Although choosing a car seat for your baby might be the last thing on your mind early in your pregnancy, it really is the very FIRST thing you need to get right before bringing your precious little bundle home.
We can help. Good Egg Safety is the UK's most trusted in-car safety specialist and, based on our experience of checking over 20,500 child car seats, we've put together this useful guide just for YOU.
It covers the key things you will need to consider when the time comes to buy your baby's first car seat. You can also read further blog posts or visit our main website for all the free advice you will ever need on how to keep your baby safe.
Your baby’s car seat is perhaps one of the most important things you will buy them, it will keep them safe and secure in the car, and should you ever be involved in a collision, it is there to protect them. However, despite the car seat being so important, it can also be one of the most confusing things to buy!
Group 0 child car seat – normally lay flat, with a 10kg baby weight limit, these seats often take up two seating positions.
Group 0+ child car seat - rear facing, with a 13kg baby weight limit, these often have a base option and are portable, they often fit on the pram.
Group 0+1 child car seat – rear facing, and may turn forward later on, with an 18kg child weight limit. These seats tend to remain fitted in the car.
Research what awards the child seat has won – Mum and Baby awards will assure you of comfort and user friendliness, and crash test awards from German Stiftung Warentest and ADAC will assure you of superior crash performance. Alternatively, an iSize approved seat meets the very latest requirements, including mandatory side impact protection.
Child car seats are either fitted with ISOFIX or the adult seat belt, and while both are very secure when correctly fitted, ISOFIX is considered safer as it reduces the risk of misuse. Group 0+1 car seats which use ISOFIX normally have the ISOFIX attached to the seat. Group 0 and 0+ car seats may utilise a separate base that remains fitted in the car, not all infant seats have this option so check for this before choosing your seat.
Travel systems are very convenient, however it is very important for your baby’s health that they do not spend excessive amounts of time in their infant seat. The car seat should only be used on the pram for very short, quick trips out of the car and if you are going to be out for any length of time, your baby is safer being moved into their lie flat pram. The maximum amount of time your baby should be in the infant seat is 90 minutes, and they should then have a break from the seat. However, if you are driving, this may be exceeded as your baby must always use a car seat when in the car, ensure you plan in time for regular breaks on long journeys.
When it comes to purchasing your baby’s first car seat, we recommend that you visit a retailer, with properly trained staff, who will spend time with you ensuring you are happy with the seat and how to fit it.
The child car seat base is typically available for group 0+ car seats, and will either be fitted with the seat belt or ISOFIX. The benefit of the base is that it remains fitted into the car, and you simply click the infant seat on and off the base. The base will normally have an indicator to tell you that your seat is properly clicked into place. The benefit of a base is that you do not have to re fit the seat every time and the audible click and indicators will give you peace of mind that your seat is properly fitted on every journey.
NOT EVERY CHILD CAR SEAT FITS EVERY CAR, so it is important to ensure the seat is tested in every car it will be used in.
Practice fitting your car seat regularly, so you are completely comfortable with how you secure it in the car, and ensure you know how to loosen and tighten the harness. Read the fitting instructions as these will give you extra information specific to your child seat.
If you buy accessories for your baby’s car seat, ensure toys are securely fastened and soft. Avoid adding frilly covers, or aftermarket covers to your seat, as these are not crash tested and may alter the safety offered by the seat.
Here are our top tips to follow when fitting your baby’s seat!
1. Your new baby must travel in a seat suitable for their weight, which is either lie flat, or rear facing, babies are rear facing. Rear facing car seats have blue seat belt guides to follow
2. Ensure the base of your infant seat, and the edge of the seat sit flush with the vehicle seat and seat back.
3. When fitting the car seat, ensure the seat belt remains flat and untwisted. The buckle of your seat belt should not rest on the frame of the infant seat, or base.
4. Ensure the seat belt is routed through the correct guides, as the belt may not necessarily go through every guide. Be sure to consult the fitting instructions and watch a fitting video if one is available.
5. If you have an infant seat, ensure your carry handle is in the correct position for travelling in the car.
1. Not every ISOFIX car seat is suitable for every car, be sure to check the vehicle compatibility list and make sure your seat is suitable for your vehicle, and every other vehicle it will be used in.
2. Locate the ISOFIX points in your car, and fit the ISOFIX guides if required – these do not have to be fitted if your ISOFIX is accessible, they are simply available to help make fitting easier.
3. Extend the ISOFIX arms fully, and fit these to the ISOFIX points in your car – you will hear an audible click when each arm is connected, and the indicator will turn green.
4. Now lower the support leg to the floor, the leg should sit firmly on the floor so the indicator is green, but the base should not be lifted off the vehicle seat.
5. If you have an infant seat, ensure the carry handle is in the correct position for travelling in the car.
Strapping your baby into their car seat sounds like it should be easy, however it is one of the most common errors that we come across – straps are often left too loose or set at the incorrect height. Here are our 5 tips for ensuring your baby is safely strapped in.
1. Remove any thick, puffy and padded coats, jackets or snowsuits. These create a gap between the harness and the child, which may cause the harness to not work properly.
2. Ensure the harness is at the correct height – the straps should be level with the tops of your child’s shoulders. However, if you can’t get the straps level with, they may dip just below when rear facing and sit just above when forward facing.
3. Ensure the harness is completely flat against your child, with no rips, tears or twists in the harness.
4. Pull the harness over your child’s shoulders, and clip into the buckle – if your seat has a 5 point harness, now pull the straps from just above the buckle to ensure the straps are tight over your little one’s hips.
5. Finally, pull the harness to tension it, so the straps sit firmly on your child. You should just be able to get two fingers between your child and the harness at collar bone level.
I'm about to have my first baby and my husband is really into the zone right now about safety. He has been hunting down the perfect car seat for weeks now. He has also been looking at auto sales in the area to see if there is a car out there that would be more convenient for me as a mom but also safer for our child. He is definitely going to be the more over protective parent than I am but I think that it is sweet. Thank you for posting this. I will have him look at it and perhaps it will help him make a final decision on the seat.
Thanks for your comment, and congratulations on your imminent arrival!
Please know that we are a UK blog, and while a lot of information is relevant, US car seats are very different. The Car Seat Lady is a great US resource - http://thecarseatlady.com/
The Good Egg Team