The rear facing vs. forward facing car seat conundrum has effectively been solved, and it goes something like this: “Rear facing.”
Yeah, that’s basically it. Even if your kid is an almost-2-year-old who looks kind of goofy facing all backwards like that. That’s at least according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, who changed their recommendation in 2011 to state that children shouldn’t face forward until at least age 2. In fact, they claim that is the minimally acceptable age to switch; they’d prefer Junior ride in reverse even until 5 years of age.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Car Seats
Why? The research is pretty dang overwhelming that kids under 2 are far less likely to die in an accident when in rear-facing car seats, but the safety increase doesn’t stop there. Most experts agree that they should stay backwards until they’re literally too big for the height and weight limits of their car seat. The mounting evidence eventually became too much to ignore: Children’s bodies — especially their necks and spines — simply aren’t equipped to handle the forces that could be generated in a head-on collision.
This raises questions for concerned parents, the majority of which ponder what the heck the kid is supposed to do with their legs. If watching your kid fold themselves into all manner of odd positions while simply hanging out and playing doesn’t convince you they can handle it happily, check out this pretty convincing video from The Car Seat Lady. Like we used to say in the ’80s, “Hey Mikey, he likes it!”
If you need more convincing than a tidy video from a lady who actually nicknamed herself after car seats, consider that the Swedes have kept their kids rear-facing until the age of 4 for 35 years, and all they did was invent the safest car ever made. Do you want to argue about this with the people who make Volvos?
Even if you’ve already flipped your kid, flip ’em back as soon as you can for their own safety. (More accurately, put them back in a rear-facing seat. Car seats should only be installed as designed, so don’t just go flip-flopping. But yeah.) After all, new information should give you new habits. Otherwise, instead of deciding between the 8 best car seats on the market, we’d still be debating whether kids should ride inside or outside the car.