I remember when my oldest son was a baby. He was a big baby. After a few months I gave up on actually carrying him around in his infant car seat because he was just too heavy for me. It wasn’t too long after that point that his little legs were hanging over the edge of the seat quite a bit. I always felt so bad putting him in the car – like I was squishing him in there.
Not being able to see your only child while driving – that’s not fun either. Sure, we had one of those mirrors you put on the seat so you can peek at them occasionally, but it’s not the same. My husband and I were both dying to turn him front facing in his carseat, but the law at the time stated that he had to be at least 20 pounds and a year old. He was easily 20 pounds, but not quite a year old yet. So we waited a few more months, and on his first birthday we flipped that sucker around.
Fast forward to two babies later and things have changed quite a bit. I do a lot more reading and research on all things baby-related these days. As a mom of three with one on the way I may think I know everything there is to know, but there’s always more to learn. One thing I stumbled upon was the practice of Extended Rear Facing.
Extended Rear Facing is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the practice of keeping a child rear facing in their car seat until two years of age or longer if the car seat allows. The reason for this is of course to keep them as safe as possible in the car. As careful as I drive with my children in the car, I can not account for everyone else on the road, so I have to take precautions where I can. Which means every one of my children has the proper car seat for their size and weight.
Most people abide by the 20 pounds/one year old rule when it comes to turning their child around in the car, but the AAP reccomends at least two years of rear facing. In doing my research I learned that infants and toddlers – with their heads disproportionately larger than their bodies – are far more succeptible to serious neck injuries when faced forward in the car. I prefer not to go into some of the more scary details, but in an accident where their head is forced in any direction, their neck muscles are not strong enough to keep their head and spine aligned which can result in paralysis or death.
No one wants that for their child. The risk of injury in forward facing versus rear facing is staggeringly huge. Children under 24 months old are five times more likely to have severe injuries when forward facing. That’s five hundred percent more likely to be seriously or fatally injured in a car accident. I don’t like those odds.
My youngest is currently 14 months old and is still rear facing in his car seat. Thankfully he has an older brother next to him, facing forward, so they can interact. That does help me out a lot because I have a helper to keep the baby happy and not screaming in the car, which could distract me and possibly even cause me to get in an accident. Not everyone has that luxury, and it’s up to each parent to decide what they’re comfortable with. Personally, I plan on keeping him this way until he reaches the rear facing limit of his seat, which is 40 pounds.
Whatever you decide to do, it’s important that you do your own research, and make your decision based on that and the needs of your family. And however you face your car seat, make sure it’s installed properly, that’s the most important of all.
Have you heard of Extended Rear Facing? What are your thoughts?