I always thought I would turn my son’s car seat around on his first birthday. I remember reading lots of things that said a baby only needed to be 12 months old and weigh 20 pounds to make a forward facing car seat safe. As it got closer to his birthday, I noticed an article about why it’s a good idea to wait. I read the article and did a little more research on my own. I decided to leave my baby in his rear facing car seat a little while longer.
The reason that it is so important to leave your child in a rear facing car seat during his first year is for his own protection. A baby facing the back of the car will absorb the impact of a crash more evenly along his back. The baby’s head and neck will be protected, which is of course very important for an infant, but is beneficial to a baby of any age. As long as the baby is still within the weight and height limits of the car seat, it will be beneficial for him to stay rear facing. There is no real reason why your baby should have to be turned around to face the front unless he is too big to stay rear facing. Many car seats now are designed to hold a rear facing baby as heavy as 30-35 pounds and as tall as 32-34 inches. Many kids are close to two years old before they reach that size.
Babies that are rear facing are less distracting for parents, too. If a rear facing baby drops a toy or cup, chances are greater that he will be able to pick it back up for himself because it can’t fall too far away. If a forward facing child drops a toy, it will most likely hit the floorboard and baby won’t be able to reach it. If baby cries, the parent will most likely reach to the back seat and start feeling around for the missing item. This is, of course, very distracting.
Many parents put their babies in forward facing car seats at one year old because they think that the baby is uncomfortable in the rear facing position. Parents see that baby’s legs can touch the seat back and assume that baby hates that. Most babies don’t have a problem with it, though. Even if you turn your baby to forward facing, he will most likely keep his legs in a similar position, they just won’t be resting against anything.
Some parents also say that baby is happier when facing the front so he can look around. Before being turned to the front, though, baby didn’t even realize he was missing out. He had always been rear facing so that was all he knew. Especially if he had spent time in a stroller with the car seat that you can snap onto it when you aren’t using it in the car. If that’s the case, baby has spent most of his life looking back in the car, stroller and cart at the grocery store or Wal-Mart.
It is certainly never a good idea to leave a baby in a rear facing car seat longer than the manufacturer suggests, but it isn’t necessarily a good idea to turn baby around just because he has reached a year old and 20 pounds. I know that I personally will be offering my baby the added protection of a rear facing car seat for as long as I can.