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?
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.
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!).
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!)