About-Face on Car Seats: Safety Questions for Parents

with 11 comments

This week we welcome Nicole White as a guest blogger to the FaceFile blog! You can find her online at MyBottlesUp.com. Welcome, Nicole!

Facing front or rear-facing: when do you turn the car seat around?

Facing front or rear-facing: when do you turn the car seat around?

Our son will be 18 months at the end of October.  My husband and I turned the Magoo’s car seat around to face forwards when he hit 16 months old.

Granted he’s a lengthy child.  You should probably know that my husband is 6’6” and I’m 5’9”.  We’re not capable of producing small or even average-sized spawn.

I was once approached in a parking garage and asked by a complete stranger, “Shouldn’t you turn her around by now?”

(The “her” issue is an ENTIRELY separate one that I will share in good time…)

But as this parking garage stranger asked me this, I found my blood pressure rising, wanting to respond with, “Excuse me, but why is this any of your business?!?”

Instead I counted backwards from 10, found my zen place and said, “Ya know, I’ve read that children’s neck muscles aren’t strong enough to face forward in a car seat until they are a year and a half,” giving parking garage stranger a look that clearly ended the conversation and slamming the car door shut.

Parking garage stranger then buckled her little bundle into their grocery cart, flipped her lusciously long ponytail and proceeded into Whole Foods, where I assume she bought an abundance of organic, gluten-free, soy-based food for said bundle who looked to be dying for some whole milk and Cheez-its, the Magoo’s snack of choice.

(For the record, I’m totally down with the organic, gluten-free, soy-based, whatever… Whatever works for you and yours).

So when do you turn your tot around to face forward in their car seat?  At what age was your little one when you made the big switcheroo and had them face forwards instead of backwards?

I’ve polled parents while on the playground and have come to the following conclusion: no one truly knows.  Some moved the car seat to face forwards on their child’s first birthday, sort of a rite of passage thing.

“Congrats son! You can now face forward and not have to watch me through the monkey mirror that sits on the headrest.  Here’s your birthday cake.”

Other parents waited until 16-18 months, like we did, having read or heard from friends that neck muscles of toddlers are stronger and better developed when they are closer to a year and a half, should you be in a car accident where whiplash occurs.

To be perfectly honest, my husband and I turned the Magoo’s car seat around to face forward because his legs were too long and climbing up the back of the passenger seat.  It was when he kicked the monkey mirror that sits on the headrest off that was the deciding factor for us.

At what age was your child when you turned him/her around to face forward in their car seat?  How did you come about making that decision?

Written by Nicole White

October 29th, 2009 at 10:15 am

Posted in Child Safety

Tagged with ,

11 Responses to 'About-Face on Car Seats: Safety Questions for Parents'

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  1. I am a certified car seat tech.

    Chase was just turned at 2 and a half when he hit 35 lbs, which is the upper limit for his seat(True Fit).

    A childs neck is actually not fully fused until around the age of 3. This is why in Sweden they RF on average until 3-4 and have the lowest amount of death due to car accidents for that age group in the world.

    Chase is very tall, almost 40in. He sat indian style in his seat, and is actually very unhappy with it facing forward.

    ali (adil320)

    29 Oct 09 at 11:05 am

  2. We didn’t turn Maya around until she was 20 months old. We were on vacation and using a rental car. We decided to let her sit forward for the trip to make it easier to interact with her during the long car ride. She loved it so when we got home we decided to turn her seat around for good. We didn’t turn her at a year because she hadn’t reached the 20lb threshold yet and because I just didn’t feel it was safe based on everything I had read. I wanted her to be as safe as possible and facing backwards was safer.

    I got lots of questions about it, even from family. I figure she is my daughter, I will do what I know is safe for her and you all can mind your own business.

    Congrats on your first guest post here on Face File :)


    29 Oct 09 at 1:04 pm

  3. Actually, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping your child rear facing for as long as possible (meaning to the maximum weight or height limit allowed for a particular seat.)

    AAP Guide

    We didn’t turn our daughter around until she was 3, as she finally hit the max weight. It doesn’t matter if their legs are long, as long as they are under the maximum height requirement for the seat.

    There is also more information available here:


    The most recent research shows that riding rear-facing up to age 4 is strongly recommended, and there is talk that car seats will be made to handle children that size in the near future:

    More info


    29 Oct 09 at 2:04 pm

  4. my oldest son was 2 y 9 mo when he was turned FF, he had reached the height limit of his seat (ie, his head no longer had more than 1 inch of carseat shell above it). my youngest is about to turn 2 and he is still RF and will continue to do so for as long as possible. their legs hitting the seat are not an issue at all. they just bend then and they’re fine, there are no documented injurys to legs from RF. kuddos to you for not just turning him FF on his birthday but you should actually consider turning him back RF, as it is 5 times safer under the age of 2. and like the PP said, the AAP recommends keeping them RF as long as they fit. as far as people making comments, just tell them, my son is much safer RF thankyouverymuch.

    Amy W

    29 Oct 09 at 4:29 pm

  5. Sounds like garage stranger, who was probably only trying to be helpful, was right:)


    29 Oct 09 at 7:17 pm

  6. We have 5 kids and they were all turned around at different ages. Our oldest was turned the earliest, mostly due to ignorance/misinformation. Our 3rd 4th and 5th children have been rear-facing as long as we’ve been able to keep them so.

    Now that we have no car, they ride on the seat of a bus. :P However, on the rare occasion that we take a trip somewhere, we still put our 2yo rear facing!


    29 Oct 09 at 9:06 pm

  7. [...] Car Seat Safety: About Face on Car Seats – Questions for Parents … [...]

  8. Really? Why bother writing a post on such an important safety issue for kids, without actually providing any reliable information.

    Check out the links that commenter Diane posted -they’re the same ones I was headed to get.

    For something that takes about.5 seconds to google, why are so many parents clueless about it? “I didn’t know” doesn’t unbreak a child’s neck after an accident.

    Harsh, but true.

  9. We haven’t turned our daughter around yet. She is 21 months and only 22lbs. I do not feel as though she is ready to forward face at all. We will go til she is at least 2 and possibly longer.


    2 Nov 09 at 12:02 pm

  10. @Amy – You make an excellent point. Sometimes blogs are writers and parents conveying their thoughts and asking for input – as this one was. It’s assembled a great collection of links via the comments. The coolest things about blogs is their ability to bring people together to discuss issues. We appreciated Diane posting her links an it looks like the feelings on front-facing and rear-facing on car seats run the gamut. We’re glad to have the links from users for all of our readers to share and it sounds like there are some extenuating circumstances (long legs and all) that make for some exceptions to the rules! Thanks for stopping by and for your honest comments!

  11. I got a lot of flack from family members and from people online (who had seen photos I had taken for a “day in the life” type of blog entry) for having my daughter rear-facing when she was fourteen months old. We turned her at fifteen months. We kept her rear-facing for the same reasons you listed. We turned our son a bit earlier, around fourteen months.


    2 Nov 09 at 11:53 pm

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