In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with new guidelines that a child should remain in a rear-facing carseat until the age of 2 or until a child maxes out height and/or weight limits for rear-facing in their carseat. You can view their statement here:http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/state-advocacy/Documents/Child_Passenger_Safety_SLR.pdf
Many parents were upset about these guidelines stating that a one year old is too tall to be rear-facing in the car and why should that be the case when the state law is one year of age and twenty pounds? Well, to be honest, this guideline was made because rear-facing truly is safest; further, there are European countries where children are rear-facing until the age of 4 and there are lower child mortality and severe injury rates in the case of car accidents. Are there people who still choose to switch their babies at only the age of one? Of course there are. Am I one of them? No, I am not. My J is 22 months old, 34 lbs and a tad over 3 feet tall, and with his carseat that has a 40 lb, 40 inch rear-facing limit, he will probably remain that way until he is closer to the age of 3.
People have made comments like, "But he's so uncomfortable rear-facing," "My parents didn't even have a carseat. I wonder how I lived," and so on. The truth of the matter is I will always put safety first. No, in the 50s and 60s and 70s, people didn't use carseats and guess what....gradually the rate of infant and child mortality in the case of automobile accidents in our country has declined. Physics can explain why rear-facing an infant and toddler is safest when it comes to the car on thecarseatlady blog: http://www.thecarseatlady.com/car_seats/rear-facing_seats_2.html. You can also see a video that illustrates this here: Crash tests with FF vs RF carseats
As far as comfort goes, children are much more flexible than adults and as a result do not get uncomfortable the way we do. I've seen many tots who bend themselves in half when they play, including my son, and who stretch their legs in a way that they can put their toes in their mouths. You should know that almost all toddlers will have a stage when they hate being in the carseat, not because of comfort, but because they do not like being restrained. Why go in a buckled seat when you can crawl and walk all over the place? When J hit that stage, I started keeping a basket with a variety of toys and books in the car and would give J a few in the car. At red lights, I would switch out his toys so he didn't get bored. I also kept his Wiggles cd in the cd player of the car and sang to that wit him. "I Spy" is also a popular car game for me and J; I keep the headrest off of his captain chair that the carseat it installed in and say, "I spy___" about things we pass so he can look for them.
To be honest, I was debating switching J's carseat to forward-facing on his 2nd birthday until last week when my car was seriously damaged from another driver slamming into the side of it. My entire body was jerked forward and a couple of hours later my back hurt from muscle strain, however, J remained unmoved in his rear-facing carseat and had no idea that an accident had occurred. He only started fussing when we took the time to make the report with the police because he was tired and bored. What happened that day cemented my understanding that rear-facing a carseat really is the best thing, and I replaced the carseat we were using with one that has even higher rear-facing and forward-facing limits.
If you're looking into a carseat with great rear-facing limits, there are many now. Prior to the accident, we used an Evenflo Triumph 65 advanced which has a 37" and 1" below top of carseat rule for height and 40 lb weight limit. With J's crazy tallness, dh and I knew that we needed one with an even bigger height limit. If you google the carseatlady blog, you can find suggestions on all kinds of carseats.