The Good Egg Car Safety Blog

Can I add a cushion to my child's booster seat?

Can I put a cushion on the booster seat?


A recent Ask the Expert question:

“My child complains that the booster seat is too hard and that it hurts their bum. I have noticed that the seat is very hard, there’s no padding at all. Can I add a cushion to the seat to make it more comfy?”

We have also had this enquiry in the past:

"My 3 year old keeps escaping from the 5 point harness, so he has moved to a high back booster seat with adult seat belt.  The seat belt sits up on his neck though, even when it's through the red guide.  Can I put a cushion under him to lift him up more so it doesn't rub on his neck?"

Example of what we've seen at our free car seat checking events

 

Booster seat     Booster seat 1

 

(NOTE: above pictures would be considered incorrectly fitted)

 

This blog is going to look at the potential risks involved in adding a cushion to the booster seat, and what else you can do to make the seat more comfortable.


In infant seats, group 1 seats and group 123 car seats, you normally find that the seat has some sort of insert in it that can be removed as the child grows. This doesn’t happen with high back boosters however, the seat comes as is, and it grows with your child by increasing the height of the head support.

When a child moves up to a high back booster (group 2,3) car seat, the booster is used as a belt positioning device. It lifts the child up so the adult seat belt will fit across their hips correctly. Booster seats nowadays go a step further than this, with many offering additional torso support and side impact protection.

 

What would the risks be if I put a cushion on the booster seat?


The potential risk is that the cushion would compress in an impact and cause the child to slip underneath the seat belt. This may cause them to be ejected from the seat belt, or receive greater injuries due to the belt not being positioned correctly.

 

I need to put a cushion on though, as my 3 year old doesn’t fit, and he can’t go in a harness seat because he escapes!


If a child has moved up to a high back booster seat they must weigh a minimum of 15kg, and be tall enough to fit within the seat belt – this is defined as the lap belt being flat over the lap, across the hips, and the shoulder belt running from the child’s hip to their shoulder. The shoulder belt should sit diagonally across their body and run level across their collar bone/shoulder. It shouldn’t slip off the shoulder (head rest too low) or sit up on their neck (head rest too high).

If a child doesn’t physically fit into the booster seat, then they are too small for it and are not able to safely use the seat. The child must return to their harness seat, or a seat with impact shield may work better. See our blog on the car seat harness for tips on how to stop your little one escaping.

 

How can the seat be made more comfortable?


If you do long journeys with your child, you may want to consider replacing their seat with something more padded – there are differences between the boosters and what comfort they can offer. Some boosters are very hard, which won’t be at all pleasant on a long journey!

We would not suggest padding a seat out with memory foam or DIY inserts – these have not been crash tested and there is just no way of knowing how they will effect the performance of a seat until you have a crash.

 

What about an adult seat cushion?


There are many cushions available for the adult vehicle seat, but these are mainly to assist with posture and back issues. They have not been developed or tested to be used with a child restraint and may effect the performance of the seat.



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Killer car seats - Do you have one?

Fake child car seats are being sold in the UK via online auction websites


 

It has recently come to light that fabric ‘child car seats’ are being sold on popular selling sites.

Many parents and childminders throughout the UK are being fooled into believing that these child car seats are safe to use for their children.

We had a look through one of these sites and read some of the sales posts - here’s an extract from one description on a seat we found:



dodgy seat

 

“The portable baby safety seat is treated as the savior of baby’s safety in Europe and a new star among the family of baby car seats. The restricted and reasonable design, it is not only as safe as the traditional baby car seats but also to install, carry and wash easily.”

The manufacturers/sellers are claiming that these seats are just as safe as traditional car seats.  Many people believe that if they’re allowed to be sold, then surely they must be just as safe – and surely they must have gone through all the same testing to be able to claim that?

 

The very sad fact is that the manufacturers/sellers of these killer car seats are lying.


 

These seats have been through NO official crash testing to allow them to be used in the UK.  When Surrey County Council's trading standards team put these harnesses through their paces, the results were horrifying... they will bring a tear to any parents’ eye and send a shiver down their spine! (video above)

 

So what tests do seats have to pass to be sold in the UK/EU?


Any child seat sold in the UK must pass at least ECE R44.04, R44.03 or R129 i-Size and carry an approval label to show that it has been through the testing. The approval label will be on the child car seat in the form of an orange, yellow or white label. Below we have included several examples of official approval labels.



ECE BRIAX EXPLAIN

 

Approval R44.04: This part of the label will list what approval standard the seat has been tested to. In the UK and Europe, seats tested to R44.03, R44.04 or R129 i-Size may be used.

Weight Limits: The label will also detail the weight limit of the seat. This seat is a high back booster group 2,3 so the weight limit is 15kg – 36kg.  If the seat is R129 i-Size, a height limit will be detailed.

E–circle: This shows the seat is tested to the European standard. The E stands for European and the number after it refers to the country it was tested in.

Serial Number: This number relates to the seat itself, the first two numbers “04301170” on this seat, refers to the approval the seat has (so an R44.03 seat will have “03____”) This number relates to where everything on the seat was sourced, what batch the harness and buckles came from, what machines and who manufactured it. If there is any requirement to do a recall on the seat or if anything is found to be wrong, this number is used to narrow down exactly what seats are affected. Under R44.04, every 5000th seat must be re-tested to ensure quality – this allows any faults to be picked up quickly and easily.

 

Other examples


ECE LabelOL

ECE Maxi Cosi OL

R44.03 OL

red 44.04OL

Graco 44.03 OL

 

R129 iSize Label



These fabric seats do not carry this label, and they have not been approved to any crash standard for the EU/UK.

That’s not to say that other seats sold online are official either.  The Transport Research Laboratory released footage of counterfeit child car seats sold online, and these fake seats DO carry approval labels – albeit false ones!

 

Check out the fake seats in this episode of Fake Britain

 

Top tips for getting a good quality seat!



    • NEVER buy a second hand car seat that you do not know the full history of or if you are not 100% sure that it will fit into your car.

 

    • Always try and purchase at a retailer who can give you advice and check fitment – many retailers have budget seat options if money is tight.

 

    • If you have to buy online, only buy from a reputable retailer - and always find out what is suitable for your car and child first!

 

    • Check for the ECE label or i-Size label.

 

    • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

 

    • If you are thinking of buying a seat you haven’t heard of before, go online and look for reviews, visit the manufacturers website and use search engines to find out more on the company.

 

    • Check the instructions – instructions must be written in English (and will have other languages) – ensure the English is good and written correctly.  Mis-spelt words and sentences that don’t make sense can be indicators to a fake seat!



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Do child car seats fit in all cars?

Q: Do child car seats fit in all cars?

 

A: No, child car seats do not fit in all cars and there are many factors to take into account when choosing the perfect child car seat.


First of all, you need to decide what group car seat is going to be suitable for your child – this is based on their weight and height. Once you know what group options are open to you, you need to find out what child car seats fit into your car.

Vehicles can cause many fitting problems – from having long seat belt buckles causing buckle crunch, to floor storage boxes making the support leg unsafe.  It is vitally important to visit a retailer who is able to give you the right advice and be willing to try different seats out in your car, so you can be sure to find the best fit.

Once you know what child car seats fit into your vehicle, you can choose the seat you like – this is normally based on the features the seat offers, such as longer rear facing, easy adjust harness or additional side impact protection.

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5 Common Child Car Seat Fitting Errors



One of our Good Egg Safety experts, Kat, demonstrates five of the most common car seat fitting errors that we come across at many of our child car seat checking events across the UK



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Car seat regulation labels

ECE R44.03

 

ECE R44.03 label

 

ECE R44.04


                                                          ECE R44.04 Label

 

R129 i-Size label

 

R129 iSize Label

 

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The child car seat harness - Updated

Generally, child car seats come equipped with a 3 point or a 5 point harness in group 0+ seats, and a 5 point harness in a group 1 car seat. The job of the child car seat harness is to restrain the child in the child seat in the event of a collision.

 

Is there a safety difference between a 3 point and a 5 point harness?


Group 0+ rear facing car seats may have either a 3 point harness or a 5 point harness. In a collision the child is pushed back into the seat, which spreads the force across the whole seat back - putting much less force on the child and better protecting their neck and spine. The job of the 3 or 5 point harness is to hold the child in the seat.



Harness Use 3 overlay

Harness Use overlay



A 5 point harness has additional hip straps to help spread the force of a collision. This is very important when forward facing as the harness takes a lot of force which is then spread across the child’s torso.

 

How is the harness attached?


The child car seat harness is made up of two long straps, which attach to the buckle. The harness is secured at either end so that it sits over the strongest points of a child’s body – their hips and shoulders.

The hip straps on the harness are attached to the seat by metal hooks (picture below) which slot through a specific gap in the seat shell. These must always be attached completely and it is worth checking the harness is fully attached every journey.



Hip strap overlay



The shoulder straps on the harness attach at the back of the seat, often to a ‘Y’ shaped metal hook (picture below). The straps should always be securely attached and only removed from the hook if you must re-thread the harness to change the harness height position.



Y hook overlay



Many car seats now come with a harness that you can simply click into a different height position, removing the need to unhook it – this removes the very high risk of the harness being misused.

Each harness strap will have a plastic attachment on it, which joins together to click into the buckle.

 

Harness height


To set the correct harness height, the straps must come over the child's shoulders and down towards the buckle.  The harness must be level with the child's shoulders, although this isn't always possible. If you can't get the straps level with the child's shoulders (due to them being between height limits, for example) then the following is how you can figure out the best height:

Rear facing: Level with, or just below the shoulders.



RF harness height



Front facing: Level with, or just above the shoulders.

 

FF height overlay

 

Harness tension


You should be able to get two fingers flat between your child’s chest and the harness at collar bone level.



harness tension 2 overlay

 

Harness pads


The pads on the straps of a car seat normally need to be pulled down the straps so they sit on the child's chest.  You will often find the pads are attached to fabric, which ensures they are pulled down to the correct height.

 

The pads on this seat need to be pulled down onto the child's chest. 

 

The pads on this seat need to be pulled down onto the child's chest.



Other harness pads are attached to the top of the child seat, and will sit over the child's shoulders.


head support

 

The pads on this seat are attached to the top of the harness


 

The buckle


Every car seat in the UK which has a 3 or a 5 point harness must have a buckle to click into. Both pieces of the harness must come together first, before clicking into the buckle. This is to ensure that both parts of the harness are always attached. The button of the buckle is stress tested to ensure it can withstand the thousands of clicks and un-clicks it will go through in its lifetime. The buckle is also pressure tested to ensure most little fingers can’t un-click it, but that it is also easy to undo in an emergency.



BUCKLE overlay

 

Clothing in the car seat


What children wear when they go in the car differs with each journey, for this reason it is useful to loosen the straps before you take your child out of the car seat – the next time you buckle your child in you can pull the straps tight to ensure the correct tension every journey to suit what your child is wearing.

Puffy winter snowsuits, coats and jackets can cause big problems with the car seat harness – they should never be worn under the harness. The harness is designed to fit close to the child’s body, and it is tested in this way. Puffy snowsuits, coats and jackets create a gap between the child and the harness.  Even if the harness feels as though it is pulled tight, in a collision it may still not work properly.



Jessy coat overlay



Children should be wearing light, thin layers when in the car seat – a thin fleece at the most. Remember, children heat up 3-5 times faster than adults and they do not regulate their body temperature as well as adults. It is very easy for babies and children to overheat in the car; so don’t be tempted to pad them out – your vehicle will soon heat up leaving you with a very hot and sweaty little one for the rest of your journey!



Jessy blanket overlay

 

Cleaning the harness and buckle


Car seats become grubby very quickly and wiping over them with a damp cloth isn’t always enough and a full wash is required! It is very important that the harness is not washed, as this can break down the fibres within the harness and weaken it.

When cleaning the buckle, again wipe over it with a damp cloth and remove any food that is in or around the buckle and red button – hoovering the buckle helps ensure most of the crumbs and muck is removed.



Caution

When cleaning the harness, fully extend it and wipe over it with a damp cloth – nothing more. Do not use fabric cleaners, anti-bacterial sprays or soap on it as the chemicals in these products can damage the harness.

 

Removing the covers


Some car seats have easy to remove covers and you don’t have to remove the harness at all to get the cover off – however there are still lots of car seats where you do need to remove the harness to get the cover off!

When removing the covers, it is very easy for the harness to become twisted or incorrectly routed or fitted. When you are taking the cover off, as often as possible, re-thread and attach the harness back where it is supposed to go to help avoid it becoming incorrectly routed or twisted.

 

FAQ

 

My child has the habit of un-clicking his harness, what can I do?


This is extremely frustrating to any parent or carer; and very scary the first time the little one finds out they can do it! Some children will learn to undo the harness buckle, even with the regulated amount of force it must take to pop the buckle open.

1) Check the harness height – if the harness is too low, children can ‘wedge’ their shoulders under the straps and use the force to push down on the buckle.

2) Check the harness tension.

If your child continues to undo their buckle and they don’t seem to be growing out of the habit, you may want to try them in another weight suitable child restraint to see if they are less able to unclick the buckle on that seat.

A child un-clicking the buckle is not a good reason to move them up to a high back booster and adult seat belt, especially if they are below the weight or height limits.



Caution

The buckle must NEVER be obstructed – it must always be accessible to allow the child to be released from the seat quickly in an emergency.

 

My child wriggles out of the straps – what can I do?


As with the above issue, this happens very often! First things to check:

1) Harness height – is the harness at the correct level?

2) Harness tension – is the harness too tight or loose on the child?

3) Clothing – is the clothing allowing a gap for the child to wriggle their arms through? Thick and puffy jackets often cause this!

4) There are some after market products you can try with your seat, that are designed to stop children wriggling out of the straps.  If you choose to try an aftermarket product, ensure you read and fully understand the instructions of use before using it with your child's car seat.  Also make sure that it is not interfering with the way the harness sits on the child.

Maxi Cosi recommends the '5 point plus' for use with their car seats.

If the child continues slipping the harness, try them in a different weight appropriate restraint to see if they will wriggle the straps off in that seat.

A child wriggling the straps off is not a good reason to move them up to a high back booster with adult belt – especially if they do not meet the weight or height limits.

 

Alternative seat:


If your child does not seem to be growing out of the habit of removing their straps or un-doing the buckle, an impact shield style seat may solve the issue. These seats do not use a 5 point harness, but a “shield” is placed across the child.



ii_9638_1333354897881

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Flying with young children

 

There are lots of blogs and advice guides out there giving fantastic hints and tips for parents travelling or flying with young children. Many of them mention to take a child car seat, but it isn’t always as easy and straightforward as that.

What do you need to know to help you decide if you are going to take a car seat with you for the plane? That is what we are going to explore in this 'Flying with young children' blog.

For a long time while in planes young children have travelled on their parents lap and babies in bassinets.  Yet more and more parents are concerned and want their child in a proper restraint. Using a car seat on the plane gives you a safe place to secure your baby should you hit turbulence.

 

Flying with young children 1 

 

Read the full story here!


Car seats also give little ones a properly secured place for take off and landing - the most dangerous parts of the flight.  They can also protect the child in an emergency landing, as this story shows:


Flying with young children 2

Blog Quick tip

Slings and carriers are not deemed safe for take off or landing and you will be requested to remove your little one and hold them on your lap.

 

What you need to know about taking a car seat on board!

 

1. You will have to buy your baby/child their own seat on the plane


Some airlines will allow you to take a seat on board without having booked the child their own seat - yet this is not guaranteed to keep the family together and there may not be any spare seats left when it comes to boarding.  The airline may also refuse even if there is space. It is advisable to start off with paying for the plane seat for the child.

Blog Quick tip

Before paying out for a separate seat for your child (unless you were opting to regardless of using a child seat!) make sure your airline will allow the use of the child seat.

 

2. It must be a TUV approved child car seat


There are some UK child seats that are TUV approved for use on aircraft.  Having a TUV approved seat does not guarantee that you will be allowed to use it - the decision resides with the airline.  It also does not mean that you can’t use a different seat that is not TUV approved.  If the seat is not TUV approved you must remember that airplanes only have lap belts and the child restraint must be certified to be fitted with a lap belt.

Blog Jargon buster

TUV approved means that the seat has been tested and approved by TUV Rheinland to be suitable for use on an aircraft.

 

3. Confirm that the make and model of your seat is allowed


When you confirm with the airline that you can take your own child seat on the plane, also confirm with them if the make and model of your seat is allowed, and what child seats they accept, you need to ensure this whether your seat is approved or not. You don’t want to get to check-in to be told that you cannot take your seat on board.  If you can, get confirmation from the airline that you can use the child seat in writing and take this with you to show the airline staff if needed.  If the child seat that your child normally uses is not approved or allowed then you will need to buy a new one.

Blog Quick tip

Children over the age of 2 must have their own plane seat purchased - always check your airline’s policy.


Flying with young children 3


It is also worth checking to see if your airline supplies child seats. Virgin Atlantic states that it can supply child restraints on international flights, so long as they are pre-booked.

Using UK seats abroad


All child car seats within the European Union (EU) are tested to ECE  R44.04 or R129 i-Size.  Child seats carrying the ECE approval R44.03, R44.04 or R129 (i-Size) may be used within the European Union.

If you wish to use your child car seat when you reach your destination, it is worth noting that an EU approved child restraint cannot normally be used in countries outside of the EU. This is because different countries have different laws and testing that European Union seats may not meet.  The same is true for any seat outside of the EU that is brought over to Europe.

As an example, a parent flying to the USA may be allowed to use their child restraint on the aircraft, but once they land, their seat cannot then be used in a car or taxi.

If you are from the UK and flying to a destination within the EU, then you can use your UK car seat when you are on holiday.

If you are unsure check with your holiday provider, the local road safety department or the British embassy in that country.

 

Using a child car seat at your destination


If you hire a car when you get to your destination many hire companies will also hire out child car seats at an additional cost. If you decide to do this ensure that you are completely happy with the child car seat’s quality and that you have fitted it correctly.

If you are not happy with the seat you can also choose to purchase one whilst on holiday. This could potentially work out cost effective if you were using the hire car for the whole duration of the holiday.

Even if you are not hiring a car, some countries require children to travel in a suitable child restraint in taxis. Some taxi firms will have specific vehicles with restraints fitted, however it is wise to check with the taxi firm or transport company you will be using to reach your hotel.

Travelling by coach transfer also needs to be confirmed, firstly to see if you need a child restraint, and also if your child restraint can be used, should you want to use it - even if you don’t have to.

As always, when you are fitting the car seat in the car or on the coach, make sure that it is a compatible fit and correctly fitted.



Top 8 tip when bringing a child car seat onto a plane

 

TUV approved child restraints


As of the 21st May 2014, below are the TUV airline approved child car seats.

This list may be updated and if you are in any doubt, phone the manufacturer of your child car seat.

    • Maxi Cosi Pebble

 

    • Maxi Cosi Citi

 

    • Britax Baby Safe

 

    • Britax Baby Safe Plus

 

    • Britax Baby Safe Plus SHR

 

    • Concord Ion




    • Kiddy Guardian Pro

 

    • Kiddy Guardian Pro 2

 

    • Kiddy Comfort Pro

 

    • Kiddy Discovery Pro

 

    • Kiddy Cruiserfix Pro

 

    • Kiddy Energy Pro

 

    • Kiddy Phoenix Pro

 

    • Kiddy Phoenix fix Pro

 

    • Kiddy Phoenix fix Pro 2

 

    • Kiddy Guardian fix Pro

 

    • Kiddy Guardian fix Pro 2

 

    • Britax Eclipse.



Remember:  the final decision to allow a child restraint to be used lies with the airline.

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What is a group 1 car seat?

Group 1 car seats


Group 1 car seats accommodate little ones that weigh between 9kg and 18kg.  After reading the previous Good Egg blog on group 0+ child car seats, you may have noticed that there is a crossover in the weight recommendations.  A rear facing group 0+ child seat will last until 13kg, yet a group 1 car seat says it is suitable from 9kg!  So are they just as safe as each other?

The simple answer is No.  Forward facing your baby at 9kg is not as safe as keeping them rear facing to 13kg.

If your child is moving up to a group 0+1 combination seat in rear facing mode, or an extended rear facing group 1 seat at 9kg, this isn’t such an issue as they still have the protection of being rear facing.

 

So when should you move to the next stage?


The infant seat should be used right up to the 13kg mark.  The only time a child should move to the next stage seat before this weight is reached, is if they have outgrown the infant carrier by height – so when the top of their head is level with the top of the car seat.

If they are moving up to a group 1 car seat and have outgrown their infant carrier by height they must weigh at least 9kg and be able to sit unaided for 30 minutes.

 

What to look for in a group 1 car seat.


Many people assume that a group 1 car seat has to be forward facing, however there are rear facing group 1 car seats available, which offer better protection for the neck, head and spine in a collision.  Many rear facing group 1 car seats encompass more than one group, covering either group 0+1 or group 1,2.   Extended rear facing car seats will be covered in greater detail in a separate post, due to be released soon.

 

Forward facing

 

 

Rubi

 

Rear facing


be safe car seats-533x533

Once you decide which direction you are going to face your child, you need to choose your seat - but there are a few things to do first!  At Good Egg Safety, we recommend you visit a retailer that can offer good advice from trained staff members.  Some retailers offer appointments, so call in advance to make sure there will be someone available to help you.

What information you need to take with you:


1. Your child's weight

2. Your child's height (where their head is in relation to the top of their current seat - do they have space above their head?  Are their eyes level with the top of the seat?) Preferably, have your little one with you so you can try them in seats.

3. Your car details, and details of any other cars the seat will be fitted into (including friends, childminders, grandparents) you will need to know the make, model and year of each car.

4. Do the vehicles that the seat will be fitted into all have ISOFIX?

 

 Features and benefits:


There are big price differences between car seats, so what should you look out for to make sure you spend your money wisely?

ISOFIX or seat belt fitment?


 

isofix 2


If you have ISOFIX points in your car, you will be able to consider ISOFIX car seats.   When ISOFIX and seat belt fitted restraints have been tested, with both seats fitted correctly, there is little reported difference in performance and protection offered - both ISOFIX and seat belt fitted restraints perform well.

ISOFIX is considered safer as it dramatically reduces the risk of child car seats being fitted incorrectly.  Many come with indicators to show when the seat is clicked in properly for complete peace of mind.



Caution

If you opt for an ISOFIX seat, make sure that you check the vehicle fitting list to confirm that the child seat is compatible with your car.

 

Tension system and easy to fit.


tilt

If you are choosing a seat belt fitted car seat, consider seats that have a seat belt tension system and ones that are easy to fit.  Some car seats are more difficult to fit than others, so don't be afraid to ask to have a go at fitting each seat if you have a few options!  It is important that you are fully confident fitting your child's car seat. Opting for one that is easy to fit will reduce the possibility of it being incorrectly fitted.

A seat belt tension system on a seat belt fitted restraint does exactly what it says - it tensions the seat belt once the seat is fitted.  This extra tension is normally applied by pushing a lever or by operating  a 'ratchet' to tighten the seat belt up.  This helps you get a good, tight fit on your car seat and reduces the risk of the seat belt being too slack - which is why a seat belt tension child restraint is safer than one without.

Side impact protection


 

Side Wings



Lots of people assume that child car seats provide side impact protection as standard, but it is currently not a legal requirement on the R44.04 crash test and there are seats on the market which do not offer any side impact protection.



So how do you ensure your car seat does offer side impact protection? 

1. Look for child seats that have a full, integrated head rest.  This will help support your child's head and will give another layer of protection in a side impact.

2. Look at child seats that have deep, padded side wings - this is a good indicator that they may offer side impact protection.

3. Check what crash test awards a seat has received.  A seat that has been awarded an ADAC or Stiftung Warentest score has been side impact tested.  These additional tests not only test how the seat performs in a side impact, but it also tests at a higher frontal impact force.  The ADAC and Stiftung Warentest awards give a car seat a score, the lower the score the better the seat performed.  The ratings run from poor to very good.

4. New i-Size regulations and crash testing have now introduced a side impact test, so if you purchase an i-Size car seat, you can be reassured that it has passed the test and offers protection from side impacts.

Adjustable headrest and harness


maxicosi_axiss_

Child seats come with the 5 point harness which restrains the child, and the harness will have the ability to increase in height as your child grows.  There are two ways this can be done on a child seat.  Either by unhooking the straps at the back of the seat and re-threading them, or by pulling the head rest up which will increase the harness height at the same time.

Choosing a seat with a harness that you can increase simply by pulling the headrest up removes the need to unhook and re-thread the harness.  This is a safety feature as it reduces the risk that the harness will become twisted, re-threaded at the incorrect height, or damaged.

Child seats with a re-thread harness typically only have 3 height options, whereas a harness that adjusts with the headrest normally offers 6 or 7 height options - this will reduce the likelihood that you will end up with the straps at the incorrect height whilst you are waiting for your child to grow into the next slots.

This is also a useful feature for people who will use the seat for a number of children.

 

Recline option


REclinee


Most group 1 car seats come with the option to recline the seat.  This offers a more comfortable position for the child to sleep.  It does not make the child safer if they're reclined and there is not normally an age or weight limit on using the recline function.

When deciding which car seat to buy, ensure the recline function is easy to operate and that it does not alter the seat belt routing.  On some child seats, you must preset the recline when you fit the seat, as operating it once the seat is fitted causes the seat belt to loosen off.

 

Easy to remove, washable seat covers


 

30 wash

Ensure the seat you are buying has the option to wash the seat covers, but that the seat covers are easy to remove from the seat.  If you have to undo half of the car seat and pull out all the harness to get the covers off, it is possible that the seat will be put back together incorrectly.  Choosing a seat that lets you leave the harness in place when you remove the covers reduces the risk of the harness becoming twisted or incorrectly fitted.

For convenience, check that the covers are machine washable at 30 degrees.



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Reusing child car seats

Is it safe to re-use car seats?


Many parents understand the safety risks involved with buying and using second hand car seats and avoid doing so. You do not know the history of the seat, you may not have the instructions, vital parts may be missing from the seat (unnoticed by seller or buyer), and it may have been involved in a collision.

 

But what’s the story for reusing a car seat you have had from brand new?  Is it safe to use again?  Do car seats expire?


For reusing child car seats, manufacturers recommend that car seats more than 5 years old are no longer used.  This is due to the seat potentially not being able to provide the same level of protection that a new child seat is able to.

Over the 5 years that you have had that car seat, car seat safety will have improved dramatically, the primary reason to upgrade your seat is due to new technologies and developments coming forward that make new car seats even safer.

Here is a comparison of a 10 year old car seat, and a new car seat. The old seat is a Britax Trio suitable from 9kg - 25kg (below left), and the new seat is a Joie Stages suitable from 0 - 25kg (below right).



                                                               1L                    1R



The first image below shows the ECE approval for the above Britax restraint, which shows it is approved to R44.03.  The second image below with the orange approval label below is off of the new Joie Stages seat, showing it is approved to the latest R44 approval - R44.04.


r44.3

Joie Stages



Both of these seats have an easy adjust head rest and harness, but the head support and side wings on the new seat are noticeably deeper.  The new seat can offer safety and protection to children, that the old seat would not do as well due to the shallow side wings.

The new seat offers 3 recline positions, unlike the old seat.

The new seat offers rear facing up to 18kg, unlike the Britax which is forward facing only.

 

Don't the plastics in the seat break down?


The plastics of a seat do begin to degrade, but the process takes a long time.  Seats that are constantly left in the car and exposed to extreme changes in temperature, or seats stored near a radiator or somewhere that has fluctuating temperature (like the attic) will begin degrading more quickly, as will seats that are used in very hot or very cold countries.  Plastic does degrade over time, but not so rapidly that the seat will break apart in a collision once it turns 5 years old.

 

Hang on... my seat is Group 1,2,3 - it's designed to last me 11 years!


The recommendation to upgrade seats after 5 years is just that, a recommendation.  It doesn't mean that seats will become dangerous after 5 years. The primary reason the recommendation is 5 years use for a child restraint is due to the advances in technology, resulting in safer seats being manufactured - the new i-Size regulation is a good example of this.  It does not mean that a group 123 seat is unsafe after 5 years, but it may not perform to the same standard as a new restraint.

 

I want to keep hold of my seat for my next child, where should I store it?


The best way to store your child car seat is to first clean it, wash the covers (do not wash the harness), hoover all crumbs out and make sure the buckle is free of food.  When the clean covers have been replaced, wrap the seat in a blanket, and then a big sheet of plastic or bubble wrap.  Then store your seat in a cupboard.  Avoid storing it near radiators, in a garage, attic or outhouse - these all experience large differences in temperature.

reusing a child car seat

 

Tip1

 

Check the harness for any visible signs of wear, fraying or rips.  If there are any do not use the seat.

 

Tip2

 

Check the seat for any signs of damage, do not reuse child car seats if you can see any damage.  Be aware that not all damage is visible to the eye.

 

Tip3

 

If your seat has polystyrene foam under the covers check it for any cracks or crumbling parts – again, if you find anything like this or to cause concern do not use the seat.

 

Tip4

 

Check the ECE certification of your seat. A seat certified to R44.01 or R44.02 should no longer be used.  Seats approved to R44.03 and R44.04 may still be used and the newest standard is R129, i-Size.  You can check the verification by locating the ECE sticker on your seat, which will look like this:
 
Group 0 car seat label

 

Tip5

 

Reusing child car seats that have been stored for a number of years before should be carefully considered and looked at.  If your seat is a number of years old it may not offer the same level of protection you would expect, buying a new up-to-date seat will be the only way of ensuring maximum protection.

 

Tip6

 

It is very important to ensure the seat is suitable for the child's weight and that it is compatible with the vehicle(s) it may be used in.

 


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When is the infant car seat outgrown?

 

A car seat lasts until the child reaches the weight, or the height limit for the seat.  As children are all unique, the ages specified on seats should only ever be used as a guideline. The weight and height of a child is the deciding factor.

Most infant car seats available on the market are Group 0+, however, there are still a small number available that are only certified to Group 0.  You can find out what group your seat is by locating the R44 sticker on your seat.  The sticker will tell you the weight limit for your seat.



ECE label



If your label shows a weight range of:

    • 0-10kg – then it is group 0

 

    • 0-13kg – then it is group 0+



Blog-Quick-tip

When is the infant car seat outgrown? When the weight limit is reached, or the top of the child’s head is level with the top of the seat.

 

Are their feet going to get hurt?


If your child’s feet hang over the end of the seat, it is not an indicator to move them up a stage, as is commonly believed.  Childrens' feet and legs are very unlikely become injured in a collision when they are rear facing, and they will not be uncomfortable.  Children are much more flexible than adults and will happily sit with their knees bent or their legs crossed.



Infant car seat outgrown 1

 

But they look squished...


A common misconception is that babies are ‘squashed’ into their car seat.  Newborn babies look swamped by the seat when they are very tiny, so naturally 9 months down the line they look huge in it!  However, so long as a baby is within the weight and height limits of the infant seat, they are very safe.

A car seat is a little like a motorbike helmet, if your motorbike helmet was loose it would not work as well as one that was a snug fit.  Car seats are the same, if a baby is snug in their car seat, they have maximum protection.  It is partly for this reason that infant seats come with newborn inserts to help support them.

 

Newborn cushion


Newborn cushions are normally removed at about 5-6 months of age. To learn more about newborn cushions, check out last week's post.

 

Adjusting your seat


Your infant seat will adjust with your child as they grow.  The newborn cushion and head hugger usually will be removed over the course of the first 6 months (remember once removed the harness will need adjusting too).  The harness will either have an adjuster or it will require you to re-thread the harness to a new height setting.  The straps must be level with or just below your baby’s shoulders.

 

Seat shell


The length of the car seat shell will play a big factor in how long the seat lasts.  Take a look at these images, both of the seats have a 0-13kg weight limit.

 

Short seat shell

 


Infant car seat outgrown 2

Infant car seat outgrown 3

Tall seat shell

 


Infant car seat outgrown 4

Infant car seat outgrown 5



A seat with a taller seat shell will last a baby longer than a seat with a shorter seat shell.  However, fitting a seat with a tall seat shell can sometimes mean the seat belt is not long enough to go around the seat.

 

Bases


Choosing to use a base that stays in the car for your infant seat (if you have the option) has the benefit of reducing the risk of incorrect fitment, especially if it’s ISOFIX.  It also has the secondary benefit of either eliminating the need to use the adult belt, or it routes the adult belt away from the child.  If the seat is left in the car, it makes getting the little one in and out that bit easier.



Newborn Insert 1

 

Travel systems


Travel systems are very convenient, but it’s very easy for babies to end up spending far too long in their seat.  Babies should only spend a maximum of 90 minutes in their seat at a time.

 

What about when the seat gets too heavy to carry and use on the pram?


Another trigger for moving up to the next stage is when the seat gets too heavy to carry or the seat isn’t put on the pram so often anymore.   It is worth remembering that the infant seat is a car seat first and foremost, that will keep your baby safe. It is a pram convenience second.  Once the seat is too heavy to lift with the baby in, leave it fitted in the car and lift the baby in and out of the seat.

Lots of people are not very keen on this idea, as it can be fiddly putting the little one back in the seat.  However, if you are choosing to turn forward facing next, this slight inconvenience will allow you to keep your baby in a safer seat until it is outgrown, as babies are much safer travelling rear facing.

 

To sum it up


Your baby has outgrown their infant seat when they hit the maximum weight limit for their seat, or when the top of their head is level with the top of the seat – whichever comes first.  Children are safest staying in the lower stage seat until it is outgrown.  This is particularly important if you choose to forward face for the next stage seat.


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