Updated on November 17, 2015
Four Reasons My Preschooler is Still Rear Facing
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You may have noticed by now that car seat safety is something I am passionate about. I LOVE talking about car seats. Whether we are talking about infant bucket seats, convertible car seats, child seats, or booster seats, I really enjoy weighing the pros and cons, and talking about ease of installation and safety features. It’s just one of my things. When it came to moving The Heir out of his infant bucket and into his convertible car seat, you can bet I researched our options to death. After a ton of reading and chatting with a few child passenger seat technicians (CPSTs), I knew that extended rear facing was something I absolutely wanted for The Heir. What exactly is extended rear facing? Extended rear facing refers to keeping your child in a rear facing convertible seat beyond the legislated minimums. How far beyond those minimums constitutes extended rear facing? Well, it depends on who you ask. It can refer to keeping your child rear facing until they turn two years old, until they reach the limits of their convertible seat, or even somewhere in between. Why would a parent choose to keep their child rear facing beyond the legislated minimum? There are so many reasons, but I’m going to tell you why The Heir at 3 years and 4 months old is still rear facing and how I do it.
1. Because it’s “best practice”. Here’s the thing about car seat use in Canada: there’s legislated minimums which can vary province to province and then there’s “best practice”. Though the legislated minimums do vary slightly across the country, all car seat manuals outline the minimums for forward facing. A child may forward face once they are at least one year old, 22 lbs, AND walking unassisted. A child must meet all three of those requirements before they can be turned forward facing, but they are NOT required to turn forward facing just because they meet the legislated minimums. This is where “best practice” comes in. What is best practice? This refers to keeping your child rear facing until they outgrow the rear facing limits of their particular convertible seat. This is what both Transport Canada and the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC) recommend.
2. Because it’s safer. The biggest reason we have kept The Heir rear facing to this point is that it is safer to be rear facing than it is to be forward facing. How much safer? Well, rear facing is over 500% safer than forward facing in the event of a collision. I’ll let that sink in for a bit. Yes, 500%. This is just basic physics. In a frontal collision, the contents of the vehicle (ie. people) continue to move forward. When seated in a forward facing car seat, the child’s head and neck move forward and snap back into the seat; the force of the collision is absorbed by the neck and spine. This can result in internal decapitation. When rear facing, the child’s head, neck, and spine are supported by the car seat which then distributes the force of the collision across a much larger surface area thereby protecting the child’s head and neck. (I encourage you to watch this video that demonstrates the difference between forward facing and rear facing in a collision.)
3. Because he still fits. When I was shopping for a convertible car seat for The Heir, I was looking for a seat that would allow him to stay rear facing as long as possible. I considered his height and weight, and had to find a seat that fit in our vehicle when rear facing and still left room in the front seat. The good news is, that many baby gear stores let you take the floor model seats out to your car to see how they fit. I highly recommend doing this before you buy any car seat. For The Heir, the seat that fits him and our car best is the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio SIP 5-65 convertible seat. This seat has allowed The Heir to remain rear facing to this point, and there’s still enough room for him to grow even taller before he has to be turned forward facing. Based on how he’s grown, he should make it to his fourth birthday before I need to turn him around.
4. Because he’s comfortable. This seems to come up a lot when people ask about extended rear facing. Surely it can’t be comfortable for The Heir to be sitting rear facing… What is he supposed to do with his legs? Well, I can assure you that he’s comfortable. I know my son, and if he wasn’t comfortable, I’d never hear the end of it. He does all sorts of interesting things with his legs when he’s in the car seat. Sometimes he extends his legs up onto the back of the vehicle seat, sometimes he crosses his feet, sometimes he folds his legs up, and sometimes he hangs his legs over the sides of the car seat. The funny thing about kids is that they can contort themselves into all kinds of positions that look horribly uncomfortable to an adult, but are totally comfortable for them. Is it safe for his legs to be in those positions in a collision? Yes, it is. Remember that in a frontal or frontal-offset collision, everything in the car is going to move forward, and that includes the child’s legs. It’s actually more common for a forward facing child to suffer leg injuries in those types of collisions. Even if The Heir suffered a broken leg in a collision, I’d much rather deal with broken legs than a broken neck.
Those are the reasons I’ve chosen to keep The Heir rear facing as long as possible. I plan to do the same for Petit Prince.
Did any of your children stay rear facing beyond the legislated minimums? Did you find the convertible seat you had allowed your child to meet your rear facing goals?
You can read more about the benefits of extended rear facing here.