Persuading partner to use rear-facing car seat
September 8, 2017 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Toddler_in_Rome is 13 months. Me and partner have bought our first car. I have made it very clear to partner that I want Toddler to be rear-facing for as long as possible, ideally until 4. I am a very anxious person and have massive worries about car safety. I've read so much about the benefits of rear-facing but partner won't listen and has bought a forward-facing seat. How can I persuade him we should buy a rear-facing seat instead?

His reasoning is that Toddler will get carsick and upset if rear-facing and we won't be able to see him. I think it is also about him resenting me micromanaging our son's life and wanting to make decisions himself. Our relationship has been tough work since Toddler was born and I don't have the energy to argue over this if it is just going to make us both angry/upset and isn't going to make a difference, so need a clear strategy for changing his mind. Please help.
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome to Human Relations (32 answers total)
Car seat safety pamphlets, websites, etc. suggest that toddlers need to be in a rear facing car seat until they are 2 years old or until they are at the max weight for their rear facing seat. I can't argue for/against his car sickness concern and it's probably not relevant that none of the moms I know have talked about their baby getting carsick because of their rear facing seat.

The hard thing about parenting is that there's no such thing as making decisions yourself if you are co-parenting (meaning, two adults trying to care for the same child in any sort of cohesive manner). It sounds as if you're not able to reach agreements on how to raise and care for your son and that your partner feels railroaded. You didn't ask for this advice but maybe look into the Bringing Baby Home / Gottman Institute workshops you can do for your relationship. All relationships suffer in some capacity after having a child at home.

Apart from the safety recommendation for car seat standards, there's not a clear way to change his mind. There's nothing I've read about keeping children in a rear facing seat until 4. That seems excessive and not supported by any car safety site I've read or recommendation received from my son's pediatrician. If you really don't want to argue about it and just have your way, you could buy the car seat you see as ideal but that really won't help the resentment, tension, and arguments you're experiencing in general with your relationship.
posted by toomanycurls at 9:51 AM on September 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

Rear-facing is required by law for kids under two in California. Here's some info from a car seat safety advocacy organization, the California Highway Patrol, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
posted by stillmoving at 9:52 AM on September 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

Depending on what state you live in, it might be illegal for your one-year-old to be in a forward facing car seat. And it's dangerous. I feel like you need to put your foot solidly down, return the forward-facing seat, get a rear-facing.

The child won't get carsick, and get a mirror if he's so worried about seeing him while driving. This is a safety issue. Your partner is being ridiculous. Don't bend. I'm sorry, maybe I'm a harpy, but I wouldn't bother trying to convince him. Just do what's safest. This is your child's life, potentially.
posted by Aquifer at 9:53 AM on September 8, 2017 [12 favorites]

Can you compromise? Buy a combination seat that can rear or forward face and agree to turn forward facing at 2?

I am a proponent of extended rear facing, but recent review of the research casts doubt on its benefits past 2 years.

Also where are you located (are you actually in Rome)? Some US states have laws about what age kids can forward face, and I think the UK says 13 months is too young.
posted by Kriesa at 9:53 AM on September 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

Are you just looking for stats, cuz that's fairly easy.

Source 1 (with its own sources listed)
"the odds of severe injury for forward-facing infants under 12 months of age were 1.79 times higher than for rear-facing infants; for children 12 to 23 months old, the odds were 5.32 times higher."

Here's the scholarly source that it looks like those numbers came from:

When 1 year olds were analyzed separately, these children were also more likely to be seriously injured when restrained in FFCSs (OR [Odds Ratio]  = 5.32, 95% CI 3.43 to 8.24). Effectiveness estimates for RFCSs (93%) were found to be 15% higher than those for FFCSs (78%).

It's unlikely that your child will get motion sick, but even if they do there doesn't seem to be a difference rear-facing vs. forward facing for that motion sickness.

And you can/should get a mirror so you can see him.

Your partner is literally putting your child's life at risk. Get a convertible (can face forward or backwards), install it back-facing. This one is not up for debate.
posted by brainmouse at 9:54 AM on September 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Buy new car seat, remove old car seat, install new car seat.

I mean, if he's not going to listen to reason, just do the thing yourself. Tell your partner he can save the fwd facing carseat for a few years, return it, sell it, or give it away.
posted by vunder at 10:11 AM on September 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

You have a ton of evidence that rear facing is safer. He has NO evidence that rear facing causes car sickness. Your evidence trumps his lack of evidence.
Maybe get your pediatrician to weigh in.

Fwiw, this is something you guys need to start working on obvs.
posted by k8t at 10:12 AM on September 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

Here's the scholarly source that it looks like those numbers came from

That is the study that has recently come into question. The gist of it is that there is likely some benefit to rear facing until 2, but it is unproven and almost certainly not 5X safer than forward facing.

I'm not trying to convince you not to RF - I think it is definitely worth it until 2. My toddler is RF at 3 and will be until she complains, since there is almost certainly no harm and *may* be a marginal benefit. But I don't think any more that it's the big deal it's been made into. If she were prone to carsickness, we'd have flipped the seat already for sure.
posted by Kriesa at 10:16 AM on September 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yep, brainmouse beat me to it:

Forward-facing at that age is putting life at quantifiably increased risk for a demonstrably baseless reason.

Fuck that, you need to dig in on this.

Goddam adult passengers would ideally face rear, it's so much safer on average.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:18 AM on September 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

What kind of car seat can you even buy for a 13-month-old that is front-facing only? You can buy a convertible seat that can face either way, but front-only seats don't really show up until you're dealing with booster seats, when the kid is like 3.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:25 AM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think it is also about him resenting me micromanaging our son's life and wanting to make decisions himself. Our relationship has been tough work since Toddler was born and I don't have the energy to argue over this if it is just going to make us both angry/upset and isn't going to make a difference, so need a clear strategy for changing his mind.

I think you're right, that this isn't really about the car seat. I think you and he need to come to a place of teamwork in parenting. I see this happen so many times, where one parent becomes the "expert" on the child and the other parent gets shut out of decision-making. It ends up causing so much resentment and frustration on both sides.

I know it's really hard with a young child to find time for it, but I think it would help a lot to talk to a therapist together and work on some strategies for making these decisions together and feeling like you trust each other.
posted by exceptinsects at 10:37 AM on September 8, 2017 [11 favorites]

I lean towards the forward-seating side. (Even before the recent statistical debate, I was skeptical about the results of the 2007 paper, because the extra safety was supposedly in side crashes, rather than frontal, though basic physics would suggest that the effect should be reversed.) The odds of a serious crash are very small. (In the United States, about 1 fatality per 100 million miles traveled, and about 1 injury per million miles traveled. I'd guess it might be higher in Rome, but still on the same order of magnitude). And my child cried and got sick more when rear facing; not only was it annoying for all of us, it was somewhat distracting to the driver. But you don't know how your child will react.

That said, you certainly have a reasonable case. But don't argue: Appeal. Say that you understand his perspective, but that this is important to you, and that it would remove a big stress if you did rear facing.

But if you are having similar arguments, especially on safety, you will have to figure out what is most important to you, unless you think he is being reckless or irresponsible.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:46 AM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

def. rear facing, but probably not till 4. at some point they will stop fitting in the seat if it's rear-facing. we switched our daughter out a few weeks before she turned 2 because it was really uncomfortable for her at that point.
posted by pyro979 at 10:54 AM on September 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I haven't seen this linked yet Joe's Journey. This is the resource to use if you're going for emotional impact. It made a big impression on us.

That said, we planned to keep our children rear facing until 3 or 4. But my oldest started to be consistently nauseous at 2.5yrs so we flipped him around then. It stopped the nausea immediately and frankly changed his whole attitude about car trips. My soon to be 2 yr old has thrown up recently twice immediately after stopping car rides. We will probably flip him forward right at 2. I call bullshit on statements like "rear facing can't make them nauseous". Like everything else dealing in babies, toddlers, and people, YMMV and absolute statements are rubbish.

Also not to be discounted is the distraction of trying to deal with a fussy toddler while trying to catch glimpses of them in a tiny, crappy mirror.

In other words, I'm on team weigh the pros and cons and no longer one of the rear facing fascists :-D
posted by no1hatchling at 11:08 AM on September 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

Small Merocet was rear facing until this week just after her 4th birthday. She was not bothered or uncomfortable in any way from facing backwards for all that time despite being tall for her age. As an added bonus, 4 is a brilliant age to suddenly be forward facing. She's literally whooping and laughing with delight as we go down hills and round sharp turns.

Science is on your side and so is entertainment value. Nthing making a stand on this then working on your shared communication. Your partner is wrong by every metric.
posted by merocet at 11:11 AM on September 8, 2017

No idea what my parents did, but my car sickness didn't manifest itself until age 5. And then, quite obviously.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:13 AM on September 8, 2017

Just talk to a pediatrician. Rear-facing is nearly unanimous.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:20 AM on September 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would suggest that you set aside, for now, the ideal that your child should be rear-facing until four. Focus on bring rear-facing until two. That position has much more support and is a more reasonable request. Tell your partner you would feel much better if toddler faced the rear at least until two, and you can revisit the issue after the second birthday. A mirror will let you see the child clearly, and if he's been rear-facing until now without issue, there's no reason to believe it's going to be a problem soon.

If your partner will agree to that, you have 11 more months to think about the next step.

If your partner won't agree to something that (1) is very likely safer for Toddler, (2) definitely won't harm Toddler, and (3) would make you feel much, much better, then I'd say (as you surely know) you have a bigger relationship issue than a difference of opinion about car seat positioning.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:29 AM on September 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

Those car mirrors are great, and because of where the mirror is located (strapped to the headrest) it's easy to see it in your rear-view mirror. I could see my kid much more easily when he was rear-facing and we used a mirror than I can now that he is forward facing and his head is so much lower than the mirror was.
posted by beandip at 11:35 AM on September 8, 2017

I think the issue here is how to persuade him. Since you say you are an anxious person and worry about car safety, perhaps you can appeal to him with that, not that it's more logical or safer but whether he can agree to it as a favor to you, to reduce your anxiety.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 11:37 AM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

SO, I told you how strongly I feel about this. I have purchased a rear-facing seat. When Toddler is 2, we can discuss it some more. There are many areas where we can disagree, but when it comes to safety, we go with the recommendations of the NHTSA and the AAP. Parenting as a team is non-trivial. Should we get some therapy to help us learn to negotiate how we do this?

As far as your anxiety, I get it, but I'll also note that somebody left a baby in a carseat on top of the car and drove on a crazy-busy Boston highway. Baby in carseat fell off. Baby was unharmed. Carseats are really safe, even 1. You know, don't leave the baby on top of the car, but trust the carseat.
posted by theora55 at 12:12 PM on September 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

1. Take the seat back.
2. Get a rear-facing car seat.
3. Put the kid in it.
Don't put the onus on him to take it back, even if you feel like he should (and I feel like he should). Just make it a non-issue, this is how it's going to be at least until 2. Then if you want to re-examine, you'll have plenty of experience of the kid being just fine rear-facing.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:14 PM on September 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Are you in Rome? Because if so, car safety is a completely different issue from in the US, for several reasons.
One big reason is that the cars themselves are far more regulated in the EU than in the US.
Where I live rear-facing carseats are not recommended, and carseats must go in the back seats. For toddlers, rear-facing seats are discouraged - if your husband is European he might have this perspective.
Driving in Europe is very different from in the US. Among other things, a drivers license is far more difficult to achieve, and the regulations are much stricter. The cars are also regulated in ways that secure drivers and passengers. This makes drivers licenses and cars way more expensive than in the US, but it also makes driving safer.
For anyone who feels they need to talk down the European guidelines for automobile safety, the only thing I have to say is that European traffic casualties are much lower than those in the US
posted by mumimor at 12:39 PM on September 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

His reasoning is that Toddler will get carsick and upset if rear-facing and we won't be able to see him.

There is an easy solution to the second part of this: they make mirrors specifically so that you can see the kid and they can see you. There is an entire Amazon category for it, with products mostly under $25USD.
posted by epanalepsis at 1:15 PM on September 8, 2017

Because the consensus is rear-facing until 2 years, why not make that the standard for now? Not flexing from 4 years could be making your partner dig in against what he thinks is an extreme position. You can cross the bridge and decide again after you've reached the 2-year mark.

Also, are you getting treatment for the anxiety? It sounds like a miserable thing to deal with, especially with a child. It may also be a good idea to find a couples counselor so that you both can find your way to a balance co-parenting situation where there's no micromanaging and both parents make decisions together instead of unilaterally and in opposition.
posted by quince at 1:46 PM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am a very anxious person and have massive worries about car safety.

That there is the problem. Even though you are correct, your partner finds it difficult to take you seriously because you have obsessions/anxiety about everything.

I think you should try to explain to him, showing studies and the latest laws, that your desire for a rear-facing car seat is not just another manifestation of your anxiety, but actually a "best practice" that is being widely adopted.
posted by deanc at 1:51 PM on September 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

If it's a big deal to you, you can sit down during an unemotional time and say "listen, I realize that you think I'm overreacting but this is a big deal to me and I'm going to ask you to just respect my feelings on this."

The other way that I get my partner to reconsider decisions that I feel I have really thought out and that I feel he really hasn't thought out (but which are not emotional for me, ie anxiety-producing) is to say "okay, since we disagree about this change and you insist on doing it, you are going to have to own the consequences of your decision. If kid gets fussy you are on kid-comforting duty. If kid gets sick (as in the case of wanting to "try" foods that kid is allergic to) you will be the one to take time off, go pick up kid and take him to the dr. If kid gets massively injured due to car seat placement and ends up paralyzed and needing 24hr care for the rest of his life, you will be the one to quit your job and be the SAH caregiver (yes, I would absolutely go there if the issue was that important to me)." Then he gets to decide how he wants to proceed.
posted by vignettist at 2:47 PM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think you should not present this as an issue about your feelings. He has, or thinks he has, good reasons to disregard your anxious feelings. This really isn't about feelings anyway, it is about safety guidelines based on data from crash test results.

Call your kid's pediatrician. Do what they say. They have more information about it than you or your husband do. If they say to do rear-facing, just do it, don't make your husband returns stuff or uninstall the front facing one.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:37 PM on September 8, 2017

Here's a different perspective showing the way it's done in Sweden and Norway for dramatic reductions in child injuries. I'm not sure how you're going to change your partner's mind, although if it were me I'd just buy the rear-facing seat and point blank refuse to let the child travel in anything else.

You're not supposed to be watching your child when driving. You're supposed to be watching the road.

I agree with comments above, though, that this shows a serious problem in the relationship if you can't agree on basic parenting safety. It needs sorting out before many more issues come along. Have you found out whether he has dangerous views on vaccination, education, internet use, and all the other things you're going to have to present a united front on in the future?
posted by tillsbury at 4:58 PM on September 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

tillsbury beat me to it; was just about to post the same link. "The Swedish approach to child car seat safety is deceptively simple, yet it results in the best child traffic safety numbers on the planet. Virtually no children die from traffic incidents in Sweden each year, and this has been the case for many years now." This is a country that does rear-facing seats for several years. My American daughter is visiting me in the US and insisted I get a rear-facing toddler seat for her kid for safety reasons and naturally, I complied.

Look, OP: You are not going to change your husband's mind. Even so, you don't have to give your husband veto power over this. As others have pointed out, you can go buy your own seat, install it, and tell your husband you refuse to compromise on this safety issue. Luckily, fatal car crashes are relatively rare, but they are not rare enough. I would be devastated if my child were injured or died in a car crash while in a forward-facing seat because I know that rear-facing seats are safer.

The particular additional margin of safety may seem academic to the many lucky folks who never find themselves in a car crash. But if such a terrible thing came about, how challenging would it be to live with the choice you made to defer to your husband on this?

I think couples have to be flexible and accommodating for one another in parenting and other matters. But this isn't about your anxiety. I mean, it may be for your husband, and you may need to work on your anxiety and fear for your son. (As a high-anxiety mom, I wish I had gotten help with that when my kid was young.) But that's really a different issue. When it comes to rear-facing car seats, the facts are on your side. You are not imagining that, and this Internet stranger gives you permission to act accordingly. You husband will probably get mad, and then he will probably get over it. And if not, well, good to figure that out sooner rather than later anyway. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 12:34 AM on September 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Show him this.
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 1:50 PM on September 11, 2017

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