Buying a car seat for your baby is one of the most important safety decisions you will take. It is also one of the most complicated when purchasing gear and equipment.
While child seat laws in some countries are non-existent, the US, Canada and the UK require children to be safely secured in a child restraint system when in a vehicle. The age, height and weight limits for bigger children (generally aged 5 and above) may vary, but there isn’t any flexibility on the law when it comes to newborns, infants and toddlers.
1. Beware and avoid using or buying second-hand car seats. If you absolutely have to, make sure it hasn’t been in an accident. (also refer to point three)
2. Since a car seat is safety equipment, it is important to ensure that it is of the highest quality your money can buy. Make sure your final choice complies with the latest safety regulations.
3. The impact-absorbing foam in most car seats expire after six years, making it critical to check its date of production.
4. Newborns and infants must always be placed in a rear-facing car seat.
5. There is a difference between infant car seats, convertible car seats and booster seats. Infant car seats are rear-facing and only last for up to a year. Your baby will then have to shift to a convertible car seat, which switches from rear-facing to forward-facing and can be used until your child is ready to shift to a booster seat.
6. Know your vehicle - some cars are smaller than others, so it is important to pick a car seat that fits correctly and the safety system you pick at the newborn stage can scale up as your baby grows older. Simply put, make sure the newborn car seat, the convertible and the booster seats all fit your vehicle, even though you probably won’t buy them all at the same time.
7. Understand your family’s needs – some parents like to have the convenience of attaching the car seat to the stroller or lifting it out of the car if their baby is asleep. Parents then choose to buy a newborn car seat and switch to a convertible when it’s time to make the change. For others, they go straight to a convertible car seat.
8. Car seats are installed using either a seat belt or with LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), a system that has been required in cars and car seats since 2002. The LATCH system works with a car seat base and is easier to install and more secure.
9. Pay close attention to safety features (5-point harness, easy harness adjustment, side impact protection) and manufacturers installation instructions (placement, bubble level indicator, side line level check) when making a purchase decision.
10. While this is a fact for after the baby is born, always remember to follow the two-hour rule. Newborns must not be in a car seat for longer than 2 hours, within a 24-hour period. The semi-upright position of a car seat can cause a strain on their developing spine and restrict airflow to the lungs.
Our guide is meant to outline the need to know facts. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions, seek the retailer’s guidance and consult with a qualified medical professional or childcare expert when taking important decisions regarding your child.
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