OK To Turn Car Seat Facing Forward? Please Help! :-)

Updated on December 09, 2008
L.D. asks from Haslet, TX
9 answers

Hi Mamas! My 11.5 month old son is in a Britax cars seat that is still facing backwards. At his nine month appointment he was 30 inches long and weighed 22 lbs. He has gotten longer and heavier since then and is just not fitting in the car seat with it is the rear-facing position. His legs are so long and seems tall for his age. He is all cramped up and uncomfortable. He fusses/cries now in his seat during every ride and even cries when he sees that he has to go in the seat. Is it ok to turn him around yet? This is getting bad, but I want to be safe. What do you think?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone! We will keep our son facing backwards longer and teach him to cross his legs. Thanks for the input! Our goal is to keep him rear-facing until he hits the rear-facing limit of his seat. Thanks for opening my eyes to the risks os forward facing! :-)

More Answers



answers from Dallas on

If this was my situation, I would totally turn him around. :) He meets the height and weight recommendations...so he will be fine.



answers from Dallas on

He must be 12 months AND 20lbs to turn around, though the current recommendation by most NTSB techs is to keep the child rear-facing until the child outweights the rear-facing limits set by the seat. If you've haven't watched the crash test videos on youtube, they're pretty convincing when you see the difference on spinal trauma.

I had my 3-yr old rear-facing in a Britax Marathon until she hit 33 lbs., the max for rear-facing in that seat. She just sat with her legs crossed and had no problems.

Hope you figure something out!



answers from Dallas on

You should definitely keep him rear for as long as possible. It's the safest place for him. The recommendations are for at least 30 lbs, although the law is more lenient. Here is an email sent out that I found very helpful:

I know I've posted before about car seat safety - I hope you take the time to read this. Remember 90 (yes NINETY) percent of people have their carseat installed improperly. PLEASE get it checked by a professional and keep them rear facing as long as possible!! (Although I do think 4 would be hard, we had to switch our son when he turned two because he kept throwing tantrums to where I couldn't get him it without MAJOR struggling.)

Thanks for reading and passing along the following to other parents/caregivers:


Sorry this is so long, but I had to share.

This was posted by a grandfather at one of my car seat boards. It is a very sad story indeed, and explains exactly why rear facing past the bare minimums is so important.

First, meet Joel:

PLEASE, for your childrens sake, consider leaving them in REAR-FACING (RF) car seats as longs as you can. Although it is "suggested" by many people and organizations, that you can turn them forward facing at 1 yr/20 lbs, and seats are made to accommodate that, it doesn’t mean they will not be subjected to cervical spine injuries in an accident. Sure, it’ll hold their body in place, as it did for my grandson. But their head is thrown violently forward!! Actually, if you do your homework, front facing children "75% more likely to be injured" in a crash (http://www.carseatsite.com/rf.htm

I am Grandpa, and here’s my personal view. My 18 mo old grandson, Joel, was injured in a front impact car crash 4 weeks ago. He is a "beefy" boy, weighing in at 34lbs and about 39" tall. According to his mom, the doctor told her it was "okay" to put him in a front facing car seat, because he was a "big boy". So she did. And he was securely strapped in the rear seat. The car hit a tree, for reasons unknown, at city speed limit of approx 35 mph.

At the accident scene, the EMT crew took Joel out of the car while in the car seat and all, and transported him to the hospital. They had to "bag" him at the scene to restart his breathing. The true miracle is that the ambulance was driving by, and some people flagged it down. They didn’t even get time to call 911. You can bet God had his hand in that!!! they were on the scene in about 60 seconds!!

Below are some photos of Joel, before and after. YOU decide whats best for your child.......not anyone else!!! He sustained dislocated top 2 vertebrae in his spine (C-1 & C-2). Some of the doctors put it in very simple terms...his skull, internally, became detached from his body... and was basically held on with his skin.

In the last few weeks, I’ve scoured the internet to find these facts:

* a young child’s head is approx 25% of his/her bodyweight. If that were true of adults, my head (I’m 220 pounds) would weigh 55 pounds! As it is, an adults head is only about 6% of their body weight. So, kids are very top-heavy.

* Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland recommend rear facing until 4 yrs old

* look on You Tube at the crash test videos of front facing vs. rear facing. you’ll be amazed.

YouTube Crash Tests

Rear facing:

Forward facing:

See how much farther forward the forward facing dummy is thrown? How violently the neck snaps?

* if a young childs spine is "stretched" a 1/4 of an inch, it could result in total paralysis or death.

* and this is amazing! There was an article published in Pediatrics (the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) earlier this year that states: "A recent analysis of the protection provided in rear-facing compared with forward-facing car safety seats has revealed that children under the age of 2 years are 75% less likely to die or sustain serious injury when they are in a rear-facing seat. This finding was true regardless of direction of the crash, even those crashes with side impact, which typically are the most severe.

"Parents may be helped to understand the importance of using the convertible car safety seat in the rear-facing position longer than 1 year if they are counseled that children are 5 times safer than when riding in a forward-facing seat into the second year of life."

After hearing about that, I contacted the AAP via email, and asked what their position is on this issue. Their response was "While this was published in the Academy’s journal, it does not necessarily constitute AAP policy" and "Because riding rear-facing does provide significantly more protection to children’s heads, necks, and spines, the Academy does recommend it for as long as possible, but the only minimum we have set is 12 months/20 pounds. This policy statement is under revision but is current at this time."

The policy statement is under revision.... at this time??

Do you’re home work folks!!! Oh, and you’ll also find out that in the USA, rear facing seats only go up to 30-35 pounds (depends on manufacturer). In Europe, whose testing standards seem to exceed US standards, the RF car seats can be purchased up to 55 pounds. AND, made by the same manufacturers as in the US.

So, the question is, why can’t we get them?? And don’t worry about legroom, check out these larger RF seats: http://forum.nybaktmamma.com/showt

Sure, they can break a leg in a violent crash, but I think bones are easier to fix than a broken neck!!! Heck, it’s better to mount a portable CD player in the back window shelf and let them watch it, then to risk their life! Think about it....their body is strapped down to a car seat that is strapped down, and the car comes to an abrupt stop!! Where is their head going to go? FORWARD, and at a tremedous velocity!! The back of their neck/spinal cord is vulnerable to serious injury.

But the BIG question is....... for you to decide. I know you want to see their darling faces. But you don’t want to see them in a halo.

I know this is a very long blog, but if it saves one child...or one family, the agony of what we’ve endured these last 4 weeks, it is worth the read!! The pics below are about six weeks apart. he was eating cake by himself....very cute.

And now, he is is headed for intense physical therapy. He does move his fingers and his legs, but he doesn’t pick up his arms. The therapy people are very optimistic, given the movement in his extremities. Doctors believe it was some compression of the shoulder nerves from the car seat straps across his collar bone area. You had to see those big, wide bruise marks. Again...front facing will do it.!!

Joel now:

I would like to see: the FF threshold raised to 24 months, and larger RF seats available in the US. Thank you.

This little boy is VERY lucky he is alive. This is every parents worst nightmare, and I’m glad that I have the knowledge to help protect my kids to the best of my ability. And now I’ve passed the information to you.

Thank you for reading!

Please see these sites for more information:




(^ Recommendation 1-"for optimal protection, the child should remain rear facing until reaching the max weight for the car safety seat, as long as the top of the head is below the top of the seat back")




answers from Dallas on

My pedi. just told me to keep my 10 month old rear facing for 18 months if possible. She said she knows he may start to get too long, but the Am. Academy of Ped. is now suggesting 18 months before you turn them around. Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

you should NOT turn your child front facing. the LAW says 20lbs AND 1 year - your child is NOT 1 year, so if "something happened", you could be charged, not to mention, your child could be seriously injured. and i can't imagine that he "won't fit" - i have seen nearly 4 year olds rear facing, they just cross their legs. a broken leg is much easier to fix than a spinal injury. he's probably crying b/c he's at that age where he doesn't wanna be confined.

Edited to Add: i see that some of the ladies on here think that "height and weight" are the big factors - they are NOT!!!! a 20lb 6 month old has a FAR different level of "muscle/spinal maturity" than a 20lb 2.5 year old. please keep that in mind.



answers from Dallas on

I turned both my children around about 11 months because they were well over the weight requirement and it was so close to their first birthdays. I wouldn't have done it sooner though. So, I 'd go ahead and do it.



answers from Dallas on

Hi L.,
I'm going to copy and paste a post I made on another car seat question post - it's really long with a ton of links. I think the first two links will be really helpful for you. I've researched this a lot, because I got so much confusing information from friends, family, and my pediatrician. None of them agreed on the same thing, so I researched it and the stuff I'm posting is what I found. It's best to rear face as long as your child can, which is to the limits of the seat. Even if his legs are long (my daughter's are really long, too! My DH is 6'6 and apparently she's taking after him, haha!) it's still safer to rear face than to forward face because a child's vertabrae do not fully fuse until 3-6 years old. Before then, he/she is at great risk for spinal injury. When rear-facing in a crash, the forces are spread out among the strong carseat shell and baby's strong back. The harness holds baby down in the seat and he/she is cradled and protected. When forward-facing, the harness holds babys' body back, and his/her head flies forward violenty, putting tremendous stress on the neck.

Here's the catch...the spinal column can stretch up to 2 inches, BUT the spinal cord can only stretch up to 1/4 of an inch before it snaps and baby is gone. This is referred to as internal decapitation. Babys' head will be slumped over like he/she is sleeping.

It's very important to keep babies rear-facing to 1 year AND 20 lbs. (both, not either/or) at the very least. It's actually much safer to rear-face to the limits of a convertible carseat, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. A forward-facing child is 4-5 times MORE likely to be killed or seriously injured in a crash than a rear-facing child of the same age.

There are some links that I'm posting for you that shows pictures and videos of toddlers rear facing and how they keep their legs. Some sit with them crossed, some have them hanging over the sides of the seat, some prop them on the car seat back that they are facing. Ok, I hope this helps you! (We are rear facing our daughter, who just turned 1 on 11/22, until she's at the limits of the seat which is 33 pounds. She's 19 pounds now.)

Check out this video for some great information and crash test footage...you'll see the HUGE difference: http://youtube.com/watch?v=kRP7ynNI8mI

And this one has lots of pictures of older rear-facing kiddos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psmUWg7QrC8
And now for extended rear facing!
“Rear-facing – Unmatched Safety” A fairly comprehensive article from CPSafety.com


MSN Article “Child Car Seat Advice Questioned”


You Tube Video “Benefits of Keeping Baby Rear-facing”


“Why Rear-Facing is Safest” A fairly comprehensive article from Car-Safety.org


Rear Facing Seats – Yet another fairly comprehensive article for thecarseatlady.com


Pictures of How a Child’s Spine Develops http://www.windsorpeak.com/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&a....

AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) Policy


Highlight of the policy - for optimal protection, the child should remain rear facing until reaching the maximum weight for the car safety seat, as long as the top of the head is below the top of the seat back

Why RF is Safest Even in Rear End Collisions

One Family’s Story of Being Rear-Ended While at a Stop by a Car Traveling at 60-65mph


And here’s another great link:


European study showing that rear-facing is better through age 4: http://www.anec.eu/attachments/ANEC-R&T-2008-TRAF-003...


Celebrity Baby Blog rear-facing article written by BC regular Andrea (BookMama).


CarSeatSite.com’s explanation of why rear-facing is safest.



answers from Dallas on

turn him at a year! anything more is paranoia! yes i know people will give you websites of tragedies that happened. you know what, that stuff may have happened no matter what the parents would have done. don't give in to paranoia!

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