Life as a new parent comes with lots of challenges, including choosing car seats! Before you know it, your little one is starting to look a little big for his/her first stage seat. So, is it time to move up to a bigger seat? Should you choose a forward or rear-facing seat? What do you need to consider?
When is the infant carrier outgrown?
Firstly, check the approval sticker on your car seat (often found underneath.)This will tell you the regulation your seat is approved to and its weight and/or height limit.
Most infant carriers are approved to R44/04 and classed as a group 0+. These seats have a weight limit of 13kg/29lbs. They are also outgrown when the top of your baby's head is level with the top of the seat.
If you have an infant carrier approved to R129 (i-Size) then it will have a height limit, e.g. 75cm, and possibly a weight limit too. These limits are clearly marked on the seat.
The infant carrier is outgrown once your child reaches the height or weight limit, whichever comes first. Don't worry about long legs over the edge, they are perfectly safe; or that your baby looks "squashed" – think of the car seat as a crash helmet, a tight fit is good.
Should I choose a forward or rear-facing seat?
It is safest to rear-face your child for as long as possible. This is due to their anatomy and the physics of an accident.Young children have relatively larger heads with less developed neck bones and muscles.In a frontal impact the head is thrown forwards, putting stress on the neck and spinal cord. The less developed the spine is, the greater the risk of serious injury. When rear-facing, the child's head, neck and spine are kept in alignment and the force is spread out over a greater area.
Does this mean forward facing seats are dangerous?
Simple answer is no. Since car seat regulations were introduced in the 1980's the number of fatally and seriously injured children has reduced. Forward facing seats do offer adequate protection as long as they are fitted and used correctly. However, rear-facing provides even better protection for your little one. If you do decide to buy a forward facing seat it is advised to keep your child in the infant carrier until it is completely outgrown.
What does the law say?
If you have a seat approved under R44/04 then it is legal to put your child into a forward facing car seat at 9kg.However, they should be able to sit unaided for at least 30 minutes and fit the seat they are going into.
If you have an i-Size seat, then legally your child must stay rear-facing until 15 months.Each i-Size seat also has a minimum height limit for forward facing.
Bear in mind that the law is a minimum standard: experts recommend rear-facing up to 4 years.
What else do I need to consider?
If your child doesn't like the infant carrier, or you would prefer to move them into a bigger seat, then you could look at Group 0+1 as these are rear-facing from birth initially, then turn forward facing at 9kg. Some can even rear-face up to 18kg. Or if your little one is 9kg and you would like a rear-facing seat then a Group 1,2 may suit you. Have a look at our car seat selector tool as it can help when choosing a seat:
Follow these points:
1. Check your child's height and weight
2. Keep your child in the infant carrier until it is completely outgrown
3. Choose a seat that is suitable for your child
4. Choose a seat that is suitable for vehicle/s that the seat will be fitted into
5. Visit a retailer to try a few seats in your car
6. Consider rear-facing for optimum safety