Sometimes I get shocked comments from other parents when they see our Diono Radian R100 car seat still facing backwards: “What? He’s still rear facing?” Cub is almost two years old and weighs about 30 lbs.
According to the SAAQ (the Quebec body that governs road safety):
Even if your children weighs 10 kg (22 lbs) and can walk unassisted, put them in a car seat facing the rear until they outgrow the seat. The instructions for the seat should indicate its height and weight limits for this type of installation. Some car seats can be placed facing the rear until children weigh up to 20 kg(45 lbs). Your children will be safer, even if their legs are touching the back of the vehicle seat.
Our Radian R100 seat’s rear-facing weight maximum is 40 lbs, so I’m well within the government’s safety recommendations. The Radian it super comfortable for Cub rear-facing, and he can still sit comfortably with his legs out in front of him.
Transport Canada says:
It is okay if your child’s legs touch the back of your vehicle seat, as long as your child is still below the manufacturer’s weight and height limits.
So yes, I’m a Sheeple following what the government tells me to do. Well, in this instance at least. Oh, and in case you were wondering, also in this case:
I do sincerely believe that Transport Canada and the SAAQ know what they’re talking about, and I do follow their recommendations for child car seat safety.
The American Academny of Pediatrics recommends rear-facing until the child is at least 2 years old.
From what I’ve read, simply recommending to keep the child rear facing as long as the seat permits and/or until 2 years of age is kind of lax:
In Sweden, children remain in RFCSs [rear-facing child seats] up to the age of 4 and transition directly from the RFCS to a booster seat.
From the same NIH study, comparing statistics from Sweden and the US:
There’s also this YouTube video that demonstrates why the rear-facing position is safer for children:
This video helped convince my husband, who was noticing that other kids in our entourage were forward-facing and was getting annoyed that our front passenger seat lacks leg room. (Although it’s not that bad, I’m 5’9″ and am comfortable in the front passenger seat of our Hyundai Elantra Touring, with the Radian Angle Adjuster under Cub’s seat.)
But isn’t he uncomfortable? Doesn’t he get bored facing backwards?
I’ve been asked these two questions often about extended rear facing. As for comfort, we chose a seat that is designed for extended rear facing. Ours goes to 40 lbs, but other seat designs go even higher. There are absolutely seats on the market that leave the child a bit cramped when sitting backwards, and Transport Canada unfortunately chose a photo that might cause parents to doubt the feasibility of extended rear facing to illustrate their article on the matter:
Nonetheless, this little dude is still safer in this position, and he’s most likely totally comfortable. Have you seen how most toddlers sleep and lounge about? In positions that you and I would consider extreme acrobatics…
Many children will sit cross legged or dangle their feet on either side of their seat. In our Radian, Cub barely has to bend his legs if he wants them out in front of him, and other times he likes to dangle them on either side. You can see that compared to the photo above, he definitely looks comfortable:
Being a toddler, I’m pretty sure I’d know all about it if Cub was uncomfortable in his seat. The fact is, however, that this is the only way he’s ever sat. It’s all he knows! I’m sure that once he does get switched to forward facing (when he reaches 40 lbs, in our case) he won’t want to go back.
As for the “isn’t he bored” issue… I would’ve found riding my bicycle much more fun if I had been allowed to do it without a helmet. My Mom was such a spoil sport, I guess! Cub happily tells me all about the things he sees out the side windows and rear window, I can look in my rear view mirror and agree that there is, in fact a bus, but that no, I don’t see the cat (not that he’s lying… he can spot a cat from a mile away). When someone’s in the back seat, he can look at them and engage with them without having to crane his neck .
This post has been 90% about me wanting to organize my thoughts so that I feel confident in explaining my choice to continue with extended rear facing (I know, it’s weird to have to justify our parenting decisions, but I get insecure easily) and 10% about raising awareness in case some parents weren’t aware of current recommendations.
When I was shopping for car seats, one of my friends made a comment about how driving is the single most dangerous activity she does every day with her child, so it was important to her to do the research and make sure she was putting all the odds on the side of safety and injury prevention. We have zero control over the weather, road conditions and other drivers, so since almost all of us accept driving as a daily necessity—despite the statistical risk—we may as well make it as safe as possible.
When did you (or do you plan to) switch your kids to forward facing?
- Transport Canada: Stage 1, Rear-Facing Seats
- SAAQ: Child Seat
- The American Academy of Pediatrices: Child Passenger Safety Policy Statement
- NIH: Car safety seats for children: rear facing for best protection
- 7 Myths About Extended Rear Facing by Katie Loeb at Babble.com
- Rear Facing Car Seats Myths Busted by Emma Douglas at Car Seats for the Littles
- Should children be kept in rear-facing car seats longer? by Trailee Pearce at the Globe and Mail
Note the Radian R100 link is an affiliate link.