You’ve seen this picture before on this website, when I went into great detail about the rollover wreck my daughter and I survived. It probably comes as no surprise to you that I was an outspoken advocate for car seat safety before, and became vociferous afterward. All the research I’d read when my girl was a baby suggested we keep her rear-facing at least until she was two, regardless of whether our state only mandated rear-facing til one (it did and does), so that’s what we did. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is “on the bus”, as they say, and last week issued new recommendations for car seat safety. I asked NHTSA’s David Strickland to tell me about the new recs…
So your kids should stay rear-facing til at least two, and longer, if you can manage it. Many families manage it for a very long time!
Some parents say they have to turn their kids when their legs grow beyond the seat. Clearly that is not true. If your child is within the height and weight restrictions of their seat, they should be fine. Those restrictions will be in your car seat manual. They can sit like this cutie, or indian style, but even if you’re afraid this kind of position will lead to broken legs in a wreck, I would suggest broken legs are far preferable to a broken neck.
The NHTSA’s Strickland feels your pain, but he says our kids are unhappy when we take them for their vaccinations and they’re often veeeery unhappy when we suggest they eat their brussels sprouts. But we do these things because they need to be done. We do these things because it’s our job to keep our kids safe.
There are some things your might try to make your rear facing child *less* miserable. You could have a special box of just-for-the-car toys and books. If you rotate different toys and books in and out, there is a *slight* possibility they’ll be less unhappy. You could get your child a mirror so they aren’t restricted to only seeing what’s in the past. They could look at you and what’s coming up!
You could also get used to the idea that sometimes they’ll be unhappy. Guess what? Even forward facing, sometimes, your child is going to be unhappy in the car. My daughter likes to overshare that her car seat makes her bum hurt. Maybe it does, but she’s not getting out of it. No way, no how. Especially after that wreck.
Here are some car seat installation tips from the NHTSA. You can find an expert to check your work at SeatCheck.org. You can find your state’s laws re: car seats here, but I, as a parent, am much more interested in what the American Academy of Pediatrics had to say, and now what the NHTSA has to say. The laws will follow, but lawmakers are notorious slow-pokes.