How Long Should my Child be Rear Facing?

August 7, 2012

A guest post from my dear friend Sadie at

In America, at least since I became a parent, it’s been deemed as normal to turn our babies to be front-facing in their car seats at 12 months of age, and 20 pounds. I know some folks have turned their babies around even earlier when they hit the 20 pound mark. It seems as if the trend is changing, because all I see online is how parents are leaving their children rear-facing for as long as possible.

How long should your child be rear-facing?

According to research, it’s safest to keep them rear-facing for as long as possible. I think it’s a bit dramatic when I see people rear-facing their 8 year old child, but I can see rear-facing until they are preschool age. That’s simply personal opinion, though, as I don’t have any children young enough to worry about rear-facing anymore. My youngest is turning 6 in a few weeks and is in a high back booster seat.

We got into a car accident the other day, and she was restrained safely enough in her booster seat that she was not injured. I don’t think having her rear-facing would have changed that.

How do I install my rear-facing car seat?

Installing a rear-facing car seat isn’t as difficult as you may think. Each car seat comes with a manual, and should have images showing you exactly how to install your seat.

Most seats have a belt-path that is clear to see when you place the seat in the car. Using your manual as well as common sense, simply tether the car seat and then run the seatbelt through the belt path.

Make sure the car seat is snug in the seat belt, and make sure the seat belt is latched properly. If your car seat has the tether option, tether the car seat securely into your vehicle before using it. While strapping your child in, make sure the chest clip is at the chest, and everything snaps or buckles into its proper place. Never buckle your child while wearing a big winter coat – remove the coat and then buckle your child.

How old were your children when you had them front-facing in their car seats?


  1. We still have our 17 month rear facing in her car seat! We feel like it is the safest position for her!


  2. Olivia L says:

    My daughter is still rear-facing at 2 and a half. I remember my mother-in-law telling me that children won’t tolerate rear-facing after a year because they want to see what’s going on, but as my girl has never known anything else she’s fine with it and doesn’t expect anything different.

  3. Amanda N. says:

    I’ve still got my 2 1/2-year-old rear-facing. I’ll turn him when he reaches height or weight limit on his seat (he’ll probably be about 3 since he’s already 4 lbs away from the weight limit on the seat and he’s a whopping 38″ tall already). I recently learned that the LATCH anchors in cars are only made to hold up to a certain weight (and not all car manuals disclose what that limit is). So they can only safely hold a child until they reach somewhere between 40 and 48lbs (depending on the weight of the seat they’re riding in, which the LATCH also has to hold, and the limit of the anchors). After that point, seats need to be installed with the seat belt! How crazy is that?

  4. My 2.5 year old still rides rear facing. It’s the safest way! He’ll be RF till he outgrows the Carseat RF limits. Then he’ll be harnessed till he outgrows the limits for that.

  5. Vickie Couturier says:

    I think it depends on the type of car seat you have an the weight of the child,,

  6. Sandy VanHoey says:

    It changes so frequently. I can’t remember how long it was my grandson faced but I was rather happy to get to see him when it was time for him to face the other way. Waiting and keeping them that way for 8 years is ridiculous I think…wow!

  7. When you say tether, do you mean LATCH? You should never use LATCH and the seatbelt together, only one or the other! Also, don’t forget to replace your son’s seat if you were in an accident; insurance should cover it.

  8. As a CPST, I found this post concerning. It’s poorly written at best, contains misinformation, and incorrectly describes how to install a child restraint. Frankly, it’s going to do more harm than good. Also, I strongly doubt the author has ever seen a rear facing 8 year old. Perhaps you could consider having the subject discussed by someone who is a professional in the field, or at the very least understands the basics?

  9. I have to say I agree with Joanna above. I am a HUGE advocate for extended rear facing, and this post had some information that was misleading. The car seat directions were not very clear either.

    It is not “normal” to turn your child at one year AND 20 pounds. That is the minimum allowed by law. Children should rear face for as long as possible, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children are rear facing until at least 2 years of age. The comment about the 8 year old was a little ridiculous. I doubt there are any 8 year olds that fall under the height and weight restrictions for rear facing.

    The basic premise of this post is great, and that is that you should keep your child rear facing for as long as you can, given your situation. My daughter was almost 3 when we turned her seat around, and my son was just days shy of his 2nd birthday. My children will be in their convertible seats for as long as they possibly can be, and then they will move to 5-point harness boosters after that.

    I will never understand why people are so quick to turn their children around in the car. I have heard every “reason” out there, and nothing beats keeping them rear facing to keep them safe.

  10. I too think it depends on the type of car seat you have and the weight & size of the child.

  11. My first child got into face facing car seat one she outgrew her infant one. For the second child we got rear facing carseat that can hold baby up to 32 lb. I think kids should stay rear facing as long as your car seat allows

  12. Sarah Yurga says:

    trends have changed since I last had a baby. My oldest is 12 and my youngest is 5 months, with none in between. With my oldest, it was probably only 6 months or so before she outgrew her carrier and we switched over.

    • Its just a icon to let you know that the Child Seat Latch system is at that lotocian of the seat bottom. If you have a child and car seat you will know what I mean by Latch system. If not, you can read up about it or swing by your local dealer and they will have someone certified by the local fire dept to show you how to install it.References : VW Tech

  13. Debbie Ellis says:

    I have my 2 year old Grandson with me a lot so, I have really been enlighten with all the comments. He does sit forward but he has the best sit around at least that has been what I am told. Hopefully its correct.

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