Why babies and toddlers should stay in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible

Diono_Rainier_RFBigKidI remember a number of years ago (okay, full confession – about 18 years ago) when I couldn’t wait to move my baby out of her infant-only car seat and into her new forward-facing car seat.  I was anxious to turn her around so I could see her more easily and I was worried about her crossed legs being injured in an accident.  It’s what I knew at the time, but  now I know better.

As a Certified Car Seat Safety Technician, I now know that babies and toddlers are much safer when travelling in the rear-facing position.  Based on research and crash test data, the recommendations for how long children should stay in the rear-facing position have changed.  Car seat manufacturers have responded to this new information by redesigning car seats that can be used in the rear-facing position with much higher child weight and height limits than before – great news for your little one’s safety!

Now let’s talk about:

  • why infants and toddlers need this extra protection;
  • why the rear facing position is much safer for your little one; and
  • what car seat safety experts recommend

Why infants and toddlers need extra protection

Simply put, infants and toddlers have large, heavy heads.  Did you know an average 9-month old’s head makes up 25% of their body weight?  Compare that to an adult head which is only 6% of their body weight.  A large, heavy head combined with immature neck bones, a soft skeleton, weak neck muscles and stretchy ligaments means your little ones need that extra protection.

 Why rear-facing is safer

A rear-facing child seat provides outstanding head, neck and spine protection.  Crash test data shows that your child is 5 times safer in a rear-facing car seat than a forward-facing car seat.  During front-end collisions, passengers can be thrown violently forward and if your child is in the rear-facing position they will be pressed into the car seat which will cradle their head and neck like a ball in a baseball catcher’s mitt.  Most of the crash forces are distributed across the back of the car seat which protects your baby or toddler’s precious head and neck.

What car seat safety experts recommend

We’ve talked about why infants and toddlers need extra protection and why the rear-facing position is safer.  Now let’s talk about how you can best protect your child:

  1. Keep your child in their rear-facing, infant-only car seat for as long as possible. Some infant-only car seats now go up to a maximum of 15 kg or 35 lbs, so be sure to check the car seat manual or the sticker on the side of your car seat for the maximum weight and height limits.
  2. Move your child to a larger infant-child car seat when your child outgrows their infant-only car seat.
  3. Keep your child in the rear-facing position of this infant-child car seat until your child reaches the maximum rear-facing weight or height as stated by the manufacturer. Some car seats now go up to a maximum of 22 kg or 50 lbs rear-facing, so be sure to check the car seat manual or the sticker on the side of your car seat for maximum weight and height limits.

Watch the must-see video below for more information and great installation tips from Parachute Canada.

Visit these links for more information about:

Do you have a question or comment about keeping your child in the rear-facing position?

For parenting information, or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000

About Karen Hay, RN

Parenting and supporting families to be as healthy as possible is my passion. I love opportunities to connect with Halton families on social media and look forward to chatting with you online. Halton Region is where my family lives and plays.
This entry was posted in Babies, Parenting, Pregnancy, Preschool, Toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why babies and toddlers should stay in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible

  1. Valerie says:

    Great informative post! Thanks for sharing!!

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