There are no easy decisions in parenting. Especially not for me. I can’t help but think of every possible scenario when weighing a decision, always wanting as much information as I can find to help me choose the right path.
When Meghan was close to the weight limits for her infant car seat, I started researching convertible car seats, the next step for our growing baby. Through my research, I started finding information on what is called “extended rear-facing”–keeping your child facing backwards longer than the standard time recommended. Most people believe the minimum recommended time to be rear-facing is one year and 20 pounds.
I found that facing backwards is a much safer position, especially for a baby/toddler/child. Their necks are more vulnerable to life-threatening injury when forward-facing because 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%. There is tremendous force applied to these areas when in the forward-facing position. Rear-facing seats do a better job of protecting the child’s head, neck, and spinal chord because there is little to no force applied to these areas in the event of a crash. (source)
Based on this research, we decided to keep Meghan rear-facing when it was time for her to graduate to a convertible car seat. (We have the Britax Advocate) Even though I’ve gotten a few comments and a lot of strange looks, it never bothered me. At Meghan’s 18-month-old well check appointment, the doctor asked if she was still rear-facing. I said yes, and he remarked, “Good. The new AAP recommendation is to stay rear-facing a minimum of 2 years.” Ah, sweet validation.
Meghan is now going to be 3 in September, and we still have her rear-facing. The seat we have will allow her to stay rear-facing until she’s 40 pounds or 49 inches tall. Right now, she’s about 28 pounds and 37 inches, so she’ll be within the requirements for a long time.
But as we have two long road trips approaching this summer, we’re starting to question how much longer we should keep her rear-facing. The two biggest concerns we have are that it’s getting more and more difficult to get her in her seat and we want her to be comfortable. Of course, even as I type out these concerns, they seem silly next to the safety benefits of staying rear-facing.
We have no reason to believe that she’s uncomfortable; she’s never complained. Tim constantly comments that her legs are scrunched and she can’t be comfortable, but I’m not so sure. Does she look uncomfortable to you?
Since our first long road trip is next week, we will be making a decision shortly. I’d love your feedback. What would you do? Keep her rear-facing or turn her around? How long did you (or will you) keep your child rear-facing?