While we were in Baltimore having a visit with friends we switched the Jude's car seat into another car so that we could all drive in one vehicle. When we put his seat in its new temporary home we faced it forward.
(And yes, they happen to have matching car seats. An accident, I promise. Dorks.)
Though jude is over a year and well over 20 pounds we still keep him rear facing. I have to admit, as we were driving along and I could look back and see his face, see him looking out the window, see his legs kicking around, hand him toys... it was novel. It was more exciting than I thought it would be. For about twenty minutes I pondered... what if we switched him to facing forward permanently, you know, like a big kid? He does technically meet all the requirements.
But in my heart I knew it wasn't going to happen. Not yet, anyway. Unfortunately I've read too much about it and shared that same information with Jon. Rear-facing is safer, even continuing into toddlerhood– and not just safer, really really really a lot safer.
"...toddlers between the ages of 12 and 23 months who ride rear facing are 5 times safer and 75% less likely to experience serious injury or die than their forward-facing peers."
Maybe I'm the fun police, but that right there put a big damper on my seat-flipping dreams.
One of the chief arguments I've seen against rear-facing at an older age is that their feet are touching the seatback or their legs look cramped. True! Valid concerns! (Though the Jude's tiny legs are just now starting to touch the seat. Shorty.) The other side of this is that children are flexible, much more so than you or I. They can sit with their legs bent or crossed without discomfort. Here's an interesting perspective on it:
"Never seen a 2 1/2 year old rear-facing? Many parents in the US think it's "weird" to have a 2 year old rear-facing--most children are switched to forward-facing around their first birthday. But if you lived in Sweden, the idea of a 2 year old FORWARD-facing would be "weird," as they keep kids rear-facing until the ages of 3 or 5. Because kids sit rear-facing for so long, fewer than 1 child a year dies in a rear-facing car seat in Sweden. If we also kept more kids rear-facing, we would not only see fewer deaths, but also fewer injuries--especially the really hard to fix ones like those to the spinal cord and head." thoughts from the car seat lady
Earlier this year the AAP released this statement in one of their newsletters, saying, "new research shows toddlers are more than five times safer if they remain rear-facing until age two. With rear-facing weight limits on convertible car seats up to 35 pounds, most toddlers should be able to stay rear-facing until at least age two. If the toddler is larger, the best option is to keep your little one rear-facing to the limits of the car seat. Rear-facing car seats are outgrown by the weight limit, or when there is less than an inch of shell above baby's head. A toddler's legs hanging over the car seat edge do not play into outgrowing the car seat at all." Despite cited research to the contrary and their own written statement, they have declined to update their "official" recommendation at this time. Nov. 2010, full source here
Continuing to keep kid's car seats rear facing as long as possible is safer, but it doesn't receive very much publicity. It's not an issue that comes up a lot; it isn't on everyone's mind. It may not be a hot-button issue, but it's a simple thing I can do for the Jude's security. I have to admit I'm torn sometimes– having him forward facing would offer some conveniences and would certainly be more fun. Is the novelty worth the risk, just in case something were to happen? For us the answer is no, at least not yet.
Sorry kiddo. Some day.
How have you handled the car seat issue in your family? Did you flip them around right at a year? Did you wait? Do you wish you had done it earlier– or later?
for some awesome further reading on this with statistics, photos, and videos check out the post extended rear facing.