Extended rear facing. It's exactly what it sounds like.
The Canadian government requires that children be rear facing until they are one year old, 20lbs and walking unassisted.
Yes, it's a bit strange that children should be walking unassisted is listed as a guideline in order to forward face in a car seat. While I'm not 100% sure (and can't find a scientific report explaining why) I can only assume this is because then the child's spine is developed enough to withstand a collision better while forward facing.
Children have huge heads. Ask any mother that had a vaginal birth.
They are monstrous compared to the rest of them. This is why children can drown in a small amount of water, why they have so many more stumbles even once sturdy at walking and why when they fall, their head usually hits first.
Picture this :
You're driving down the road, doing a steady 50km/h and out pops some jerkface who didn't bother to shoulder check. You slam on the brakes to avoid him but the person behind you doesn't get the memo. Imagine how your neck feels after that. Now imagine if you had a 10 pound dumbbell strapped to your head and had that happen. It would hurt. In fact, it could even be fatal when your head snaps forward and breaks your neck because it's just too much for your body to handle.
It's a sad truth. There have been many children that had a higher chance of surviving an accident, had they been rear facing a little bit longer. And it's great that many children have, in fact, been spared a tragic outcome because their parents have kept them rear facing at the age of 2 or even 3 years old.
Sometimes as parents, myself absolutely included, we can't wait for our children to grow up. To reach the next milestone. To take their first step or say their first word. To be ready for their big boy bed and get rid of the crib. To attend their first day of school. To attend their last day of high school. To move out.
But moving to a forward facing car seat (and moving to a booster seat) is a milestone we should hold off on for as long as we can.
I've heard some arguments about why they can't rear face their children anymore. And there are reasons why those excuses are, in my eyes, junk.
1. My child's feet are against the seat and they would break their legs in an accident.
See above. Would you rather broken legs or broken necks? I hate to be so blunt and heartless about it, but it's a reality. If they break their legs, they will walk again.
2. My child is 20lbs, walking unassisted and 1 years old. It's safe for her to face forward now.
No. It's legal for her to face forward. But it's still safest for her to be rear facing. There's a difference.
3. My child would prefer to face forward.
This reason makes me laugh. Your child has only ever (I'd hope) rear faced until their first birthday. They don't know any different. They might not even realize that there is an alternative direction to what they are used to.
4. Extended rear facing is just a new fad and it's ideas will die off eventually.
I wonder if they thought that about riding in car seats when it was not as common back in the 80's and most people just set their children loose in the back seat.
Or maybe there was scientific studies and research about the benefits of being in a (properly installed and properly used) car seat.
5. It's more expensive to get a seat to use ERF.
Car seats come in various price ranges. This seat is $89.77. This seat is $599.99. Both have rear facing weight limits that will last you until your child is around three years old. And then both can be used forward facing. Every car seat you can buy, regardless of the price, passes the minimum standards in Canada. That means that every car seat is safe. Some have extra safety built in, which adds to the price.
Today's families drive further and faster on the roads where people are more distracted than ever before. While accidents are not a rare occurrence, death tolls are declining. But they are still happening.
I haven't found any articles stating that if a child had been forward facing instead of rear facing during an accident, the outcome would have been better. (Not saying there isn't any - if you do find something please feel free to link it. I would be interested in reading it!)
My son is 16 months and still rear facing. We plan to keep him rear facing until no longer able to do so (We use the Diono Radian RXT) He could, potentially, rear face until 4 years old. Even longer if he continues at his rate of growth.
*In no way am I an expert on car seats, car seat safety or such. These are soley based on my opinion, my findings of others research/studies and basic gut feeling.
Does your family ERF? What age were your children when you put them forward facing?