Baby car seats might not seem like a necessity. Most parents carry their baby home from the hospital in their arms. Also, when a nanny is available, you think you’ll always have someone around to carry the child.
Many people say ‘I didn’t use a car seat when I was young and look at me I turned out ok’. Yes, you might decide not to get a car seat and your child will turn out ok or he might not. Why take the chance?
A baby car seat is convenient because it means you don’t have to wait for someone to drive you or someone to be available to carry your child. You can drive a car knowing that your child is with you and safe.
Studies have shown that baby car seats reduce the risk of injury after impact by 71-82%. This means that out of 10 accidents involving children in baby car seats, 7 children were protected from injury.
Think about the number of injuries and death that could have been prevented by this seemingly unnecessary piece.
Baby car seats are for children what seatbelts are for adults. They slow down the body in the case of a sudden crash or swerve and spread the force of the impact around the body.
Children are even more susceptible to danger during crashes. Due to their soft developing skeleton and because of their size, a little impact could send them reeling forward through the windshield.
A child is supposed to use a car seat until they are old enough to use seatbelts. So, what does old enough mean? There are different car seats appropriate for different ages. How do you know which is suitable?
Whether you don’t know the first thing about car seats or you’re looking to upgrade your current car seat to the one suitable for your child, this guide is for you.
So read on, we’ll answer all the questions above and more.
Types Of Baby Car Seats
Usually, babies upgrade through the following car seats as they mature. Although it’s possible to skip one or two, the usual order is:
Infant car seats
These are generally good for the first year. They are usually rear faced, i.e facing towards the back seat of the car. They usually have a latch to attach them to the car seat, and can be fixed into stroller frames when the seat is removed from the base.
Convertible car seats
These can be positioned either rear-facing or forward-facing. They are usually used as rear-facing seats till the child has exceeded the height or weight limits. Then, they are converted to forward-facing seats.
While you can detach the infant car seat from your car and affix it to a stroller, you can’t do same with the convertible. So, it remains permanently in your car.
The all-in-one seats
These baby car seats go from rear-facing to booster through various adjustments. This looks like the seat everyone will go for. However, studies have shown that it doesn’t do any one task especially well. Talk about a jack of all trades and master of none.
High-back booster/5 point harness
This has more leg room and it has a high weight capacity. So, it can be used until the child can sit directly on the vehicle seat. You can switch to the seatbelt when the child is mature enough to sit still in the booster.
This is for children who have outgrown the rear-facing seats and can now use the car’s own seatbelts.
They come in two main styles: the high back and backless. The main function of boosters is to ‘boost’ the child so that the seatbelts pass at the right angle over their sternum and collar bone, not their neck, and across their lower thigh, not their abdomen.
Things To Consider When Buying Your Baby Car Seats
– Start early
You do not want to start shopping for a baby car seat when the baby has arrived. You want to start early so that you can take your time to select a car seat that you won’t regret.
– The size of your car
Infant car seats can be really deep. For very small cars, they might take up so much space that the front passenger seat might have to be adjusted.
Eventually, if the car is too small, the passenger in front will have his knees on his face. It is very important that the car size is considered when selecting baby car seats
– Compatibility with a stroller
Getting a baby to sleep is a lot of work. The last thing you want to do is wake up an infant you’ve successfully put to sleep.
Most times, you’ll want to move the sleeping baby from the car to the stroller without interrupting her sleep.
This is when it’s important that the seat can be fixed into a stroller and wheeled along.
– Latch system
Cars made after 2002 have a provision for the latch of the baby car seat to be installed. The alternative to using the latch is using the seatbelt system. It’s wise to look out for which of this is attainable with the seat.
The latch also has weight restrictions which when exceeded, mean that the car’s seatbelt system has to be used. Remember to look out for those.
Some of the seats weigh up to 5kg alone. Add a 3.5kg baby and that’s 8.5kg. You can imagine moving this around; the weight on your arms will be killing. Now imagine twins, so two strollers on either arms.
You get the picture though. Carrying that weight around along with other baby property will wear you out, super mom. So, try to put the weight of the baby seat into consideration.
It’s also important to have a handle that’s wide enough that the weight is evenly distributed.
The seat should be sturdy enough to cushion the child from an impact. The padding should be soft enough to be comfortable for the child.
You need your baby seats padded to ensure comfort. This is because most times during a car trip, a child is just lying down and trying to be comfortable.
Ensure that the fabric is breathable so that your kid is cool through car trips and not stuck in the uncomfortable heat.
Also, check that the adjustments have enough recline positions so that your child is not stuck sitting up for long periods. The last thing you want is to stress their fragile spines.
P.S: Never buy a second-hand car seat. It may save you a lot of money and the seat might look as good as new. But you can’t tell which of the safety measures have been compromised so don’t even risk it.
So, between some extra money saved and the absolute safety of your child, let’s pick safety.
– Age of the child
It is recommended that children below the age of 2 ride rear-facing car seats i.e car seats attached facing the trunk of the car. This is because crash testing has proven that children in this position during impact are five times safer than those facing the frontward position.
Therefore, when shopping for seats, the age of the child is an important factor. You can buy the seat that can be fixed facing the rear (rear-facing seats). Alternatively, you can settle for the convertible seat that can be used as a rear-facing seat when the child is young.
It is converted to a front-facing seat when the child reaches the height requirement. Convertible seats are roomier and might not provide the necessary safety while your child is still very young and tiny.
This is because the harnesses don’t hold on as firmly as they would a bigger child. Preemies might need infants beds that have been approved to allow them to lie flat until they are developed enough for the rear-facing seat.
If you’re one of the parents who is always on the go and you need to move your sleeping child from the car without waking them, some of these baby car seats can be converted to strollers.
This is a perfect hybrid for parents that use the uber, or whenever you’re in a car that’s not yours. You don’t want to be dragging a stroller along when you’re using a baby car seat or dragging a car seat along when it’s time to use a stroller.
So, imagine a car seat that can function as both. Cool, right? Ensure you get the ones with wheels that fit so far into the seat that there’s no contact between the wheels and the seat. So, you don’t have to worry about getting sand on the car seats.
– Easy to install
You’ve bought a good seat with excellent features. You get to your car and because the instructions are not straight forward enough or the parts need a professional with superpowers, you just can’t set up the seat.
Or you set it up improperly, completely defeating the aim of safety that the seat is designed to achieve. It’s important that the seat parts have clear instructions for installation.
– Weight and height limits
Confirm the minimum and maximum weight printed by the manufacturers. This is so that you know when you are exceeding or not reaching weight and height requirements for the seats.
Car seats that have low maximum weight and height tend to be unusable after a short time. This is because the child’s legs might grow out of it, or the weight might become too much for the handle to bear.
For forward-facing seats, the higher the back and weight limit, the better. This means longer time for the child to use the chair. Before he\she reaches the height requirement and outgrows the car seat.
If you want to get value for your money, you don’t want seats that have to be put aside after a year of usage. Buy seats with a higher maximum height.
It’s possible your child will be too tall for his seat before reaching the weight limit. And since there’s no sure way to know the weight of your child and how fast he’ll grow, buy car seats with a high maximum weight.
– Easy to wash
Some baby car seats have a removable covering that can be machine-washed. This is a very useful feature because kids are messy and a time will come when you’ll want to wash off stains and you’ll see that this can be a deal-breaker.
We love bright colors for kids but for the baby car seats, let’s use dark colors that don’t show stains. We can leave the bright colors for their toys and vegetables.
– Easy to operate
It’s also nice when the baby car seats have buttons that are large and easily accessible. It’s not like this is a deal breaker.
But if you’re to choose between two baby car seats that have equally satisfying features, and it’s between one with small buttons and another with large, pick the one with large buttons.
Also, you want to ensure that the parts buckle and unbuckle without hassles. You don’t want to be fumbling with buckles every time you’re to get your kid in and out of a car seat.
Care Of Baby Car Seats
– Cushions and head huggers that were not provided by the manufacturer should be avoided.
You want to protect your child, but those might even compromise his safety. They can jeopardize the safety of the seat during impact.
– Always take pictures of your car seats from different angles before taking them apart to wash. It’s a huge help during re-assembly.
– As much as possible, don’t let the kids eat in the car because the particles will get in the crevices.
– Do not spray any chemicals when cleaning the shell of the seat.
– For the straps, damp cloth is sufficient to get them clean.
– You can use a fine-toothed brush to get the crumbs out of the tiny nooks.
– Remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions for the type of detergent to use for the cleaning.
– Always replace a car seat that has been in a crash even when you think the crash is minor and you can’t see visible damage.
– Remember, buying a good seat is one thing and properly installing it is another. It is wise to check with car seat installation experts before you start using the seats.
– And after your kids are buckled in safely, remember to drive safely. You can’t protect your kids from every harm. But it is important to know that you’ve protected them from every harm you can protect them from.