Friday, September 13, 2013

Car seat safety: how long should my child be rear facing?

This is a question that comes with a lot of parental opinions.  I know moms whose 1 year olds are forward facing and I know moms whose 5 year olds are rear facing.  I was fortunate enough to have a friend who linked me up with some great resources regarding car seat safety and the safety of my son.

My story: When my son was born we had the Graco Snugride car seat (great seat!) - however, we bought this seat used off Craigslist which I later learned was a big no no.  His convertible seat was bought new online - a Britax Marathon (great seat, I love it) - however, I later learned that Britax seats are best for children under the 30% for height for rear facing.  The reason being that in rear facing mode the straps need to come from below the child's shoulders and you should have an inch of shell remaining above the top of the head - never going to happen for my kid.  When my son was about 14 months old, I went ahead and flipped him front facing - he seemed to enjoy being able to see & interact with me more.  At 21 months (after all I have learned), I returned him to rear facing and plan to keep him that way as long as possible (preferably to age 4).  I just ordered him a Diono Radian RXT car seat to accomplish this.

Instead of trying to explain the many reasons why rear facing is preferable to front facing, I will show you this simple YouTube video by way of explanation:

Now, you may be asking yourself: ok - yes, rear facing is safer, but how long do I need to do it?  Well, if I'm honest - the US is a bit behind a lot of other countries in this regard.  The AAP just recently revised their opinion that you should rear face a child until a minimum of age 2; however the consensus among car seat technicians (and our friends across the pond) seems to be age 4 as this is when spinal ossification occurs.  The older your child is when you decide to forward face, the better - your child's body is more proportional the older they get (whereas with babies through age 2/3 most people notice that their children appear to have "large" heads - i.e. their head is not proportional to the rest of their body).

Now - here is the real reason I wrote this post.  A lot of parents tend to complain, "oh I can't see my child", or "oh, my child is uncomfortable with their legs all squished up".  This is simply not true - small children are super bendy and are perfectly comfortable riding rear facing.  Car Seats for the Littles recently put out this great article: Rear Facing Car Seat Myths Busted.  I highly recommend you give it a read.

What are your opinions are rear facing vs forward facing in a car seat?

Other informative links:

See our other posts on car seat safety:
My son is his Britax Marathon - rear facing.  Approx. 33 in & 26 lbs


  1. This is something my DF and I were talking about the other day! Thank you for this great post!

  2. This is great article very informative thanks for sharing

  3. i always say my poor baby will be rear facing until prom ;)

  4. WOW! I was doing it wrong all along. I have had 6 children turned forward facing at 1 years old (with the exeption of two, they were way to small for this so I waited until they were 18 months). Thanks! I will keep this in mind if I come into a conversation with this. :)