Extended Rear Facing car seat (ERF) – Why they are safer.

Britax Dualfix

Britax Dualfix


Maxi-cosi 2way Pearl (or pearl2 as some call it)

Maxi-cosi 2way Pearl (or pearl2 as some call it)

Extended rear facing is something that is STILL a relatively new concept to the UK (or at least a relatively new to main stream UK), though it is becoming more and more popular – it is something that has been going on all over the world for a very long time! In Sweden it is a law that your child must be rear facing until 4 years of age… in the UK its not even law to keep them rear facing for any set time, just that your child is in an ‘appropriate child restraint’. Ambiguous or what?!

I’ve been asked before why Toby is in an extended rear facing seat, he is 3.5 years old now and huge for his age, so it’s something I thought might be useful to talk about here.

So as I have explained before an infant carrier is a group 0+ child seat, suitable to 12-15months, however the child can leave that seat at 9 months depending on their weight. Its all done on weight. 20lbs/9kg is the earliest they can move 29lbs/13kg is the latest. Extended rear facing seats are seats that will take your child rear facing until approx 4 or 6  years of age, or if you put it into the all important weight terms 33lbs/18kgs or a whopping 55lbs/25kgs (though 25lgs seats generally have a slightly lower safety rating). Now I know this seems like a long time BUT if you think about it, your child will never have known any different so is highly unlikely to be bothered by being rear facing.

So, why are they safer?

Extended rear facing is 5x safer for your child

Extended rear facing is 5x safer for your child

In the terms of an accident, you will always have the force of any impact carry your body forwards. You break: you go forwards. You get hit from behind: You go forwards. You get hit from the front or side: you move forwards. You get the picture. Anyway, this is why you tend to have a problem with whiplash, however for a child it is likely to be much more serious than that.

“As well as having a disproportionately large head to body size ratio children also have fragile, flexible and poorly developed neck muscles. When a child is forward facing and a frontal collision occurs, the child’s head is flung forward in the seat. This will cause an enormous amount of stress in the neck. A child’s neck and spine are vulnerable because their spines are still soft and not yet solidified like an adult’s. In a crash if the spinal cord stretches too far, a mere quarter of an inch, it can snap.” – Taken from the securatot.co.uk website, a wonderful website that explains everything to do with extended rear facing seats.

So if you imagine you always go forwards in an accident, that’s a huge risk being in a forward facing seat, as a rear facing seat will cushion the child’s neck and back.

Legs are not an issue in ERF seats

Legs are not an issue in ERF seats

The other big issue that people face with wrapping their head around extended rear facing seats is their child’s legs. Where will they go? Well, they do actually have plenty of room (as you can see from the above picture) and children with especially long legs will be able to cross their legs in the seat if they want to. That may sound uncomfortable to me and you, but because they are so flexible, children don’t seem to be bothered by this at all. At the end of the day – a broken leg can be fixed easily, whereas a broken neck rarely can, if that is your concern, let it go.

The other issue I come up against when discussing Extended Rear facing seats is the ‘but they will be bored’, or ‘but its so mean to put them facing the back of a seat for so long’. I have to say this is one that I struggle to tolerate, and I find it irritating to say the least. You spend all your time explaining the safety differences to come up against something as silly as this, however, to allay any fears people have on this issue, there are plenty of toys on the market that provide full entertainment from an early age and your child can still see just as much as they could forward facing as the seats are quite high up, not to mention they have a whole rear window to look out of instead of the back of a chair.

The current law in the UK now has a ‘recommendation’, known as i-Size (thats all it is at the moment, although it will become law… possibly not until 2018) that a child should be rear facing until 15 months of age. Its a step in the right direction, but we’re still miles off! The faster it is law until 4 years of age (in sweden, they already treat it as law) the better, don’t you agree!

I hope this has been helpful for people who are considering extended rear facing, I desperately wish I had done so with my boys, I didn’t have the option at the time (or wasn’t aware I did is probably more accurate!).

Harriet x

P.s – Please check out securatot.com for more information on this topic, it is a wonderful site and their ten top facts page is an eye opener for sure! I would also like to mention that I was unaware of ERF to 6 years or 55lbs until it was kindly pointed out to me by the talented author of ERFMama (you can read her super informative comments below or visit her brilliant blog, she really is on a mission to educate every parent about Extended Rear Facing – such a kind and inspiring thing to do!)



  1. Liz
    April 26, 2016 / 9:19 pm

    Thankfully there was a lot of coverage on social media about the benefits of rear facing child seats just before we bought our stage 1 seat so we got the 2 Way Pearl and it’s been great. The only problem we had was when we had a hire car with a forward facing seat for a few weeks, but the toddler soon got used to facing backwards again.

    • Harriet April 27, 2016 / 2:28 pm

      Ahh thats great to hear Liz!

  2. April 21, 2016 / 3:07 pm

    Thank you for this post. I have been so confused about this. There doesn’t seem to be any hard or set rules and it’s all ambiguous. I never even knew you could get extended rear facing seats! I thought they had to be in the baby carrier things and I couldn’t work out where their legs would go!

    • Harriet April 21, 2016 / 3:43 pm

      Most welcome Tori, I hope it helps 🙂 H x

    • Harriet April 21, 2016 / 1:52 pm

      Yes it does – so important! H x

  3. September 4, 2014 / 3:00 pm

    Bene, bene, bene, allora questo è quello che voglio che tu faccia: porre telefono tl, sopra le righe, ha colpito la porta della camera e piangere la mamma e la macchina di zio David papà torna nel garage .

  4. January 22, 2014 / 11:38 pm

    Great post! :mrgreen:

    It really needs to get out there more. Too few people still know about ERF, so it’s nice to see another blog post putting it out there. :mrgreen:

    I just wanted to let you know that we do have ERF seats that rear face to 25kg (55lb) so Group 1/2 and will hold the average 6 year old. 🙂 So if you have chunky children this is especially a good option. 🙂
    It is also not not the law to rear face until 4 in Sweden or any other Scandinavian country, it’s just the norm. 🙂 The law is exactly the same as in the UK, which is that when the child hit’s 9kg, theoretically they can by law forward face, though this is absolutely not safe as you also know. 🙂
    When I can’t perswade people to ERF, I personally try to at least have them keep the baby in the infant seat until it is fully outgrown, and if they have a combi seat like the Britax First Class Plus or Maxi Cosi Opal that is rear facing to 13kg, I urge them to keep them rear facing in them until they are infact outgrown rear facing, which is when the top of the head reaches the top of the shell or they reach 13kg, which looking at percentile, is an avrage 2 year old. 🙂
    So you can get rear facing for a good while and at least far better then a 9-10 month old put forward facing just because people think that now he’s 9kg or 9months we need to find him a new seat. 🙁
    A lot of parents sadly think that is the case, so thank you for writing this post. 🙂

    Oh and broken legs is a forward facing issue, it is a very common injury in forward facing children, not a rear facing issue. Just in case anyone reading was wondering. 🙂

    • Harriet January 23, 2014 / 7:40 am

      Thank you so much for this comment! I think your input is great, and I will add an amendment to the post about 25kgs as I honestly didn’t find any in my searches, or know of their existence.

      Very few people know how long you can truly keep a child in an infant carrier, its such a shame. When I was car seat fitting I was constantly telling people not to move their child as they had so much room! Its the same with the ‘but I can’t see them’ thing… you are driving you shouldn’t see them anyway! Just to add to what we have said, the rear facing mirrors are a gem of a product if you are worried about not seeing your child (which you shouldn’t be)!

      The reason I have mentioned it as law in Sweden is because a friend of mine, who has moved out there with her hubby and 20m old, took her forward facing car seat with her and was pulled over and told that it wasn’t suitable for the child’s age! They were told their child needed to be rear facing, so although it may not be law, I think it is so much the norm that they treat it as if it is… something that I think is great!

      Thank you again, and if you ever want to get together to maybe do a guest post on the topic then please email me direct at info@tobyandroo.com 🙂

      • January 30, 2014 / 12:17 am

        I would love that. :mrgreen:

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