You may have seen Facebook friends posting about it and your pediatrician may have recommended it, but what’s the deal with extended rear-facing? Won’t their legs get too long? Won’t it look funny? What is the benefit?
It is 5000% safer to rear-face than forward-face! As you can see in this video of 12-month-old crash test dummies engaged in a frontal collision (the most common kind of accident), the rear-facing dummy bears down with the collision while the forward-facing dummy’s body is fiercely forced headfirst with the crash. This poses a serious problem as the cervical spine is not fully developed in small children. Forward motion at that velocity often results in serious injury, including paralysis or much worse1. It is as simple as that – it’s recommended because it is proven to be safer!
Convertible car seats are the seats used for extended rear-facing. They can both rear-face or forward-face and are the standard “next step” from an infant-only car seat. Most convertibles rear-face up to 40lbs and forward-face up to 65lbs, but it's important to check the manuals. All brands and models of seats are very different!
It is OK for their legs to touch the vehicle seat! Afterall, it's OK for our adult legs to touch the floors of our cars. While we would never want our babies to endure any sort of injury, it is much more important to protect the head and neck from crash impacts and rear-facing does just that. Not to mention, studies have shown that children sustain more leg injuries when forward-facing2.
Still, I understand that leg room is a concern for many parents and there are options. As seen below, my daughter often crosses her legs in the car. It is a great way to stay relaxed and secure, but not necessary for protection.
Lila in her Graco Nextfit weighing 38lb and 38.5 inches. We still fit for now!
Her feet touch the back of the vehicle seat and that's OK.
Still comfortable enough to take naps with a few favorite friends.
There are also car seats on the market that have these concerns in mind. Recently Graco released their Extend2fit model, a budget-friendly convertible car seat that rear-faces until 50lbs and offers more legroom with an extender. This is great for larger toddlers and any parents who may feel concerns about comfort.
It might look funny, but motor vehicle accidents are still the leading cause of death in children under 13 and extended rear-facing is proven to keep littles ones safer. It might not be the norm now, but as research continues to show the safety benefits, it will certainly be soon.
“This just doesn’t work for us.” All kids are different and there are situations where parents feel forward-facing before 2-years-old is the safest travel option – motion sickness or excessive crying are the top reasons I hear of parents turning their tots around early. That’s OK! I wholly agree that you know what is best for your child and only hope to ensure the safest transportation conditions within your comfort zone. It is only my mission to get children rear-facing as long as possible.
If you have any questions about rear-facing or car seats, absolutely comment or call our office. I'm always here to answer your questions!
Kasondra Arone-Miller, CPST
1. Narayan Yoganandan, PhD, Frank A. Pintar, PhD, and Sean M. Lew, MD. Ann Adv Automot Med. 2011; 55: 159–168.
2. Arbogast KB, et al. Injuries to children in forward facing child restraints. Annu Proc Assoc Adv Automot Med. 2002; 46: 213-30.