Important Things to Remember When Choosing a Car Seatby Kirsty Taylor-Moran
When I was at university I worked part-time in the travel department at a very well-known but now-defunct high street shop for baby essentials. I received some really eye-opening training about car seats and car safety but my biggest takeaway was that just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it is the safest option, or even safe at all. I was responsible for advising, training and fitting car seats and I’m still pretty militant about car seat safety for infants and toddlers 6 years later. I wanted to share the five most important things to bear in mind when you are choosing a seat for your baby or child; whether you are buying a seat for occasional use by grandparents or the seat that will bring your baby home from hospital and see them through until they start pre-school.
1. Get advice from a reputable car seat specific professional or retailer. There are a few brilliant places that will help you choose the perfect seat for your child and will allow you to make an informed decision. A booster seat from your local supermarket just won’t cut it.
2. Rear-facing isn’t just for newborns; for small children, the weight of their head is really disproportionate to the rest of their bodies which means that impacts in car accidents can be so much more dangerous for them. It is 500% safer to keep them rear-facing and there are lots of options on the market for extended rear-facing for up to the age of 6. Please don’t rush to move them forward-facing, it is not a milestone or something to look forward to and I promise you their little legs won’t be making them uncomfortable if they are still rear-facing. Just because you can get seats for them to forward face from 9 months old does not make it safe.
3. Car seat safety is still super important for older children, and they must use an appropriate seat until either they are 12 years old or 135cm in height. Once they are big enough, they can use a high-backed booster seat which uses a seatbelt rather than a harness to keep them in. So often I would have parents telling me about their child being too big for a ‘baby seat’ but as a society, we really need to move the focus away from linking car seat progression to maturity. I fully plan to keep my son rear-facing for as long as I can get a seat to accommodate that, I don’t want anyone to make him feel like he is a baby for being safe in the car
4. Some car seat costs can seem really intimidating but it is worth keeping an eye out for offers and promotions. Another way to save money could be by choosing a seat that makes use of the same Isofix base for more than one stage. You don’t need to choose the most expensive seat on the market but equally make sure any seat you choose conforms to the necessary safety standards and regulations. Different manufacturers conduct different safety testing on seats, and a cheapy polystyrene booster will not have been put through its’ paces in the same way an extended rear-facing 0+ seat will have.
5. Up to 70% of children’s car seats are either inappropriate for the child, incorrectly fitted or incompatible with the car. It is really important that you check the seat you want is compatible with all and any of the cars that it will be fitted in and that you fit it correctly. Most manufacturers have tools on their website to check for your make and model of car and reputable retailers will offer a fitting service. If you get stuck, there are often fitting guides available online. Isofix is almost idiot proof but if you are correctly fitting a car seat with a seat belt in an older car, it will be as safe.
6. It is not recommended to buy a second-hand car seat because it is unlikely you will know the full history of the seat- it could have been dropped or in a minor collision and therefore is unsafe to use. Car seats also have an expiration date so car seat hand me downs within a family aren’t always advisable either.