Fact: Rear-facing is the safest way for a child to travel. So why is it that so many of us feel in a hurry to switch to forward-facing when we think our child looks uncomfortable? Let’s discuss!
First things first - thinking that your child is uncomfortable or looks squished is a myth. Here’s some perspective in a grown-up situation. Let’s say you’re heading out for a meal with friends and the restaurant seats you at a high table with stools. Your feet don’t touch the floor and your legs are left dangling in mid-air. After a little while, the weight of them begins to get uncomfortable and you feel dragged down. You really wish you could rest them on something, right? Now let’s get back to child passengers in their car seats.
When rear-facing in their car seat, your child is likely to prop up their legs against the seat back (Top Tip: there are seat protectors for that) or, if you have a Radian® Q Series car seat, they’re able to rest them on the anti-rebound bar. And let’s face it, our kiddos are way more flexible than most adults, so they’re able to position themselves in all sorts of unimaginable ways that to them is super comfy. This is totally fine, and their comfort is not compromised, honestly! If you switch them to forward-facing too soon and their legs don’t rest comfortably, they’re going to be in that same situation you were on the restaurant stool with your legs dangling uncomfortably!
Next up, the safety of your child is not compromised when rear-facing. In fact, it’s the safest way for them to travel until they reach approximately four years of age as recommended by the American Academy of Paediatrics and NHTSA. Why is that? Well, frontal-collisions are the most common type of crash and in such an event, a forward-facing child would be thrust forward away from the back seat towards the point of impact. In comparison, children travelling in a rear-facing car seat are five times safer because their head, neck and spinal cord are very well protected by a rear-facing car seat as it absorbs the impact. It is also worth noting the bone composition of child passengers. What does that mean? By age two, a child’s vertebrae are likely to be only 50% converted to bone from cartilage. In the unfortunate event of a crash our adult bodies are protected by our strong bones and vertebrae, preventing our spinal cord from stretching too much. A child doesn’t have that fully developed bone and their vertebrae is unable to stop the spinal cord from stretching. This can result in very serious injuries. In other words, it’s supported by endless research and a lot of science, and who doesn’t like facts!
Parents and caregivers shouldn’t feel ashamed wanting to keep their Very Important Passenger travelling rear-facing for as long as their seat manufacturer allows (remember to always check the height and weight limits of your car seat). You’re not over-reacting or being too cautious, you’re following the best advice and recommendations available. With extended rear-facing you’ve got nothing to lose and a lot of safety to gain. Diono always recommends rear-facing for longer and every Radian® model is suitable for rear-facing use until 50 lbs. Regardless of which car seat you have you should always read your car seat manual to understand when it’s time to switch modes.
Here are some car seat facts and links if you’d like more information:
- Riding in the right car seat correctly reduces the chance of death or serious injury by more than 70%. (Source: AAP)
- The concept of using rear-facing seats to transport young children was conceived by a Swedish Professor in 1963, and since then all Swedish children have been traveling rear-facing until they are at least four years old. (Source: CarSeat.se)
- The results have been dramatic, with road deaths and serious injuries in children under five virtually eliminated in Sweden. (Source: Carseat.se)
- The AAP recommends keeping your child travelling in a rear-facing car safety seat for as long as possible until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat. (Source: AAP)
- A baby’s and toddler’s head are heavy and disproportionate in size in relation to the rest of their body. In a frontal collision, the head is thrust forward, subjecting the neck to significant force that may cause serious injury. (Source: AAP)