Whether you are expecting a child, waiting for your wife to be released home from the hospital with your new family member, or you already have children , it is always worth to put in the effort and get informed about the things you’ll need to do in order to make your life easier and their life safer.
The popular opinion and the general advice you’ll run into all point towards you spending a lot of money, but there are actually plenty of tricks on how you can remain in control of your budget and still have a safer environment for your baby at the same time.
Expensive does not necessarily mean the safest or the best, as you’ll see how making a decision about which baby car seat you want to buy requires consideration before you make it. This is primarily targeted towards your child’s safety and finding the best car seat which is the best fit for your car, not just by dimensions but by type, size, baby/child’s age, height, and other accessories. Additionally, proud parents must also consider the laws for whichever part of the world that they’re in, because they may also regulate child seats differently to other parts of the world.
Why do we need a baby/child car seat?
Child or baby car seats are usually advertised as a safety measure. As something which you need to keep the small ones safe in a crash. And, while it truly is stressful for parents to even consider such scenarios you must do everything to be prepared for every potential situation. But, there is actually another side to it, a brighter side, and that’s the fact that child car seats will actually provide you with much-needed convenience during trips, as well as put your baby or a toddler in a position to spark and satisfy their curiosity.
What is meant by that is that baby car seats, for instance, are designed so that they place at baby in a 45° angle and facing the rear wind shield of your car. And, as you probably already know, the baby’s eyesight takes time to form completely. After birth, the first few days are very blurry for the baby and their vision is about 20/400. Their vision is like a blurry camera, but within one week of birth, the baby can already focus on objects approximately 10 inches from their face. So, the baby’s eyesight should be well formed by the time he or she is okay for transportation, and thus it is very important how you do it.
Parents who are expecting their first child sometimes guess that the baby won’t be moved a lot during the first few months after birth, due to it being frail and hypersensitive. And it is true to a certain degree, you won’t be taking your baby out for a drive on a whim, but those parents are forgetting to factor in the mandatory visitations to the doctor’s office.
To put it plainly, as soon as your child is ready to be taken home from the hospital, you will need your child car seat at the ready. Of all the purchases you’ll make for your baby, the car seat is among the most important ones.
The next thing which interests people is which one to buy, and as mentioned there are several very important things you need to factor into your decision. You must decide on which baby car seat type you need, for how long are you’re planning on using it, and think on many other factors before you even begin considering the brand or the price.
A survey back in 2015 revealed that only 7% of the parents in the UK knew the basics on baby car seats, even though it is a matter of utmost importance and safety, parents are urged to make informative decisions.
This guide will educate you on the basic info about child car seats, such as types, sizes, quality classes, accessories, and everything else you need to know.
Different types of child car seats
There are three basic types of child car seats:
- Baby (group 0+),
- Convertible (group 1),
- Booster (group 2&3)
Each of these with their own set of rules, uses, and pros/cons. As you might imagine, the first three years of the child’s life is when their body grows quite fast, so all three types are usually cycled through during those first three years. Furthermore, in the UK there is a law which states the following:
This goes to show how many potential factors you may need to deal with when purchasing the right child car seat for you and your child, but it also indicates that you will be replacing old ones and purchasing new ones as your child grows and develops. The recommended weight for your child for each of the groups overlap, so when purchasing a new one for the next group, you can hold off until your child reaches the top of the range before swapping.
There are also common factors for different car seat groups about swapping. For instance, a usual rule of thumb for group 1 and 2 & 3 child car seats is that the child can be considered to have outgrown it if his or her eyes are levelled with the top of the seat (approx. upper 5 inches).
Please note that there are child car seats which combine all three groups in one, thanks to padding and different accessories, but not all types provide the same level of safety, and it is what you must consider before getting a new one.
Which car is this seat for?
Not all child car seats sizes are the same and they can’t fit in all cars the same way. You should always check how the seat you want to purchase fits in your car, and although some manufacturers and shops won’t have this information, most will make an offer for you to test it out before you buy it. Also, it is worth checking the official website for the particular brand you are interested in, as they may list out the car brands their child seats are compatible with.
Sometimes, you might be using multiple cars for your seat (if family members take your child out). And, so it is imperative that your child car seat is absolutely compatible because you’ll more than likely be installing it in quite a few different vehicles over time.
Most new family cars feature the Isofix mounting system, which is a standard method for mounting baby seats. The system enables you to fit the child car seat without the use of your seat belt. Isofix systems sometimes have two or three points for fixing the seat, so they bring in additional safety along with the convenience.
You are recommended to always go for the one with three or more fixing points. Also, you shouldn’t get one with a drop down fixing foot if your car has under-floor storage, because this will prevent it from being fixed.
How tall are you?
Something people often forget to consider is their own height when purchasing a seat for their child. As you already probably know, the height of the parents determines the positioning of their seat (driver and front passenger). Parents need to leave enough space and legroom for themselves, now must they now consider the room left for the child seat.
How many children will you be transporting?
If you plan on transporting only one child, then you only need to consider the space one seat will occupy, but if you need multiple seats you need to consider much more. Your children may or may not be the same age and size, so chances are your seats won’t be the same either. In fact, in most cases people with more than one child have seats are completely different so you must consider all these factors for each car seat, as well as try and fit them all in your car with the optimum comfort and maximum safety as your goal.
WARNING: Child car seats expire fast
If you hope that your younger children will inherit the child car seats from their older siblings, guess again. Child car seats expire quite fast due to the exposure the plastic has to the Sun in the back seat. Most companies agree that a single child car seat shouldn’t be used for more than 7 years, but we recommend you to use them for shorter duration than that.
Also, if your child seat has many detachable accessories, some may be lost or broken over time, so it is imperative that you do not use a single seat for too long. Do not ever shop for a second-hand seat or take one from a friend or family, because despite all the good intentions this can be irresponsible. These seats are usually made up of plastic, and with a few years of use, they undergo incredible temperature changes, especially those seats which are non-removable and always sit in your car. Remember how hot it is in your car when you leave it out on a sunny day for a few hours? The plastic from a child seat can get even hotter, especially if it’s exposed to direct sunlight.
This can also be unhealthy and dangerous for your child, so keep in mind never to have your child car seat exposed to direct sunlight.
Group 0+: Baby (or infant only) car seats
When you begin your search for info on this topic, you’ll find that many people recommend that you skip over the baby seat altogether. And, there are plenty of good arguments for this. Most Convertible child seats can also be used to bring your baby home from the hospital because most of them have infant inserts and padding, so they can serve as an infant seat.
Firstly, most good quality infant seats are designed in two main parts, the base, and the seat. You install the base in your car but you can insert or remove the seat afterwards easily. This means that you do not have to move your baby in and out of it as much as you would if you had a convertible.
Now, during the first few months babies require lots of sleep, as you already know, and baby car seats offer you the convenient way of bringing them in and out of your car without actually disturbing the baby or waking it up.
Furthermore, some baby car seats come with a matching prams, so you just take the seat off of the car’s base and click it into the pram.
Baby car seats are always rear-facing, and when the seat is placed in the base the back support should be at a 45° angle to the ground. This position is optimal for the baby’s health and safety, and it is advised by all health and baby care public institutions.
Your baby is considered to have outgrown his or her baby car seat by the time it reaches it’s first birthday, but the actual moment is when it is at or about 30 pounds in weight (13.6KG). Most baby seats also have a height limit of 32 inches, so it is quite possible your baby will be too tall before it reaches the weight limit. If your child’s head is 1 inch or closer to the top of the carrier shell then your baby is too tall and has outgrown the seat.
Decent, medium class quality baby car seats range at about £50 to £200.
Group 1: Convertible car seats
After your child outgrows its infant seat, the next step is to get them the convertible.
Convertible seats can be positioned to be facing either to the rear or front, and have similar fastening methods as baby seats.
Convertible seats will feature some padding and accessories, but not as much as a baby car seat has. Since convertibles are used for children from 1 to 4-5 years of age, manufacturers usually leave it up for the parents to get additional padding. This gives the convertible seats the versatility and the wider range of child years because you can adjust its size and positioning as your child grows, and use the seat for a longer time frame (3-4 years).
The important thing to note is that most convertible child car seats are designed to hold children up to 40 pounds(18.1KG) rear-facing, but once your child gets over that weight, you need to start using it as a front-facing seat. Leaving your child seat in the rear-facing position is the safest option, as manufacturers and the law suggest, but once a child outgrows it you need to rotate it to the front.
Convertible seats usually support children up to 70 pounds (31.7KG) of weight in the front-facing position.
Good quality convertible child car seat ranges between £100 and £300, but they last much longer than group 0+ seats, and it is recommended that you get as high end as your budget will allow, you’ll be using this for many years.
Group 2 & 3: Booster seats
Booster child car seats are the simplest of all child car seats, and it makes sense because the child is getting taller and bigger and is soon to outgrow the need for a special seat and start using the car’s default seat. Booster seats are designed to provide support and safety for your child, but at the same time enable the use of your car’s belt system.
There are two versions of booster seats: backless and high-back seats.
Backless seats only offer bottom support, in order to make your child tall enough to fit the car’s seat belt system correctly. This option is much more convenient, as it is easily installed and costs less, but it fails to provide the much-needed security for the child.
High-back booster child car seats provide much-needed protection and safety, and they also help better position the shoulder seat belt. This option is highly recommended and is a much safer choice over the backless version. You do lose convenience and pay more, but these are not the things you should prioritize over safety and the child’s correct sitting posture.
The correct sitting posture and position are very important because now the child is using the car’s seat belt and it needs to fit correctly in order to work.
Because of the impact protection offered, many states have laws concerning booster seats. Some even require children as old as 8 and up to 80 pounds of weight to use a booster, and although it might seem too much at first, it is always better to have as much protection as you can in the event of a potential and unfortunate accident in traffic.
Booster seats range from as low as £10 up to over £200. The backless versions are cheap, but arenot recommended by many public safety care centres all over the world.
A decent quality high-back booster child car seat can be purchased from around £50 or £100, but since you are investing in protection and in a seat which the child will use up to 4 years, it is best you go as high as you can with your budget.
Child car seats come with many additional features and in various shapes and sizes.
Some look better than others, but aesthetics is the last thing that should be considered when purchasing them. Accessories, however, can be important and are worth considering, the investment should be generally targeted towards the build quality, padding, and the positioning. Also, it is imperative that your child car seat fits properly in your car, or in any car, you will be using for your child’s transportation.
Purchasing a proper child car seat does not only mean you abide by the law but that you are getting the best possible security and safety for your child during car transportation. It is also important to remember that the best protection for your child in your car is you yourself, or whoever is driving. Always drive responsibly and with the highest caution, and even though your children outgrow child car seats completely, it is still recommended that they ride at the back seat of the car if they are under 13.