Before you become a mom, car seats seem very straight-forward. Then, as you join mom groups and read parenting blogs, you realize car seat safety is a whole lot more complicated than you thought. And, it seems somehow SO controversial? Everyone seems to have different opinions on what you’re supposed to do and when—especially when it comes to seating position and rear-facing car seats

So, how do you know what to listen to? It can get so frustrating, you just pick and choose what to believe and what not to believe. But, friends, there are car seat safety facts, and Safe in the Seat exists to provide you with those facts and no fluff. Today, let’s sort through the myths and get to the truth about rear-facing car seats. 

8 Rear-Facing Car Seat Myths

“My child should stop rear-facing at 2 years old.”

The law in many states says that your child must be rear-facing until they turn two. And, for years, parents noted this mental benchmark and turned their kiddos around right on their second birthday.  

However, the truth is children are much safer rear-facing. Check out this YouTube video to see why rear-facing is safest. And they can fit properly in their rear-facing seat for much longer than you think, which is sometimes called “extended rear-facing”. You should plan on your child to be rear-facing until they reach the height or weight limit for their car seat’s rear-facing mode, which the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests. For most kids, that’s about four years old! Once they’re there, it’s time to move to the next car seat phase! 

Why Rear-facing is Safest

“My child is uncomfortable rear-facing.”

Many people think, “There is no way my child could sit properly rear-facing. They’d be so uncomfortable!” This is because, after a certain height, a child must sit with their legs bent or hanging over the edges of the seat. But kids love sitting criss cross applesauce or propping their feet up on the chair. Remember, they’re much more flexible than you. Just take a look at how your child naturally sits when they’re playing on the floor or watching TV!

And, even if your child did whine about sitting backward with bent legs, think about what’s more important. Is their safety or comfort your priority? A child is 75% less likely to be seriously injured or die in an accident if they’re rear-facing as it protects their head, neck, and spine. Turn those babies backward, and have them sitting crisscross! 

“My rear-facing child will break their legs in a crash.” 

As we mentioned, when an older child sits rear-facing, they have their legs hanging over the sides or bent in front of them. There’s a myth that this increases the likelihood of leg injuries in an accident. This is 100% false. A child’s legs are at no greater risk of injury in a crash when they rear-face. 

A seat in the rear-facing position in the vehicle seat provides the best protection for a child. It cradles a toddler’s little body and protects their developing neck and spinal cord from the force of the accident. And during the course of a crash, their knees will come to their chest, like they’re about to do a cannonball into the pool — there is nothing for their legs to impact that could cause injury. It’s the absolutely safest way to ride! 

“My child gets car sick because they are rear-facing.”

This one isn’t necessarily a myth. It’s true that a lot of children experience motion sickness, and for some (but not all!) kids, their motion sickness seems to be worse when rear-facing. However, that’s no reason to flip them around early. Though we totally get the frustration and headache, there are other ways to remedy the nausea. Try these tricks:

Choose meals and snacks wisely.

If you know your child is prone to motion sickness, really be mindful of what you’re putting in their sensitive tummies before you get in the car. Choose something that won’t upset them further or be too difficult to clean up if it comes out. 

Focus where they’re looking. 

Motion sickness often comes from looking out the side windows. Front and back windows don’t have nearly the same effect. So, try to encourage your child to avoid looking out their windows. You can cover their window with a shade or play games of I-spy that direct their attention out the back window. 

Sleeping kiddos don’t get sick.

Normally, if a child is sleeping, they won’t experience motion sickness. So, if you’re having problems, try to coordinate car rides around nap time. This should really help bring peace to short and long trips alike! 

Keep kids cool. 

Be careful not to let your child get overheated, especially once they start feeling nauseous. Blast cool air to the back of the car, and even use a Noggle if you need one — improving airflow to your kiddo can make a huuuuge difference! Even in winter be mindful of their temperature. Too many thick clothes when they’re wrapped up tight with the harness straps and have the heat blowing on them is just a recipe for disaster. 

Go on routes with fewer stops. 

The stop-and-go traffic really does it for many with motion sickness. So, if you need to take a child somewhere, consider going a longer route that requires fewer stops. Consider taking the interstate or highway to get to where you need to go without all the pesky stoplights! 

See a doctor. 

If your child is continuing to have motion sickness issues, see a doctor! There could be a vision problem or some other health concern. Even if it’s simply motion sickness with no cause, the physician can still provide more suggestions for the problem. 

“My child can’t see out the window rear-facing.”

Well, that may be true. But there are ways to fix this — consider installing your toddler’s rear-facing car seat as upright as it’s allowed to be, according to the manufacturer, so they can get a better view. Some seats also position kids up higher than others, giving perceptive preschoolers a better view. But even if these options don’t completely fix your child’s visibility, compromising a child’s safety for something as frivolous as seeing out a window is just silly. Keep your kiddos safe and keep them turned backward. 

“Rear-facing car seats can’t fit in my car.”

Whether you have a small car, or already have two rear-facing seats in your vehicle, understanding how your seats fit can definitely be a challenge. However, it’s possible to get rear-facing car seats into compact cars! And in many vehicles, you can get rear-facing seats in 3 across, if necessary.

First things first, consult your vehicle owner’s manual to see any specifications or requirements regarding car seats. Then, use one of our buying kits to find the right seat for you and your situation. If you’re still having issues, get a consultation with a child passenger safety technician. Do not jump to putting your seat in the forward-facing position before you’ve exhausted all the options! 

“It’s too hard to buckle a rear-facing child.”

Hey, we’ll admit, buckling and unbuckling a rear-facing car seat isn’t easy. If you’re really struggling with your seat, do some searching online for one that’s easier to adjust, or get the UnbuckleMe! It makes it easier to remove the straps if you struggle to press that harness clip. If you find it difficult to adjust harness strap tightness from a rear-facing angle, you can also try leaving the harness straps set instead of constantly adjusting them. Just make sure they pass the pinch test for every ride!

“My rear-facing car seat moves too much after installing it.”

If you feel like your car seat moves too much, use this article to confirm it’s installed properly or contact a car seat consultant. A rear-facing seat is going to move up at the top, near your child’s head — it’s not attached to anything up there! But the seat will still do its job to cradle your child’s body in a crash and keep their head and neck in line with their spine. Only check for movement at the belt path of your car seat — where the seatbelt or latch strap secures it to the vehicle. As long as it moves less than one inch in any direction at the belt path, you’re all set!

Gain clarity on your car seat safety choices by debunking common car seat myths!

Car seat myths aren’t only silly and uninformed, but they’re also dangerous! Children should ride rear-facing until they’ve reached the max height and weight limit on their current seat. PERIOD. No ifs, ands, or buts. It could save their lives! 

Despite what people try to tell you, this does matter. Anyone who thinks otherwise has survivor bias, which puts children at risk every day (yes, even if they sat in the front seat at 8 years old and survived). We spend so much time in the car, and it’s one of the leading causes of death in children and adults. Keep kids safe in their seats by staying rear-facing as long as you can.

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