How to choose the right car seat for your child
It’s a familiar story among new parents: your adorable newborn is all dressed up in their hospital-leaving outfit, photos have been taken, doctors/midwives/nurses have been thanked and you’re ready to go home – but first you have to work out how to secure your precious bundle in the confusing contraption of a car seat. Yep, there’s no question that becoming a parent involves a steep learning curve but when it comes to car seats, at least, help is close at hand. Here are the basics.
Birth to six months - capsule
An infant capsule is a detachable seat that fits into a secure base. The base is attached with a seatbelt or ISOFIX clips, and the seat itself is tethered to an anchor point.
The advantage of a capsule is that – in theory – you can remove it and carry the baby out of the car without disruption, or even click the capsule straight into a pram frame (with the right adaptors). The downside is that this kind of capsule can only be used until about six months (less if you have a large baby and they hit the shoulder markers sooner).
PRO TIP: Consider hiring a capsule for six months. It will cost you around one-third the price of buying a new one, and you won’t have to worry about storing or reselling it when your baby outgrows it.
Six months to four year - forward-facing car seat
If you’ve gone down the capsule route, one option is to progress to a forward-facing car seat once your child meets the shoulder markers. These seats have an in-built six-point harness and, like a capsule, attach with both a seatbelt or ISOFIX as well as a tethered anchor point. The other option is to progress to a convertible car seat (see below).
Four years up to ten years - booster seat
The next step is a booster seat. The main difference is that your child will be restrained with the car’s seatbelt rather than an in-built harness. Some boosters simply sit on top of your regular passenger seat, while some have an additional safety tether.
Birth to eight years - convertible car seat
An alternative to all of the above, there are generally three types of convertible car seats:
- Birth to four years: these seats are suitable for newborns in a rear-facing position and can be turned to forward-facing once your child meets the shoulder markers
- Six months to eight years: these seats convert from a forward-facing seat to a booster seat
- Birth to eight years: these seats convert from rear-facing to forward-facing to booster.
Convertible seats are a great option if you only want to buy one seat, but they generally require a bigger initial financial outlay and many models are bulkier than their non-convertible counterparts.
PRO TIP: Legally, you need to keep your child in a rear-facing seat until they are six months old. But the safest option is to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible after the six-month mark – until their shoulders meet the markers on the seat.
Read more about kids in cars