state to state also doesn't exactly help matters.
As a general rule, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children remain rear-facing until they are at least 2 years old, regardless of state laws. Yet, according to car seat safety website The Car Seat Lady, prior to 2011, the recommendation had been that children could be turned front-facing at around 1 year old, and roughly 20 pounds, and it's one that many people still adhere to.
Why the change? According to the American Automobile Association (AAA)'s website, Safe Seats 4 Kids, studies have found that "children in the second year of life are five times less likely to die or be seriously injured in a crash" when they are in a rear-facing car seat — mostly because prior to age 2, a front-facing child is more vulnerable to head, neck, and spinal cord injuries in a crash. But many are also advocating that children stay rear-facing far beyond the recommendation of at least two years. In fact, the AAP recommends that it's best for parents to leave their children rear-facing until they actually outgrow their car seat based on the manufacturer's guidelines. And, in many cases, convertible car seats (which are often the next step after infant bucket seats) can accommodate rear-facing children up to 40 or 50 pounds — meaning that most children can safely remain rear-facing well beyond age 2.
New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania also have similar laws to California regarding extended rear-facing, according to USA Today, and earlier this month, lawmakers in New York also passed a bill that would mandate rear-facing car seats for children under 2, unless they exceed the height and weight requirements for the car seat. Given that experts seem to be in agreement that parents should be in no rush to turn their children's seats around, having laws in place to support the idea of rear-facing until at least age 2 seems like a good idea. But the idea of extended rear-facing is actually considered a bit controversial in parenting circles, with some adamantly pushing for rear-facing for toddlers and preschoolers, while others think babies like Saint are more than big enough to be turned around.
In the comments section of Kardashian's pic, the debate definitely got heated, with people arguing over the pros and cons of rear-facing car seats. And while many tried to point out that rear-facing has been proven to be a safer option, many commenters claimed that it didn't actually matter, or that people should mind their own business and let Kardashian do what she thinks is best.
In general, giving unsolicited parenting advice is not exactly a good idea, and if you're also trying to give that advice via a celebrity mom's social media page, you might want to rethink your decision. But in this instance, it seems like Kardashian may have inadvertently sparked an important conversation. Because, beyond whether Saint should be rear-facing, the overall message about rear-facing car seats being the safest choice isn't necessarily one that everyone knows about. While getting angry at Kardashian isn't exactly productive (or fair), if the photo helped at least one person consider that maybe their child could be safer in a rear-facing position, or that perhaps they'd turned them around too soon, then maybe there will at least have been something positive to come out of the usual misery of online mom-shaming.
Of course, it can't be easy to get a lecture in car seat safety by the internet masses anytime you just want to post a cute photo of your kid in the car, and leaving angry or judgmental comments definitely doesn't seem like the best way to get your point across if you're hoping that someone will actually consider it. But when it comes to car seat safety, it seems like there's a lot that still deserves attention and awareness.
Saint may or may not have been totally fine in his seat (after all, we don't know his height or weight), but it sounds like any parents who are unsure about their own children's safety might want to err on the side of caution and continue rear-facing. And in the meantime, all parents might do well to double check their car seat manuals for actual guidelines specific to their children's seats, and make sure that they're doing what's recommended to keep them safe.