Gone are the days when kids could pile into a car without any restraints to mention. Party on the back seat? You betcha! Nowadays things are a little safer (thankfully), but choosing a car seat can be a minefield – with so much to think about and so many different options to consider. Jessica Jane Sammut looks at what you really need to know when buckling up your little one and how to choose a car seat.
Having a baby was huge on so many levels, not least because of the equipment I had to get my head around. Not really au fait with a digital alarm clock, let alone a buggy, go go gadget girl I was not* (*mac products not included).
So when I was expecting my first baby and discovered the plethora of baby devices I supposedly needed to enable me to raise/care for said baby (and be the best mother into the bargain of course), I have to admit that black spots started to appear before my eyes.
The one contraption that scared me the most was the one I knew I couldn’t shy away from. The one I knew I couldn’t get wrong. The one I had to nail. Yup. It was arguably the most important accessory of all. The car seat. Black spots, black spots, black spots.
So what did I do? That’s right I read Marie Claire right up until six weeks off my due date (swerving any attempts by friends to coax me into glancing across at a Practical Parenting /Cosmo Pregnancy magazine), and then I panicked! WE NEED A CAR SEAT!! This baby is about to come out!
So that is when my research began, and after two days buried amongst the depths of car-seat-cyberspace-hell, I finally made my choice after looking at the Britax, Maxi Cosi, Mother’s Choice and Infasecure brands, selecting the Diamond AHR Air Cushion and then recently the Maxi Rider AHR Easy Adjust (my ‘tiny baby’ is now four years old), not the cheapest on the market, but certainly two of the best with the maximum safety features, which were a must for me. And I realised, it wasn’t so bad having to pick a car seat. It wasn’t so scary. Just so long as I knew what I needed to consider. So here it is.
The National Road Safety Laws for child restraint and booster seats sets out the following:
- Children aged under six months must use an approved properly fastened and adjusted rearward facing restraint such as an infant carrier or capsule.
- Children aged between six months and under four years must use an approved properly fastened and adjusted rearward facing child restraint OR a forward facing restraint with an inbuilt harness.
- Children aged between four years and under seven years must use an approved properly fastened and adjusted forward facing restraint OR an approved booster seat which is properly positioned and fastened.
- All children under seven years of age must use a child restraint or booster seat when travelling in a car.
- It is wise to continue using a booster seat for a child over seven years of age, as long at they still fit in it.
There is also an excellent information sheet by the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia, Kidsafe, which carefully explains the various stages and requirements in relation car safety, as well as how to fit a car restraint.
Once you know the type of car seat required, the next stage is to trawl through the various differing options. I loved the Diamond AHR as it included side impact cushion technology to reduce the impact of any collision, and it was suitable from birth right through to four years old. My motivation in choosing the Maxi Rider AHR Easy Adjust came as the result of the deeply winged headrest for side impact and the fact that it had speakers embedded in the seat for those long journeys with the iPad! Gotta love modern technology!
Other issues to consider are:
- the ease of washing (can the cover come off and go in the washing machine),
- how complicated it is to get your child into the car seat (can the seat swivel around to you / does the buckle fasten nice and quickly),
- how large your car is (do you need a compact seat for fitment in a smaller car),
- how comfortable the seat is (would your child be happy to sit in it for long periods, does it have harness pads),
- if the buckle is a simple-click system (making it easier for your toddler to do him/herself up once old enough),
- whether the seat is easy to fit in the car (does it take PhD to get it in the car),
- how adjustable the seat is (to cater for the individual size and shape of your child),
- the age range of the seat (how long the seat will last before you have to ‘invest’ in another one,)
- and also any additional features (like whether the seat has a cup holder for your constantly thirsty toddler etc).
So there you have it, in a nutshell. It doesn’t have to be scary, but it really can make all the difference to your kids being happy or not travelling in the car. And once you have narrowed down your requirements according to your child and lifestyle, the final decision can be a simple one. Yay! No black spots necessary …