Rear-facing at 4 years old.It's firmly established that kids should be rear-facing as long as they fit in their seat (a convertible, not just the infant seat), or at least until 2 years old.
Every time it's mentioned, people have questions, reasons, and often many misunderstandings that prevent them from either following the recommendations or only barely, grudgingly following them.
Two of the most common concerns when discussion rear-facing toddlers and preschoolers are:
"Where do they put their legs?"
"Won't they break their legs in an accident?"
I've got answers, and lots of pictures as well. You may be surprised.
The first myth about legs I hear is that an infant seat is outgrown when the baby's legs reach the end of the car seat. Fortunately, this is not true! A rear-facing infant seat is only outgrown when the baby reaches the maximum weight of the seat, or their head is within an inch of the top of the hard shell of the seat.
Second, people think feet touching the seat is another marker of outgrowing rear-facing, and again, not true. Feet are totally fine touching the seat!
Lastly, and the big one, is what to do when your child (once they've graduated to a convertible seat that is rear-facing) starts having to bend their legs to fit. A lot of people worry that a child's legs will break or be damaged by being pushed into the seat, or even that their legs will impact with their chest or face. Worry no more! There are actually no documented cases of leg injuries from a rear-facing child's legs touching the seat their car seat sits on. However, one of the leading injuries to extremities is the forward-facing child's legs -- 28 percent of significant injuries are to the legs, most often from the legs hitting the side of the car in a side-impact accident, and most commonly from the seat in front of the child.
So, surprise! A forward-facing child is much more likely to suffer leg injuries, and of course head and spine as well (in fact, there's no fatal cervical spine injury to a rear-facing child on record). Barring very unique and rare circumstances, a child is always safer rear-facing.
As for the child's comfort, think about this ... how are you sitting right now? I don't know about you, but my legs are almost always propped up. Most people prefer to do the same -- so do kids, who are way more flexible than we are. But, talk can only go so far. Check out these fantastic pictures of CafeMom members' children who are rear-facing, and also check out their AGES, too. Rear-facing until 2 is a piece of cake, but 3 and 4 years old? Not that hard either!
sharsachan's son is 3 years old, daughter is 2, both with room to spare.
lundaylove's son is 2 ...
... and her daughter is 4 (rear-facing is especially important for kids with Hypotonia/low muscle tone).
padavali's 4-1/2-year-old is quite comfortable!
caemommy's 4-year-old is looking quite happy in her Britax Marathon.
ashleyrenee24's 4-year-old daughter has plenty of time left in her seat!
(You can see even more pictures of rear-facing children of all ages at CPSafety!)
Does this change your mind about rear-facing longer? Do you have any other questions about rear-facing? I'd love to help!