Top tips for buying a car seat
When it comes to ensuring your child’s safety, any new parent will agree that every decision you need to make is a difficult one. From cots to feeding, there is so much to think about that it can sometimes seem impossible to get everything right.
If you are currently thinking about what kind of car seat to invest in, however, and wondering what the most important things to consider are before purchasing, help is at hand. We have spoken to some of the most respected names in the business in order to share with you comprehensive information about how to choose the right car seat, when to change to a different one, and a number of other essential points.
Which car seat for which age?
We spoke to the experts at BeSafe, a world-renowned car seat and road safety manufacturer based in Norway. Providing high-tech Scandinavian safety since 1963, the team is hugely experienced at keeping children safe on the road.
Below, you will find their advice on the different car seat groupings and how to know when it is time to change yours to the next, as well as a little information about their products:
‘This is one of the most common questions around children’s car seats and the current situation, with different regulations focussing on the weight, height and age of child, can make it all quite confusing. Choosing the right car seat for your child could be one of the most important decisions you make for them.
Group 0/0+ - Baby car seats
‘The baby car seat, or infant carrier, is the first car seat that your child will use from new-born to approximately 12-15 months of age, plus or minus a few months depending on height. The most practical guide for you regarding the right time to change seats is: when the uppermost point of the child’s head reaches the highest point of the seat and when the baby can hold their head steady, then it’s time for the next stage car seat!’
Group 1 – Toddler car seats
‘The toddler car seat is the second car seat for your child. It can be used from approximately six months of age up to four years, depending on the height and weight of your child. Once your child’s shoulders do not fit beneath the headrest when in the maximum position anymore, your child has outgrown the seat and should switch to the next group (the 2/3 seat).
‘According to the regulation UN R129 (i-Size), children must remain rear facing for at least 15 months, but note that BeSafe recommend keeping children rear facing until at least four years of age, and preferably longer. Some seats in this group can be used both rear and forward facing.
‘An additional test called the Plus Test ensures that the car seat has undergone tougher crash tests than required by the regulations themselves. Only rear facing car seats can be approved according to the Plus Test. Read more about the Plus Test here!’
- Purely rear facing car seat, belt-installed: iZi Plus
- Purely rear facing sear seat, ISOfix installed: iZi Kid X2 i-Size
- Purely rear facing car seat, installed with ISOfix base: iZi Modular i-Size RF
- Combi car seat, ISOfix installed: iZi Combi X4 ISOfix
- Combi car seat, installed with ISOfix base: iZi Modular i-Size
Group 2/3 – Highback booster seats
‘This is the car seat that your child will use for the longest time. By law your child should sit in an approved car seat until they are at least 135 cm tall or 12 years old, whichever comes soonest. Using a high back booster seat instead of only a booster ensures that your child is provided with side impact protection during the whole period of use.’
We were also fortunate to hear from another car seat expert, Mark Bennett from the long-established Germany and UK-based car seat manufacturers Britax Römer, to get his advice on what new parents should consider when preparing to bring their baby home for the first time, as well as some recommendations on specific products for children of different ages.
Do you have any tips for first-time parents investing in a car seat to bring their baby home for the first time?
Think about your car
‘Although it does not necessarily affect crash safety, one aspect when choosing an infant carrier often overlooked is the angle of the vehicle seat. These can vary between around 5° to 25° and in some circumstances, this can cause the baby’s head to fall forwards when travelling. Our BABY-SAFE i-SIZE and FLEX Base is designed specifically to correct the angle, as it is adjustable. Details of affected cars can be found by using fit-finder on the Britax Römer website. Simply look-up the BABY-SAFE i-SIZE FLEX Base and your car to find out.'
Ensure you know how to correctly fit and adjust it properly
‘It is always best to have a dry run, ideally before baby comes, and take time to get used to all the adjustments and the installation. So, on the day of collection, you can concentrate on your new baby rather than worry about how to use the car seat.
‘Don’t be afraid to ask for help! When you purchase a new car seat, it’s highly recommended that you take your car to the store and have the seat demonstrated by an in-store specialist who will also fit it into your car for you’
Which car seats would you recommend and why?
BABY-SAFE i-SIZE – infant carrier
‘Our recommended infant carrier would have to be our award-winning BABY-SAFE i-SIZE, suitable from 40 to 83 cm <13 kg (approx. birth – 15 months).
‘BABY-SAFE i-SIZE has been designed to conform to the new car seat regulation ECE R129 (i-Size), and is suitable for new-borns up to 15 months, so they can fit into the seat up to 83 cm in height. The infant carrier has a new-born insert for extra support, also offering energy absorption in case of an impact. The insert can be removed and the height of the headrest adjusted, allowing for more space as your child grows.
‘When it comes to car travel with small new-borns, we understand how difficult it is to decide the best lying position for them. Because a small baby’s muscles aren’t developed enough, a flatter lying position is better, while a more upright position is safer in the event of an impact. The BABY-SAFE i-SIZE has our patented lie-flat technology offering you an easy solution – when you adjust the headrest height the lying position adjusts as well. You can achieve an even better lying position for your little one when using the infant carrier with Britax Römer’s FLEX BASE in certain cars.’
DUALFIX i-SIZE – car seat
‘4 years, 200 weeks, 1,500 days, 1 car seat – constantly comfortable. Our latest car seat, DUALFIX i-SIZE, is suitable for children 40 to 105 cm <18 kg (approx. birth – four years), making it the perfect choice for parents looking for a flexible option for their child.
‘Thanks to its 360 degree rotation, the car seat offers ultimate comfort for parents and children and can be used rearward facing as well as forward facing. Plus, thanks to the lateral rotation to the open car door, placing and harnessing your child is easier than ever before. All combined with a stylish and modern design and our expertise in child car safety – for your peace of mind on any journey.
‘During the first four years of your child’s life, they grow approximately 52 cm. That means that they will have outgrown eight clothing sizes by the time they turn four. DUALFIX i-SIZE provides constant comfort during this time. With 12 recline positions forward and rearward facing, including an ergonomically flat lying position for a new-born and extended leg space for your “big” little one. This means ultimate comfort for the first 1,500 days of your child’s life.
‘Your child’s safety is our top priority. That’s why there are no compromises when it comes to safety. Our internal standards are more demanding than those of the current standard ECE R129 (i-Size). DUALFIX i-SIZE has been equipped with a large number of innovative safety features: for example, the optimised side impact protection SICT inside, implemented by a special steel bar element inside the seat. Or our patented Pivot Link ISOFIX System. This ensures that your child is well protected in every accident, whether it is from the front, from the side or from the back. That’s one thing you can rely on.’
KIDFIX II XP SICT – high back booster
‘For parents looking for a high back booster seat for an older child, we would recommend our KIDFIX II XP SICT, suitable from 15-36 kg (approx. 4-12 years).
‘The KIDFIX II XP SICT is a high back booster seat that goes beyond legal safety standards. The XP-PAD offers unique frontal impact protection for older children while SecureGuard helps to keep the lap belt in an optimal position over your child’s pelvic bones. Furthermore, SICT provides superior side impact protection in the event of a side impact. This highly flexible seat offers the highest level of safety and comfort from four to 12 years.
‘Offering outstanding levels of safety for older children, KIDFIX II XP SICT is a high back booster seat that protects your child from head to hip in the event of a side impact thanks to SICT for superior side impact protection and deep and softly padded side wings. Designed to provide the safety and comfort that children need when they are travelling.
‘Quickly and simply installed using the car’s ISOFIX anchorage points, KIDFIX II XP SICT is permanently attached to the vehicle even when there’s no child in the seat. The seatbelt guides automatically adjust as you change the height of the headrest so that the seatbelt is always correctly positioned to provide the correct fit for your child. As your child grows and their shoulders get wider, the V-shaped backrest ensures a comfortable fit throughout. Plus, thanks to the extendable ISOFIX traverse you can adjust the backrest of your car seat in order to provide a comfortable position for your child and match the angle of the vehicle seat.’
Why do doctors advise you not to leave your new born baby in a car seat too long?
Our final point addresses a question which many parents who are desperate to let their child sleep soundly often ask themselves: why are we advised to take them out of their car seat as soon as the journey is over?
New mums and dads across the country are often amazed by how much even the fussiest of babies seems to enjoy car journeys. No matter how much they have been crying beforehand, it is incredible how quickly babies will calm down and drift off to sleep once the hum of a car’s engine and the gentle motion it makes take over. The problem, of course, is that all car journeys have to come to an end sooner or later, with parents then facing the unenviable task of trying to remove their child from the car seat without waking them. This, unfortunately, often proves impossible!
Whilst the temptation to just leave them sleeping peacefully in the seat for a while can be almost too much to ignore, there are important health reasons as to why this should never be done. For more information on this vital point, we have spoken to the team behind Snugglebundl – an innovative new product that allows parents to move their baby from the car to the home without waking them:
‘A baby’s chin being on their chest causes shallow breathing which lowers the oxygen supply to the brain (normally 98%).
‘Below 90% can lead to brain damage. Babies drop to as low as 83.6% in car seats!
‘Fear of waking a baby means parents often leave theirs in the car seat too long. Snugglebundl’s full head support offers a solution - babies can be lifted out of car seats undisturbed.
‘Doctor Fleming, the leading NHS physician regarding car seat safety, suggests only 30mins in a car seat for new-born babies.
‘So, for an easier life in getting your baby in and out of a car seat and reducing the associated risks of leaving a baby in one for too long, we would recommend you use a Snugglebundl as an essential car seat accessory. It has been crash tested to EU and USA standards for three and five point car seats.’
Working every day to keep your child safe can be a daunting and exhausting experience, and this certainly extends to ensuring they are fully protected whilst travelling. We hope, however, that the above information has put your mind at ease about some of the most common queries regarding the tricky area of car seats, and has reassured you that your concerns are shared by many other parents around the UK!
No matter how safe the car seat you choose is, of course, it will not count for much if you install it in an unsafe car. Older cars and those with less than ideal safety ratings should be avoided if at all possible, with fully tested and approved newer models such as those available from your local Ford garage able to provide the invaluable peace of mind that comes with purchasing a truly high quality family vehicle.