Extended Rear-Facing: The Safest Choice

Disclaimer:
This post is about extended rear-facing, why we currently practice it with our daughter and why we will continue to practice it as long as we can. This post is not meant to hurt any feelings, to imply that people who do not practice ERF are bad parents or stupid in any way. The point of this post is to voice my opinion, and educate people who may not have heard the facts and benefits of Extended Rear-Facing before.

Nellie is 17 months old, and is still rear-facing in her convertible car seat. Why? Because it’s the safest way for her to ride. Yes, still. Up until recently, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommended that children stay rear-facing until they reached one year and twenty pounds which is consistent with the child restraint laws in the state of Tennessee (to see what the laws are in your state, go here). This year, the AAP changed their recommendations to say that rear-facing until either the age of two, or the height and weight limits for rear-facing carseats had been reached was the safest way for children to ride in a vehicle.

The law says one thing, and the AAP says another. How do you make a decision on what is best and safest for your child? You read the facts. It can be difficult and confusing when so many people give you so many different opinions. My mother-in-law took her convertible car seat to be professionally installed at a local police station and when she went, the officer tried to convince her that it needed to be installed forward-facing since Nellie met the age and weight requirement of the state. She respected my wishes and had him install the seat rear-facing and when she told me what he had said, all I could do was shake my head. It’s alarming how many misconceptions there are about car seat safety. In my opinion, there is no question that extended rear-facing is the safest thing for my daughter. I plan on keeping her turned backward until she reaches the weight limit for her car seat (40 pounds).

So what made me so adamant about extended rear-facing? What made my decision so simple, and so easy? I did my research, read some articles and watched a lot of videos. When talking to other parents about ERF, I’ve encountered many supporters but some skeptics. People have a lot of questions and opinions.

The law says I only have to rear-face until one year and twenty pounds. That AAP thing is just a suggestion. You’re right, it is just a suggestion. A suggestion based on a lot of research. How old is that car seat law that we’re abiding by? Does it get modified each year, or has it been in place for a long time?

Well, I didn’t even have a car seat when I was a child. I just rode in the backseat without any kind of restraint and I’m fine. You’re also lucky. Car seats were invented for a reason and they have saved many, many lives. Just because your parents did something one way doesn’t mean that it was the safest way. As humans, we are constantly learning and evolving in the way we do things. As time goes by, we find ways to be safer than the generation before us. My mother was allowed to play with mercury and she turned out (relatively) okay. Does that mean that I should let Nellie sit down and play with a handful of mercury? No. No it doesn’t.

My child looks uncomfortable. S/he has to bend their legs and I’m afraid if we get in a crash, it will break them. If all your child knows is rear-facing, then sitting cross-legged isn’t going to bother them. It’s not uncomfortable; children sit that way all the time without complaint. As for the risk of their legs being broken, the way I see it is this: I would rather have to deal with a broken leg or even two than have my child internally decapitated or have spine/brain damage due to a car crash.

My child won’t stop screaming while rear-facing, and it’s a distraction when I’m driving. I sympathize with this. Nellie has just begun to fuss in the car, and I think it probably is because she’s getting bored and tired of not being able to see. With this, I’ve had to implement a little bit of distraction techniques paired with tough love. I make sure she has books and toys to play with and if she still whines and screams, I try my best to tune her out. She’s just going to have to fuss, because I’d rather her be upset than severely injured in the event of serious accident.

What if she chokes? You can’t see her if she is choking. I don’t give Nellie anything to eat unless someone is riding in the back with her. I don’t let her play with things that are a choking hazard (obviously). So if there is nothing for her to choke on, that’s not really an issue.

So why is extended rear-facing so important anyway? There is a website which states it better than I possibly could, so I’m going to quote them for this answer: “When a child is in a forward-facing seat, there is tremendous stress put on the child’s neck, which must hold the large head back. The mass of the head of a small child is about 25% of the body mass whereas the mass of the adult head is only 6%!  A small child’s neck sustains massive amounts of force in a crash.  The body is held back by the straps while the head is thrown forward – stressing, stretching or even breaking the spinal cord.  The child’s head is at greater risk in a forward-facing seat as well.  In a crash, the head is thrown outside the confines of the seat and can make dangerous contact with other occupants, vehicle structures, and even intruding objects, like trees or other vehicles.

Rear-facing seats do a phenomenal job of protecting children because there is little or no force applied to the head, neck and spine.  When a child is in a rear-facing seat, the head, neck and spine are all kept fully aligned and the child is allowed to “ride down” the crash while the back of the child restraint absorbs the bulk of the crash force. The head is contained within the restraint, and the child is much less likely to come into contact with anything that might cause head injury. ” — Source: CPSsafety.com

For me, visually seeing the difference in what happens to a child’s body when they’re involved in a crash while rear-facing versus forward-facing was all the evidence I needed. Reading about it is one thing but seeing it is another. Below is a video that simulates what happens in the event of a crash. It doesn’t involve a real child but be aware, it is still somewhat disturbing to watch.

I was planning on practicing extended rear-facing before seeing that video but after I watched it, I knew with 100% certainty that we would ERF. The thought of my baby’s body being thrown forward like the forward-facing child made me sick to my stomach.

If you would like to read more facts about extended rear-facing and why it’s the safest method of travel for children still within the rear-facing weight limits of their car seat, here are a few of my favorite links:

This website has great visual “do’s and “dont’s” when it comes to other common mistakes parents make with car seats, such as dressing their children in bulky coats, having the chest clip positioned incorrectly, and not having the shoulder straps down low enough.

I feel strongly about keeping Nellie rear-facing as long as I can. I am not one to argue a person’s choices or methods of parenting. Breastfeed or formula feed, cloth diapers or Huggies, TV or no TV… I really could not care less about which of those people choose to practice as a parent but when it comes to the safety of children in a car, I want to educate as many people as possible because I believe it’s still an issue of old habits and misinformation.

Do you practice extended rear-facing? If not, why?


When a child is in a forward-facing seat, there is tremendous stress put on the child’s neck, which must hold the large head back. The mass of the head of a small child is about 25% of the body mass whereas the mass of the adult head is only 6%!  A small child’s neck sustains massive amounts of force in a crash.  The body is held back by the straps while the head is thrown forward – stressing, stretching or even breaking the spinal cord.  The child’s head is at greater risk in a forward-facing seat as well.  In a crash, the head is thrown outside the confines of the seat and can make dangerous contact with other occupants, vehicle structures, and even intruding objects, like trees or other vehicles.

Rear-facing seats do a phenomenal job of protecting children because there is little or no force applied to the head, neck and spine.  When a child is in a rear-facing seat, the head, neck and spine are all kept fully aligned and the child is allowed to “ride down” the crash while the back of the child restraint absorbs the bulk of the crash force. The head is contained within the restraint, and the child is much less likely to come into contact with anything that might cause head injury.

Comments

  1. ZOMGGGGGGGGG I would have called that police station FO SHO!!!! WTH?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
    Katie recently posted..Austin’s 2nd Birthday Party!

  2. I turned my small daughter around when her sister was born, she was 19 months. I caught a LOT of flack for it, people asking why it took so long. A few months later, the new recommendations came out. I don’t think she would handle being turned back around very well, and we take a couple of long car rides a week. I will definitely try to keep her little sister rear-facing as long as I possibly can.
    Gail recently posted..The Big D

    • I’ve talked to a lot of moms and dads who turned their kids before they were aware of the benefits of ERF, and by that time their child had been FF for too long to turn them back even though they wanted to. I’m glad to hear you’ve decided to keep your littlest RF longer!

    • I’ve heard the same! May be you could try it? She might not mind at all with the baby with her? Idk, just a thought hehehe
      Katie recently posted..Austin’s 2nd Birthday Party!

  3. I have a friend who turned her 3.5yrold back RF when he had already been FF since he outgrew his bucket seat. She enticed him with the dvd player as it was already set up for RF for his little brother. It is possible and worth a shot!

  4. OH AND. My friend Ivy, who just commented, has said numerous times, there are no documented cases of a child’s legs being broken. So take THAT! ;)
    Katie recently posted..Austin’s 2nd Birthday Party!

  5. Great post! I, too, am a fan of extended rear facing. I had already decided that Riley would stay rear facing until she was at least 2 years old, but watching the video you posted (plus some of the others that popped up on you tube as “related” to that one)…… I’ll probably leave her backwards even longer!

  6. Thanks for this great post. We had already decided to go with APA extended rear facing recommendation. BUt this was still excellant and a great reminder why I most def. agree with it.

    We are dealing with the justification of putting our 6 month on her back to sleep. I’m like you…I don’t care what other’s do. NOt going to argue it. But we know it’s safest for our baby. And people around us are telling us we should put her on her belly…because thats what they did. Oh lord. I go right back to the “we sat in the back of the car without any restraint” It’s all the same. Just because it was dont back then…doesnt mean it was the safest choice. And don’t question my choice.

    It’s a shame the police officer wasn’t up to speed on the latest recommendation for safety

    Excellant post!
    Jessica recently posted..Seriously

  7. I think Texas has it as minimum of 2 years old, but I am not clear on the weight limit. Logan is only 6 months so… I don’t have to think about that right this minute! It used to only be one year and just changed. Yeah, it sucks a little that they are turned backwards but I have a mirror so I can see him. Baby safety is FIRST!

  8. We turned out daughter around to forward-facing at a year old, against my better judgment. My husband and parents convinced me that she would be more comfortable that way since she’s rather tall for her age. The problem is, she’s also very petite and hadn’t even reached the 20lb weight limit at the time. So, I really wasn’t sure what to do or think.

    A couple of months later, the AAP came out with their new recommendations and I was once again faced with a dilemma. After doing the research and talking with our pediatrician, I told my husband that I felt very strongly that we should turn our daughter back to rear-facing. When he was still skeptical, I made him look at the research as well – including, the video you posted. Finally, he agreed and we turned her back to rear-facing, even though he was convinced she would hate it.

    It didn’t faze her in the slightest. And now we plan to keep her rear-facing for as long as possible.

    Back when all of this went down, I also wrote a post advocating extended rear-facing from the viewpoint of someone who was once skeptical of it. I even included the same video you did. In writing the post, I also managed to change the minds of my still-skeptical parents, as well as a new father who’d shared my own husband’s skepticism. That made me feel pretty good. Posts like these do make a difference, so thank you for posting yours. Visiting from Sunday Funday. :)
    Kristin @ What She Said recently posted..A Family Guide to Public Asshattery

  9. I switched Blake around at a year. I never read or heard any different. I’m not sure he would have fit rear facing because of the vehicle I drive.

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