A car seat is one, if not THE most important piece of equipment you will be purchasing for your baby. This doesn’t mean it has to be the most expensive, however it should be chosen carefully. Too often parents purchase a “travel system “ that comes with a car seat that they choose according to colour and style and don’t take into consideration the safety aspects of the actual car seat.
Important car seat safety guidelines:
- Read the instruction manual on how to install and use your car seat properly, practice this before baby arrives, don’t leave this to the day that baby comes home.
- Purchase a car seat from a supplier that is willing to allow you to try fit it in your car before purchasing – the more reputable stores have demonstration models and they are often more than willing to send a shop assistant who is product specific trained with the demo model to your car and make sure it fits your vehicle correctly.
- A car seat is a piece of equipment that should be purchased new and not second hand. Baby products are expensive and if people can recoup some of the money spent they will, even if it means selling a car seat that has been involved in an accident and it’s integrity compromised.
- Never put a car seat in the front passenger seat of vehicle if your car is fitted with airbags and you are not able to deactivate the airbag.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have advised little ones be kept in a rear facing car seat for an extended period of time – up until they can no longer fit in it (refer to manufacturers guidelines for weight and height of size of child/baby). The AAP actually recommends that they be kept rear facing up until he age of 2years old.
The theory indicates that in this position the chair takes the maximum impact in an accident and not the baby’s cervical spine that carries their disproportionate sized heavy head.
- Each time you put your baby in the car seat you need to ensure that they are strapped in tightly and correctly. Failure to do so can lead to partial / full ejection of the baby in an accident.
- Babies that are dressed in bulky clothing are also at risk of partial / full ejection if not strapped in tightly – the bulky clothing gives a false perception that the straps are “tight”, however the forces exerted in an accident cause compression of this tight clothing which results in extra space allowing for the ejection. Rather strap the baby in and then cover with a blanket.
- Rear facing car seats – the shoulder straps should be in-line with or slightly below the shoulders of the baby.
- Forward – facing car seats – the straps should be in line with or above the shoulders of the child.
Another aspect to consider when purchasing a car seat is do I purchase a car seat with a base in which the car seats fits, or do I just put the car seat in the car on the seat and strap it in with the car fitted safety belt?
Do I purchase a base / seat that has ISO-FIX attachments?
The safest option is to go with a car seat or seat plus base that have ISO-FIX attachments. These attachments actually clip onto a bar in the back seat of the car, which means that you are not reliant on just a safety belt holding the car seat in place should you be in an accident. (Please note not all vehicles are equipped with ISO FIX attachments)
Having a base adds to stability and decreases movement of the chair making it safer than just the chair on the seat. An added bonus is that if the base / seat has ISO FIX attachments you can unclip the baby chair and re clip it back in much faster and more conveniently than having to strap it in.
ISO FIX is not just a matter of convenience but also a matter of best safety, and, should be considered even when purchasing seats that stay in the car – like the stage 2 or stage 3 car seats and booster seats.