I failed at extended rearfacing


Hi. I’m Brandy and I failed at extended rear facing my child in his car seat. For those of you not aware of such things, extended rear facing refers to keeping your child turned around in their car seat for as long as possible. If you know someone very strongly pro extended-rear facing, you have probably been subjected to a YouTube video and mountains of case studies. It’s safer. It’s a fact. American Academy of Pediatrics recommends up until age 2 minimum.

This came out after I had Landon. He was turned around at age 1. Since then I had read all the reports and knew the safe choice. With Oliver I was going to keep him in that seat for 2 years. Done.

But then the screaming started. A 15 minute ride to work was torture. He ripped off shoes and threw them. Toys everywhere. Nothing made him happy but 1 Macklemore song. I am reeeeaaalllly tired of that song. But 15 minutes? I could handle. Then after work we would pick him up and then drive to get Landon. He would scream while you waited. Then scream the 20 min home. If there was end of day traffic, lord help us. But again, we would just turn up the radio and Landon would hand him toys…we could make it. But then came trips to the river. 2.5 hours in the car. He wouldn’t fall asleep. He would just stay awake and whine and scream. By the time we got either to the river or home, we were spent. Done. Vacation started with a shroud of raw nerve endings.

So 2 weekends ago we were going to the river again. I knew I was going to be on edge. I told Kevin to turn him around. So we did…and while he didn’t sleep like we hoped, he was happy. He could see us. We could hand him toys. Pull his feet. Play peekaboo. He would just watch out the window. Glorious. He has been turned around ever since. To and from work has about 80% less screaming. Now it’s just for us to take his shoes off for him.

But I write this because it was a difficult decision…and probably not a popular one with some of you. And I am ok with that. The point that stuck in my mind was one day the screaming me was making me so angry and flustered that I concluded me driving in that state isn’t very safe either. I would rather have my wits about me and having a positive car experience over trying to just hang on for dear life until we got home. Once again, what works for my family.

So when did you turn your munchkin around and why?


  1. We switched Archer around 18 months, as I recall, and I wish that we had done it sooner. The amount of anxiety the screaming was causing me definitely made me a worse driver. The commute was already fraying my mental stability. The commute with screaming kid? Fffffffuuuuuuuuu.

  2. I switched Zoey at 26 months. She was perfectly content with rear facing. I got a new car and when putting her seat back in, I just decided to turn her around.

    Hannah is 13 months and will be rear facing until at least two. Unless, of course, a similar situation occurs and it’s no longer safe for me to drive with the screaming.

    You did what was right for your family. Bravo.

  3. We had to turn Reagan around at 15 months after she started throwing up in her car seat. Turned her around and no problem since.

  4. I’ma ll for safety. And reading about safety. And being safe.

    I’m all about sanity. And not losing my effing mind.

    My (now 3 year old) was born he hated the car with a scream that would make me pound my head against the steering wheel and hope for an epidural for my ears.

    The day he turned 1, we turned him. I can’t look back. It wasn’t perfect. But it was so so so much better.

    Cheers, mama.

  5. E made it to about 16 months, if that, before she went bat shit crazy about rear-facing. I think a couple of rides in my dad’s truck where she got to face forward due to being in the front seat did us in. For the same reasons as you, it was safer for my road skills.

    Alec seems to be content rear-facing, but I think it has to do with our dual DVD player. While he doesn’t always watch what’s on, it’s something distracting that helps. We’re hoping to keep him rear facing until his legs can’t fit.

    Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. And it’s not like you turned him around before he was one or was 20 lbs…

  6. We turned D around when he was 13 months but I think that was right before the new guidelines came out? Anyway, there’s what’s recommended and what’s realistic and you have to pick what works for you and your family.

  7. If my kid were screaming, I would turn him around too. No judgment whatsoever from me for doing what works for your family. You are a smart lady and weighed the risks/benefits and made the right decision for you. Knox is still content rearfacing (will be 3 in November). However, he is an only and so doesn’t know any different. We once took a car trip with two forward facing toddlers and my kid cried the whole way because he couldn’t see the DVD player. If he had more exposure to forward facing, I think he would have more of a problem and we would turn him around. For now, it works for him to still rear face and I will probably keep him rear facing until he hits 30#s. (he’s mostly caught up now, but was not on the growth chart his first two years due to health issues, so he was very tiny).
    Last year, he and my husband were in a severe high speed car accident that totaled both cars and sent everyone to the hospital. My son was taken because daddy went and because of his age, but he was completely fine. I attribute that to being properly buckled in his properly installed car seat (and because babies are Gumby-esque). I believe being properly buckled and installed is more important than having a $500 carseat or the direction being faced.

  8. The screaming sent me over the edge since we were in the car somewhere between 30minutes or up to 1.5 hours in the evening. So, on her 1st birthday we turned her. And everyone is not on the brink of insanity any longer.
    I applaud safety but sanity first.

  9. We made it to 22 months with my first son. With my second, he’s almost 20 months and still rear-facing, but I’m tempted on a daily basis to turn him around. Our commute to daycare is short so he’s fine then, but whenever we go somewhere farther away, he get whiney. Doesn’t wail the way my first did, but it’s still not fun. I think we’ll turn him around soon.

  10. I failed too. (Sorry, doc.) First of all, my son is just SO long. He’s always been in the 90s for height and his feet were crammed up against the back of the seat – it looked like a terrible way to ride in a car. So, we made an executive decision around 18 months to turn him around. It’s wayyyyy better for many reasons!

  11. We turned Maddie around at 15 months. Same situation. I felt like the day after I turned her the interwebs blew up with ERF stuff. So we made it to 20 months with Hannah. But she, too, was miserable and I was done.

  12. I think my son was just about one. I know, I know. But it was so miserable listening to him cry, and also he was super tall, so his knees would be buckled up and we were doing 4 hour road trips.

  13. Dylan was just over 13 months. Like you with Landon, the “rules” back then was 12 months and 20 pounds. Well, my skinny child wasn’t 20 pounds until 13 months. We had already been to the fire department to install a new car seat in my husband’s car just before his birthday. It was forward facing. We kept him out of it until he was past the 20 pounds, but once we did – he was so much happier. He was never a bad rider, but there is something about forward facing. I soon flipped the one in my car (the car he primarily rode in) and we never went back. I know too it’s said that it doesn’t matter if their legs are scrunched up but that was another thing with him being in the 90 percentile back then. I do think he was more comfortable when he could stretch his legs out. At any rate, we’re well past that now and I don’t judge any parent turning their child after a year.

  14. Loved this post. We didn’t even make it a year with my first. My son screamed bloody murder in the car every time and at 11 months we had to travel 6 hours to a funeral. So we turned him and it was soooo much better. I drove like a crazy person when he was wailing in the car, trying to shave seconds off our drive to end the torturous screaming. My kiddo was DEFINITELY safer with a sane driver. And 90% of our driving never went over 30 MPH, so I figured I was taking a calculated risk. I wish the AAP would end every reccomendation with, “…but do what’s best for your family” so you can do what your gut tells you without the guilt of feeling like a bad mamma for breaking “the rules.” Our second kiddo is better in the car, but I doubt we’ll make it to 2. I just loved being able to hand out snacks, and point out things along our drive to day care every day, particularly as they’re learning words in that second year.

    An aside – I recently discovered your blog and am such a fan. It’s so refreshing to hear from a mom who is confidant in her parenting choices and unapologetic about doing what’s right for her and her family. I kind of have a mom crush on you Brandy, in that way when you “meet” a mom you want to be more like. Cheers to you & thanks for your blog.

  15. Our daughter is only 8 months and we haven’t reached the point where this decision has to be made…but I plan to make the decision based on physics (and sanity…)

    In the event of a head on collision, the car stops more quickly that everything not bolted down so any passengers (including the baby) tend to keep moving forward at the same speed the car was previously traveling. If the child seat is rear facing, the impact on the body is spread out over a much larger area as the entire distance from the baby’s head to their ass is pressed into the car seat vs only the seat belt straps for front facing. This is why extended rear facing is recommended.

    However, in the event that someone rear ends you the opposite is true. The car moves forward more quickly than the passengers. If your child is in a rear facing car seat, the ‘g’ load from the impact forces them rearward held in place only by the car seat straps.

    So the real decision each parent should make is are you a shitty driver (or do you have the tickets and/or accident record to prove it). In Brandy’s case, a screaming child made her a worse driver (self admitted) and therefore more likely to get in to a head-on collision…so her decision was actually based on physics…even if she didn’t know it.

  16. My daughter just hit 12 months and my husband has been asking when we can switch. I hope to stick it out as long as I can – once she’s buckled in she’s fine these days (but WHAT is with the tantrum getting in!?) and hopefully she’ll keep that up for a while. I say you’re safer now because you have your wits about you and aren’t distracted by the screaming!

  17. I turned my first around at one year. A) The two year internal decapitation thing hadn’t come out and B) He was too big to face backwards. I turned the second at one year. He got sick being turned backwards. I decided to take my chances to preserve my nerves from the screaming and the vomit. With my third, I will turn her around at one year. She doesn’t like riding backwards as it is, and I’m an equal opportunity parent. So I failed too… though technically I never even tried. Then again, I’ve also been known to leave my kids unattended in my car for two minutes while I run into the gas station, so I’m a shitty parent for other reasons than rear-facing car seats. It’s what works for my family.

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  20. I agree with your honesty but I think you should have persevered for a little longer but I understand your need for peace of mind at least you weren’t one of them parents who say it wasn’t convenient for my family WTH is that even meant to mean x

  21. Rear facing until 2 is safest and I personally would have stuck it out. It’s your child though and you have live with any consequences good or bad not me.

  22. AHHH! THANK YOU! It’s so wonderful to know that there are moms out there who truly feel that we need to do what is best for the family rather than according to “recommendation.” My 8 month old is nearly 20 lbs and nearly walking and I am counting down the days until she is heavy enough to turn her. Car trips are a nightmare and she cranes and strains to look forward. Counting down the days!!!!

  23. I know this is super late to an old party but I just wanted to say I totally hear this, My 3 month old was screaming the entire time in the car. We went on a big family vacation 4 1/2 hours away and he SCREAMED like someone was tearing his heart out. I was in tears and sobbing. Because we have an old truck with no air bags in the front I moved his seat up so I could at least reach to give him his paci the next time I had to go somewhere. Miraculously he didn’t need it because he could see me. He has been a perfect angel in every car ride since as long as he can sit in the front. I dread getting a new car (which will be very soon I know) because I love my old no air bags truck that he can sit in front with me. Ugh.

  24. I enjoyed your post and your honesty about not being able to do the extended rear facing thing with your kids. Now with that being said, I gotta wonder about doing a selfie with the kids while you are driving on the freeway. You can see the reflection in your glasses.

  25. We turned my son as soon as he hit 22 pounds (here the law is 1yr and 22lbs). No matter how short the car rides were he would scream and cry. On the 3 hr trips down home to visit family he would literally scream and cry the entire time. My mother (she drives us and I live with her) couldn’t take it anymore so we turned hm around and now he’s happy in the car. Honestly, you have to do what works for you and your family. Driving with a screaming baby just isn’t safe.

  26. Mama I feel you. While I agree with the rear facing to the max position, I also agree with the notion that less child screaming stress is way better for keeping everyone safe while traveling point A to B…..

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