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There’s nothing in the world as strong as the protective instinct of a parent for their Baby. It’s hard not to want to wrap them in cotton wool and keep them safe 100% of the time but usually that’s just not an option. Children need to experience the world and getting the occasional “boop” along the way is just part of the trial and error of learning.
That being said, the one place you do want to ensure your baby is as protected is possible is within the car. According to the Department of Transport there were 181,384 people injured in road traffic accidents during 2016, but choosing the right car seat can help prevent your baby being injured, should the worse happen.
What does the law say about car seats?
UK child car seat law states that children should remain in an appropriate car seat until they are 12 years old or over 135cm tall, whichever comes first.
Car seats are separated into groups depending on the childs weight:
Group 0 – 0kg to 10kg – Lie-Flat or lateral baby carrier, rear facing baby carrier/seat.
Group 0+ – 0kg to 13kg – Rear facing baby carrier or seat.
Group 1 – 9kg to 18kg – Rear or forward-facing baby seat.
Group 2 – 15kg to 25kg – Rear or forward-facing child seat, high backed booster seat, or booster cushion.
Group 3 – 22kg to 36kg – Rear or forward-facing child seat, high backed booster seat, or booster cushion.
What should I consider when purchasing my car seat?
Choosing a car seat can be incredibly confusing and a little scary. There are hundreds on offer, all of which have slightly different features and designs, and with car seats being such an important piece of safety equipment it can feel like you’re being asked to choose a life raft when you’ve never even stepped foot in a boat!
This is where my guide can help. I have outlined for you some of the major points to consider when buying a car seat, along with my personal experience and opinions. You can use this guide to clarify what car seat features are important to you and reduce your car seat search from hundreds of options to a handful of carefully considered finalists.
One of the factors that will have the biggest influence over which car seat you buy is your budget. Car seats vary wildly in price from around £50 to around £500 depending on the features and the manufacturer.
When you choose your car seat don’t forget to factor in hidden costs. For example, will you need an ISOFIX base? If you’re buying a baby carrier, will you need to buy a separate rain cover? It all adds up.
It is my opinion that you get what you pay for when it comes to car seats, so I would advise you to budget as much as possible.
ISOFIX -v- seat belt
ISOFIX is a system employed by many modern car seats to connect the seat directly to the chasses of the car. To install an ISOFIX seat two metal connectors are pushed through the back seat of your car at the point where the seat and the backrest meet, to connect to two metal loops welded to the chasses.
There are pro’s and con’s to using ISOFIX. In safety tests conducted by Which? ISOFIX seats come out slightly worse off than car seats installed using a seatbelt, due to more force being transferred to the seat through the chassis. However, the margin was small and was based on the seat belted car seat being correctly fitted, something that is not always the case according to Good Egg who completed a survey of 4,276 cars and discovered that in 66% of them the car seat had been fitted incorrectly.
Having accidently fitted my daughters car seat incorrectly while using a seatbelt, I would always recommend using ISOFIX which was designed to reduce instances of car seats being fitted incorrectly.
What is i-Size
i-Size is the latest car seat regulation which came into force in 2013. The key points to note when choosing your car seat are:
- I-size seats are graded by size and height rather than weight, this is to prevent babies being moved to a front facing seat too early.
- The minimum age for a baby to move to a front facing seat is now 15 months.
- i-size car seats provide better protection in a side or front impact collision and have been tested more rigorously.
- All I-size car seats use ISOFIX as standard.
- I-size car seats provide better head and neck support.
You can still purchase car seats which are not i-size, due to the new regulation sitting alongside the old, rather than replacing it.
Should you choose an i-size car seat?
The short answer is “yes”. I-size car seats have gone through more rigorous testing and been designed to be safer than their predecessors. They are a little more expensive that non i-size car seats but in my opinion, the extra protection is worth the money.
Baby carrier -v- Car seat
When you choose your first car seat you may find yourself automatically looking at baby carriers. However, it is worth considering whether a car seat would be a better choice for you.
- Baby carriers are much lighter than car seats and easier to move between cars.
- They can be fitted and removed with your baby inside.
- Some can be fitted either with ISOFIX or by seatbelt.
- Some can be fitted to travel systems.
- They can be carried with the baby inside.
- Your baby will soon be too heavy to be carried any distance inside a carrier.
- It is not recommended that your baby spends more than 2 hours at a time inside their carrier.
- Attaching carriers to travel systems can be fiddly.
- You will usually need to buy a separate dock if you wish to use ISOFIX.
- They can be difficult to remove from the car in cramped car parks.
- You will need to replace the car seat when your baby reaches 15 months or possibly before depending on your baby and the car seat.
- You will be able to use for much longer than a baby carrier.
- Some include a swivel action to make it easy to remove your child in cramped car parks.
- They can seem more secure than baby carriers.
- They often have ISOFIX bases built in.
- They are more difficult to remove from the car.
- They cannot be attached to a travel system.
- You will need to remove your baby from the car seat every time you leave the car.
- It is not recommended that babies remain in car seats for longer than 2 hours.
Although I did use a baby carrier I would now choose to go straight to a car seat instead. This is because, even with a relatively small baby, I quickly found that the car seat was too heavy for me to carry comfortably. I also found that my daughter didn’t like spending too much time in the baby carrier. Since moving to a car seat we have both been much happier.
If you need to move the car seat between cars, you should consider the weight of the seat. Baby carriers are far easier to transfer between cars but you can purchase reasonably light weight car seats. Bare in mind that if your seat requires a ISOFIX base, this will need to be moved too.
Many modern car seats allow you to swivel the seat to face the car door. This makes getting your child in and out of the car much easier, particularly as they move into toddler hood and are much heavier to lift in and out.
I purchased the Britax Römer DUALFIX when my daughter grew out of her baby carrier. Among other features it can be swivelled 360 degrees, which makes getting my daughter in and out of the car a breeze.
Rear facing for longer
Scientists agree that rear facing car seats are safest for babies and toddlers as it protects their head, neck, and spine. At present babies must remain rear facing until they are 15 months, however you can choose to continue to keep them rear facing for much longer.
There are many car seats available which can be rear facing until 2 or 4. These do tend to be a little more expensive than regular forward facing seats, but for my money they are worth it!
Now that you have read my guide you will hopefully have a better idea of what car seat features are most important to you. By using this knowledge you will be able make a short list and choose your new baby seat with confidence, however, if you would like a starting point, here is my top 5 car seats of 2017.
This car seat is my top pick and the one I use for my daughter. It is i-size, rear facing until 4 years, has a 5 point harness, variable recline, and a swivel action to make it easier to get baby in and out.
It wouldn’t be suitable for someone who needs to move their car seat between cars due to its weight and bulk and it is on the expensive side, but I think it’s worth every penny.
Maxi-Cosi are market leaders in the world of car seats and their Pebble range is a firm favourite with many new parents. Their new Pebble Plus car seat is i-size compatible and will fit most travel systems. You will to need to purchase a 2 way fix ISOFIX base for this car seat but the good news is that the base will also work with Maxi-Cosi’s group 1 car seat, the Pearl.
The Baby-safe is the car seat of choice for the Royal family and if it’s good enough for them… This car seat can be installed either using a ISOFIX base or a regular seatbelt and boasts a 5 point harness, extra side impact protection, and a high level of adjustability.
The Sirona M2 i-size is a reboot of CYBEX’s best selling M2 range which has been updated to comply with i-size. Unlike its predecessor it has a five point harness and can be positioned either front or rear facing until 4 years.
The Dino Radian 5 is suitable for children from 0-6 years old. This seat isn’t i-size but it does allow your child to sit rear facing until 6 years old, which is far longer than most car seats available in the UK. The Dino also folds for storage, which could be handy given its size.
This post was sponsored by Cars.com.
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