A baby car seat is essential for transporting your little one from place to place. Even if you do not have a car yourself, your baby will need to travel in a vehicle at some point and therefore, will require a safe car seat. It can be difficult as first-time parents to know what car seat you need and how to use one properly. Your main priority is keeping your baby safe on journeys and the information we provide will help you do so.
Types of car seats for your baby
There a 3 types of car seat you can use. In this blog, we will mainly be focusing on the car set your baby has from birth. However, over time, it has to change due to your baby’s size and age. These car seats are:
Group 0+ - These car seats are suitable for your baby from birth to around 12-15 months. This will be your baby’s first car seat and the one we will mainly be focusing on today. For convenience, these can usually combine with a pram to make it easy to put together when going out.
Group 0+/1 – When your baby outgrows their first car seat, this is what they will move onto next. These car seats usually face forward instead of rear-facing. They also tend to sit up more to help your baby understand how they sit inside a vehicle. These car seats will last your baby until they are around 4 years old.
Group 0+/1/2/3 – If you’d prefer to buy something that will last your child throughout their development, you can opt for one of these car seats. They will last your baby from birth all the way up to 12 years old. They work by being adjusted as your little one grows. These can be a bit more expensive but can be easier for the long run.
Now you know the types of car seats your baby will have throughout their development; we’ll get to the more common questions. We hope we can offer some great advice to make thinking about car seats a little less stressful.
How to choose a baby car seat
There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing a car seat. You want your baby to be comfortable and safe but you also want it to be easy to install each time you need to use it. There are some important things to try and look out for when purchasing your baby’s first car seat. We’ve got some great tips below:
- Try before you buy – The last thing you want is a car seat that take ages to put into the car each time you want to use it. As someone who has never installed a car seat, it can look a little bit like a puzzle at the beginning. With the right help, this can be made a lot simpler. If you are going out to shops to look for car seats, you can always ask the staff for their help. In many baby stores, staff are trained to fit baby car seats, you can find out by kindly asking. If you find a few that you like the look of, you can ask staff to show you how to fit it in your own car. You can also then give this ago yourself and get the hang of it before you purchase.
- Isofix connectors – In many modern family cars, isofix connectors are usually included to make installing car seats much easier. Before you purchase a car seat, it’s important to check if your car includes these. If so, you can then look for car seats with this feature. If you’re struggling to find them, they may be hidden in cracks between the padding of the seats.
- Check the guide – Many car seats will come with a guide giving you all of the information you need to know. One thing that’s very important is finding out which cars the car seat fits into. Bigger car seats may not be suitable for smaller cars so you should look for something more fitting. It’s also important if your baby’s car seat will be put in family members cars in the future. Think ahead to get the most out of your first car seat.
- Choose one right for your baby – All babies are different and can grow and develop at different speeds. Make sure you choose a car seat that is suitable for your baby’s height and weight.
- Avoid second-hand – A car seat is there to protect your baby whilst they are in the car. When you buy one second-hand, you don’t always know if it been involved in an accident or damaged. If this is the case, it puts your baby’s safety in danger. It’s best not to try and find the cheapest car seat you can. Find one that will protect your baby. Buying from a shop means that you are guaranteed it’s safe and includes all of its parts.
- Friends and family – As a way to save some money, some parents choose to take items from trusted friends and family members. It’s important that if you do this, you know the full history of the car seat. If your friend or family member is unsure of this, don’t take the risk. It’s also essential that the car seat is not too old and it also comes with all of its parts – including instructions.
- EU approved – When buying a car seat, look for the “E” mark on the label. This will tell you that it is EU approved and meets British safety standards. This is highly important if you’re buying a car seat online.
What are I Size car seats?
I-Size forms part of the UN regulation ECE R129 in which they must pass to be sold. This means that any car seat under this regulation has passed extensive checks and is safe for your little one.
The plan for I-size car seats are that they will be able to fit into any car. Your car will have to have Isofix, a system in which the car seat will be able to attach to your car correctly and securely. A lot of modern cars now come with this feature and in future, will be able to be used by everyone.
How to put a baby/child into a car seat
The first thing to remember is that your baby will most likely cry when they are put into their car seat for the first time. Just like when getting their nappy changed or getting changed, it’s not an experience that they enjoy. However, crying does not mean they’re in distress, don’t be put off putting your baby in their car seat because of this.
There are a few things you can check to see if your baby is secured into their car seat. If you feel unsure or don’t think your baby looks secure enough, there are videos to watch and people to speak to who can give you some help. For example, staff at baby stores a commonly trained to put a baby into a car seat. These would be great people to ask. We’ve got some things to look out for…
- The right fit – The first thing to look out for when your baby is in their car seat is if they fit correctly. You can find this out by checking to see if the straps come in at the baby’s shoulders and that it fits well between their legs.
- Your baby’s head – When your baby is young, they cannot hold up their own heads due to their strength. You may notice that when your baby is in their car seat, their head slightly flops to the side. This is completely normal and not something you should worry about. However, if you notice that your baby’s head is flopping forward, this means the car seat is too upright. This can cause interference with your baby’s breathing and isn’t safe. You can avoid this happening by making sure the straps are snug against your baby and that the seat is reclined properly. This should be reclined enough to keep your baby’s head off of their chest.
- Swaddling – It’s important that when strapping your baby into their car seat, they don’t have any really thick layers on. These can include snowsuits or thick winter jackets. This is because you may find yourself strapping in your baby looser than usual because of the layers. This can compromise your baby’s safety. Instead, take any thick items off before putting your baby into the car seat and place a warm blanket over the top of the straps if it’s cold. This will ensure your baby is fully supported by their car seat and can move around without feeling restricted.
- Entertainment – As your baby will be rear-facing when they are in their first car seat, they can become confused when both parents are out of sight. To combat this problem, play some music and interact with them by talking throughout the journey. Your voice will soothe your baby and make the journey easier for both them and you.
Can a baby car seat go in the front?
You should NEVER put a rear-facing baby car seat in the front of the car. It is illegal to do so and also incredibly dangerous for your baby. In the case of an accident, your baby’s car seat is positioned right next to the airbag. If this goes off, it can push your baby’s car seat with incredible force and fling it forward suddenly. This can leave your baby with serious injuries or worst case – death. No matter what the situation is, always put the car seat in the rear of the car.
In some cars, you’re able to disable the airbags. Whilst this means that there is no risk of your baby’s car seat being forced forward, it’s also still safer and better to position the car seat at the back. Your baby is much better protected in this place and also conforms to the law.
When can a baby/child face forward in a car seat?
Many parents might see the move from a rear-facing car seat to a forward-facing car seat as a big milestone. It highlights that your baby is developing and starting to do things the right way. However, a lot of parents choose to not make this change straight away – and there are many benefits of not doing so. Legally, your baby can travel in a forward-facing car seat when they reach 9kg. Depending on your baby’s growth, this can be earlier or later in age for different parents.
However, just because the law says you can do so, it doesn’t mean you have to do this. Your little one will still be perfectly fine to travel in a rear-facing car seat if you prefer this. It’s been found that rear-facing travelling is actually much safer for young children. For example, if your child is in a forward-facing seat and the car is involved in an accident, the collision can put a lot of strain on your little one’s head and neck. This can cause injury that effects your child’s development.
However, if your child is in a rear-facing car seat when this happens, the car seat will take the force of the impact, protecting your baby’s head and neck. 70% of accidents are found to be head on collisions. Until your baby’s bones and muscles are formed properly, it may be a safer option to use a rear-facing car seat.
How to clean baby car seats
There are some things you don’t even think about when having your baby. One of them can be how to clean your baby’s car seat. It doesn’t look like the easiest thing to do, but our steps can make it simple. Even better, it’s not something you have to do very often. The guide you get with your car seat should give you some tips on what to do. However, we’re here to get your started off easily.
- Remove the cover
All car seats come with a removable cover to make cleaning an easier process. Although it may look clean from the outside, the plastic seat is where things can soak through to and become sticky and smelly. It’s better to hand wash this item to avoid shrinking it – this will make it a lot harder to get back on. Also, avoid using a dryer. Instead, lay it out flat to dry naturally.
With most car seats, you can remove the buckle to wash easily. However, make sure you know how to put it back on once completed. Wash the buckle under warm, running water to remove any dirt and germs. It’s advised not to use soap as this can stiffen the buckle and make it harder to work with. If you cannot remove the buckle on the car seat, you can use anti-bacterial wipes or sprays to clean them instead.
Use a safe disinfectant spray to remove any bacteria from the fabric. This will also make it smell much nicer. Just make sure it’s safe for your baby’s skin.
If your baby has had a messy disaster whilst in their car seat, you’ll need to do a deeper clean to remove harmful bacteria. In this case, remove the car seat from the car and dismantle everything that you feel comfortable with doing. Scrub down each part with an anti-bacterial spray and then leave to air dry. It’s best to do this as soon as an accident happens, you’ll find yourself dreading car journeys if you don’t!
When to change baby car seats
When your baby has reached the maximum height and weight of a car seat, it’s time to move onto the next. However, like we have said before, it doesn’t mean you have to have your child car seat front-facing if you are not comfortable with it. With each change of a car seat, safety is reduced very slightly. This is because as your child develops, their bones and muscles can support them more. However, it’s still important to do what you think will keep you little one safe.
Knowing if your child has reached the maximum height and weight doesn’t mean you’ve got to monitor your child every week – you’ll visibly be able to see when they outgrow their car seat.
When does a child not need a car seat?
In the UK, it is the law that your child needs to have a car seat until they are 12 years old or at 135cm tall. As they get older, they can move onto a booster seat but must use this till they each either of the milestones.
These laws are in place to keep your child safe. If you decide to stop using a car seat before your child reaches the correct age or height, you are not only breaking the law but also putting your child at risk. Care seats are designed to protect your child during daily journeys but also in the case of an accident.
Small knocks and bumps are enough to hurt your child by damaging their neck or back. Car seats support these areas as well as their head to cushions them in the event of sudden brake movements or an accident.
If your child has either reached the correct height or age to no longer use a car seat, it doesn't mean you have to stop there and then. Some parents prefer to carry on using a car seat or booster seat protect their child. There is nothing wrong with this and there are car seats available for older children.
If you are caught not using a car seat for your child, you can face a fine of £100 on the spot and then further fines as you go to court. To protect yourself as well as your child, it's best to follow the rules and use the correct car seat for your child.
What to do with your old car seat
If your car seat is still in great condition and hasn’t been in any accidents, it’s great to give to family or friends. It’s important to make sure that all parts are included when handing this over – including instructions for the car seat. However, if the car seat is too old or is unsafe because of an accident, you should dismantle the car seat as much as you can. You can then put these parts into separate bin bags and dispose of it properly. Putting the different parts in separate bags reduces the risk of somebody else finding and using it.
It is very dangerous to sell a car seat knowing that it has been in an accident.
We hope that we’ve given you some great information on everything you need to know about baby car seats. Although it may be a daunting, there is plenty of help available both online and in person.