How long should you keep your child rear-facing?

Photo (c) Joanna Zielinska - Fotolia

Car seat safety initiative urges parents to keep kids rear-facing until age 2

Ever since that first nervous drive home from the hospital, your child’s safety has likely remained a driving factor behind many decisions. 

From whether to pack a sunhat to where (and how) to put your child to sleep, there are countless decisions that can potentially impact the safety of your baby. One of the bigger decisions new parents must make is how long to keep kids rear-facing in the car.

Now, a new car seat safety initiative is reminding parents to adhere to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation that kids should be kept rear-facing until two years old.


Car seat manufacturer Chicco has launched a public awareness initiative called TurnAfter2, in which parents are encouraged to use social media as a platform to discuss the importance of keeping kids rear-facing longer by using the hashtag "TurnAfter2" to tag photos of kids riding rear-facing.

Prior to 2011, parents and caretakers were advised that it was okay to turn children forward facing when they were one year old and weighed 20 pounds. Today, both the AAP and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend that kids be kept rear-facing until they “reach the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.”

“Children under the age of 2 years are 75% less likely to die or sustain serious injury when they are in a rear-facing seat,” the AAP said in a 2008 article. An article published in 2007 showed that 2-year-olds were five times safer riding rear-facing than 2-year-olds riding forward-facing.

What about big babies?

Do the same rules apply if your child is very big or tall? Yes, according to car seat safety experts. Even a child who is in the 95th percentile can (and should) ride rear-facing until age 2.

“The rigidity of the bones and the strength of ligaments in the spine is likely the same in children the same age, no matter their size,” say the car seat experts at the Car Seat Lady blog. “And a 95th percentile baby likely has a larger, heavier head, which will pull forward with much more force than that of a 5th percentile child.”

And don’t worry about your child’s legs touching the back of your vehicle’s seat -- it won’t be uncomfortable and/or unsafe for kids, say the folks at Car Seat Lady.

“In our experience installing 15,000 car seats, we’ve seen hundreds of children over the age of 1 riding rear-facing. Many of them are very verbal 2 and 3 year olds, and none have complained of their legs hurting." 

“While your 2 year old may look cramped riding rear-facing -- as they sit with their legs crossed or in the ‘frog-legged’ position -- rest assured they are both safe and comfortable,” the experts said, adding that kids are much more flexible than adults.

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