Rear-facing or forward-facing…that is the question!

Dayton Children’s new mommy safety blogger, Jessica Saunders

Mommy blogs and chat rooms are buzzing about the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new recommendations for car seat usage. Essentially, their recommendations are helping to slow car seat progression – which is something as a car seat technician that I whole heartedly support.

The largest change from previous recommendations is that children should stay rear-facing in their car seats until they are  2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer

I know parents want to see their children’s bright and shining faces – I understand.  I have a 2-month-old who sometimes makes strange noises in the back seat and I wish I could see her face.  But there is a lot of evidence that keeping children rear-facing longer is beneficial.

A 2007 study showed that children younger than 2 years old are 75% less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing. For children in the second year of life, the same study found that the risk of death or serious injury was 5 times lower when riding rear-facing.

What’s the big deal about rear-facing?

When a child rides rear-facing, the head, neck, and spine are all supported by the hard shell of the car seat and they all move together, with little  movement between body parts. When children ride forward-facing, their bodies are restrained by the harness straps, but their heads – which for toddlers are disproportionately large and heavy – are thrown forward, which can result in spine and head injuries.

What about the other new recommendations?  Here they are:

  • All children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their CSS, should use a forward-facing CSS with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed by the manufacturer of their CSS.
  •  All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their CSS should use a belt-positioning-booster until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
  • When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should always use lap-and-shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should be restrained in the rear seats of vehicles for optimal protection.

Essentially, all of these recommendations encourage parents to not let kids “graduate too soon” and to use their car seats to the highest weight and height limits.  Hopefully your pediatrician will be sharing more information with you – this is great news for kids!


  1. Reply
    JeremyM April 7, 2011

    thank you for the information. this is really useful for kid safety in the car. especially if parents travelling a lot with children by car

  2. Reply
    Rear Facing Car Seat Supporter June 6, 2011

    I think it’s excellent news that the car seat guidelines have changed – as a mother of a 1 year old, I am ALWAYS concerned about doing everything that i can to keep my son safe. While I would love to be able to see his face when I look in the rearview mirror, knowing that in the event of an accident, he will be safer, I’m willing to fore-go seeing his face for another year.

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