Rowan 3yrs 30lbs Sunshine Radian XTSL
Kiernan 22.5lbs Britax Boulevard
Safety experts and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children remain rear-facing as long as possible and never travel forward-facing before they are 1 year old and also weigh at least 20 pounds to reduce the risk of serious neck injury and lifelong disability. All new convertible seats available today allow a child to remain rear-facing until they weigh up to 30 or 35 lb, depending on the model.
When the child is rear-facing, the head, neck, and thorax are restrained together by the back of the CR in a frontal crash. There is little or no relative motion between the head and torso that could load the neck. If the same child were facing forward, the harness would restrain the torso, but the head and neck would pull and rotate forward, leading to the potential for serious upper spinal injury (ie child may become paralyzed or worst case death).
There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about rear-facing vs. forward-facing that lead even the best intentioned parent or pediatrician to believe a child is "safe" facing forward when he is still very young. These come from obsolete ideas and advice that may still appear in older pamphlets and pediatric literature and are not the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Real-world experience has also shown that a young child's skull can be literally ripped from her spine by the force of a crash. The body is being held in place, but the head is not. When a child is facing rearward, the head is cradled and moves in unison with the body, so that there is little or no relative motion that might pull on the connecting neck.
The most common misunderstanding is that a child is ready to travel facing forward when his neck muscles are strong enough to support and control his head. However, when a car hits something at 25 to 30 mph, it will come to a stop at a negative acceleration rate of from 20 to 30 G. Because of the time lag between when the vehicle stops and an occupant stops, and the fact that the head of a forward-facing adult or child is still free to move relative to the restrained torso, the head may experience as much as 60 or 70 Gs acceleration for a brief moment. Even the strong neck muscles of military volunteers cannot counteract such forces. Instead, the rigidity of the bones in the neck and strength of the connecting ligaments (not the muscles) hold the adult spine together and keep the spinal cord intact within the confines of the vertebral column.
Very young children, however, have immature vertebrae that are still partly made of cartilage. These are soft and will deform and/or separate under tension, leaving just the spinal cord as the last link between the head and the torso. According to documented research, autopsy specimens of infant spines and ligaments allow for spinal column elongation of up to two inches, but the spinal cord ruptures if stretched more than 1/4 inch. Real-world experience has shown that a young child's skull can be literally ripped from her spine by the force of a crash.
Another aspect of the facing-direction issue that is often overlooked is the additional benefit a child gains in a side impact. Crash testing and field experience have both shown that the head of a child facing rearward is captured by the child restraint shell in side and frontal-oblique crashes, while that of a forward-facing child may be thrown forward, around, and outside the confines of the side wings. Field data show better outcomes for rear-facing children than forward-facing children, even though most CRs are not specifically designed to protect children in side impact.
A lot of parents feel like their child will be uncomfortable with their legs all squished up against the seat. BUT if you watch a child sit on the floor you will notice they draw their legs up as it is more comfortable for them. What about the safety of their legs in a crash? Well there are no documented cases of legs or hips fracturing in a crash because of extended rear facing. My thought on it is if my kids leg breaks I can fix that. If their spine breaks and they are paralyzed which is not something I can fix nor can I bring them back from death.
Ask any parent about graduating their infant from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing one and you’ll likely hear this common refrain — (although some estimates say a full 30 percent of parents go against this guideline and actually face their children forward earlier).