A Rear View

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.

Miles, one month away from 3rd birthday

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.

Spencer, 16 months

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 ).  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:

Baby Rabies – The car seat debate and how we came back to backwards

PediaCast Episode 158 – Dr. Mike discusses the new recommendations by the AAP

New! Added 10:21am 6/27/11

- 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!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Affiliate Offer

About Krista

Krista is a full-time working mom of two boys, currently ages 4.5 and 3. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, Brandon.


  1. Stacey Eding says:

    I have read a lot on rear facing and we plan on keeping Cody rear facing until he is 2 but most reviews and stories have examples of what happens if you get hit head-on or on the side. What happens to a child when you get hit from the rear-end? Wouldn’t the same thing happen when a child is rear facing and you get rear ended to a child being forward facing and you get hit head on?

  2. Love it! My almost 20 month old is still rear facing. She’s 90th percentile for height, and about 50th for weight. I fully intend on buying the carseat you mentioned when I get pregnant again, and moving her up to it for extended rear facing. My in-laws think I’m bonkers, and I’m perfectly okay with that!

    To me, cars are the number one most dangerous situation we put our children in. And we put them in it on a daily basis sometimes. So I am going to do my absolute best to keep her the safest she can possibly be.

    If you’re more visual instead of statistics based, there is a video on YouTube that sealed the deal for me. No real babies or anything like that!

    Thanks for writing this Krista! I really need to write a blog post, and an article for the local paper!

  3. Oh, and P.S. I’m the opposite of a germaphobe as well. I thought I’d be HORRIBLE when I was pregnant, and then she came, and I was like “Eh…” She’s never sick though, so I must be doing something right!

  4. Stacey – Statistically speaking, you are much more likely to get in a front or side collision. Serious rear-end collisions are much less frequent than other types.

    Nothing is foolproof and I’m not saying that having his car seat facing the rear would always prevent serious injury or death but the numbers don’t lie – it’s safer. In Sweden, it’s typical for kids to rear-face until they are 3-4 years old and their child fatality rates for car collisions is nearly nonexistent.

  5. That’s a great video, Shaina! I’ve added it and one more to the post!

  6. Hi Krista,
    Thanks for posting this! I read a lot about the rear facing movement with my daughter, who is now 4. We kept her rear facing for quite some time. However, my twin boys are a different story. I had intended on doing as you do and having them stay rear facing for as long as possible. There was one thing that prevented this – car sickness! My boys get sick when they ride rear facing! They screamed and puked from birth to age 1 while riding in the car. Traveling was a nightmare! I read another mom’s suggestion to turn them forward facing to see if it would help. I was reluctant, but at this point just had to try. It worked – IMMEDIATELY. Since we’ve turned the boys around, they have not fussed continously, puked, ect. I know they are not as safe, but for our family if we want to have a normal drive anywhere, it had to be done. Plus, your child choking on a mouth full of vomit isn’t that safe either. But, I know that many kiddos are perfectly happy riding that way, and if they are, then let them be. But in our case, it just wasn’t an option anymore.

  7. Jess — I think the important thing is being comfortable in your decision. We all do what we can to keep our kids safe, whether it’s keeping them rear-facing or using the best type of equipment, or setting certain boundaries for their safety. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t!

  8. Krista – thoughtful and insightful comment – thanks so much!

Speak Your Mind