Proof That Older & Taller Kids Can Still Rear-Face in Car Seats (PHOTOS)


older child in rear facing car seat
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.

rear facing car seats

comptonkids's daughter is 3-1/2 years old in one of the shorter and cheaper convertibles, a Graco MyRide 65.

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!

toddler car 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!


Images via Karah Jackson; sharsachan/CafeMom; comptonkids/CafeMom; lundaylove/CafeMom; lundaylove/CafeMom; padavali/CafeMom; caemommy/CafeMom; ashleyrenee24/CafeMom

travel, safety, car seat safety


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momav... momavanessa

My son is 3 and I really don't want to turn him around after him being used to sitting forward. My baby will be facing rear for a VERY long time.

miche... micheledo

I just turned around my 2 1/2 year old daughter.  We were having too many trips that we found her asleep in vomit.  She fusses when she is tired, she also gets car sick.  We would check on her and she was just tired, or she was car sick, or nothing, etc.  I just feel so bad when I find out she is sitting back there vomiting.  :(  She is doing much better now that she is forward facing.  My 1 1/2 year old will stay rear facing as long as we can.  We tend to have boys with VERY long torsos, so they usually outgrow the seat by height long before they weigh too much!  I couldn't believe how much leg room some of those little ones have in the pictures! :D  Sure hoping our son (1 1/2) doesn't get carsick.  That tends to be an issue in our family, and I still get carsick!

All these stir posts and discussions have certainly changed my opinion on rear facing!  In fact we even turned our daughter back to rear facing because of it.  (and of course she is now back to forward) So thanks for all the information!

Brenna Paige Gutell

My 4.5 yr old 30lb son is still rear facing.  I think he's more comfortable.

meatb... meatball77

I can't imagine a four hour car ride with the kids legs up like that, it looks like it would be miserable after about 30 minutes.  Of course rear facing is safer (it would be safer for an adult to sit backwards) but it's not that much safer once the kids have passed the toddler years to make your child face daily discomfort as you squash them in with no leg room.  Would you like to sit in a car with your legs all folded up like that?.

Lisa Roberts

I didn't rear face my older kids not knowing how bad it is but my 8month old will be rear faced for as long as she lets me i also have my almost 5 yr old still ff in a harness and i will kep her that way as long as possible she is a a meer 41inches and 32lbs her firends that are smaler then her are already in a booster and it scares me I love all the information about extended rearfacing but i'd like to see more about keeping kids in harness longer rf or ff it's still safe then the seatbelt


My 25lb little girl is rear facing. She's quite tall too, 99%tile for height at 14months old. I feel that she's more secure rear facing. She's in the same car-seat that she was in as a newborn. It has a 35lbs max, and seatbealts fit great.

danie24 danie24

My 5 and 3 year olds are still very comfortably rear facing :)

Katt Aguilo

We turned my son around on his 4th birthday.  He was VERY excited about it.  But, the reason we turned him is that he hit the weight limit.  His seat only goes to 33lbs.  Believe me he'd still be RF is we could.

Katt Aguilo

oh and he NEVER complained about his legs being scrunched at all.  And we do drive for several hours to visit family.  He could move them around to his hearts content.  Up, over the sides, crossed... whatever.  Now that's forward facing he can't do those things and his legs just hang there, no support at all.


Great info, Christie, as usual.

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