If you took a peek inside my car, you might assume that I have two very young children – babies, infants. Two identical, large, rear-facing car seats take up the back, leaving very little room between them in the middle of the bench seat. But you would find that I have two toddlers, one on the verge of being called a preschooler. And yes, their view is of the rear of the car.
I get raised eyebrows and questioning looks from friends and strangers from time to time. “Oh, when can he move into a big boy seat?” “Can’t he be turned around now?” Rather than launch into a full explanation of why we have chosen to keep our boys in the rear-facing position, I simply say something like “He’ll be facing that way until he can’t anymore! It’s just safer for him!” In fact, for small children, the risk of serious injury or death is five times greater for children in forward-facing car seats than those in rear-facing seats (Source: The Car Seat Lady’s blog, referencing Injury Prevention’s journal article entitled “Car seat safety for children: Rear facing for best protection”)
I was asked by more than one of our readers to write about why I still have both boys rear-facing. I’m not going to fill this post with statistics about how keeping your child in a rear-facing car seat greatly reduces the risk of death in a car accident, but those numbers are available for you here, here, and here (as well as other places). I’m not going to try to make anyone feel bad for turning their child forward facing. I just want to share how and why we have made this work for our family.
I don’t consider myself a Safety Police kind of mom. I’m not a germophobe (okay, I’m kind of the opposite of a germophobe…) and there are currently no baby gates in our home. But when there are very simple things we can do to keep our kids safe, we do them. Keeping them rear-facing is one of those things. When I first started learning about the extended rear-facing movement, I was hooked on the idea that by not doing something (moving their car seats around), I could keep them safer! And this was before the AAP officially began recommending that children remain rear-facing until at least age two!
I can assure you that my children (16 months and almost 3!) are comfortable and entertained, even on long car trips.
I’m so grateful that we all have knees that bend. My boys are tall and fairly skinny and they just fold or cross their legs in front of them or rest their feet on the seat back. They have plenty to see out of the side and back windows (Trust me, I hear about ev.ry.thing. Miles sees as we drive around!) and on long trips, I set up the DVD player in between them. I can still pass them things that get dropped (intentionally or accidentally) and we can talk to one another. I certainly don’t feel like they’re missing out on anything by facing a different direction from me. (To see photos of lots of happy extended rear-facing kids, click here!)
I’m actually getting a little anxious for Miles’s three year old well child appointment next month. At last check, he was 33 lbs. and if he hits 35 lbs. or more, we will have to decide if we will turn him forward-facing or upgrade to a seat that would allow him to stay as he is until he 40 or 45 lbs (Such as the Sunshine Kids Radian XTSL Convertible Car Seat, Eclipse). Some days I have myself convinced that it is time to turn him when he gets to 35 lbs., but knowing what I know about the safety of rear-facing definitely keeps me pondering.
I realize that the idea of having a preschooler in a rear-facing car seat may sound foreign, over-protective, or just plain crazy to some people, but I’m okay with the eye-rolling. How about a truce? I promise I won’t giggle to myself when I see others wipe their baby down with a Clorox wipe after scrubbing their entire vicinity with antibacterial cleaner and giving a spritz of Lysol for good measure if they will put up with my insistence on keeping my kids rear-facing to the maximum allowed weight/height. Let’s all just keep our kids safe the best way we can.
For other great reads (and listens!) about extended rear-facing, check out these links:
New! Added 10:21am 6/27/11
Rear facing vs. forward facing position in the car (VIDEO)– Explains through animation the difference in the way force is distributed through the body in a car crash
New! Photos swapped on 7/2/11 because I got some pictures of both boys riding rear-facing this week!