Car seats.
It's advisable to do as much research as possible when looking at the possibility of purchasing the right car seat for your newborn, small child or toddler.
Unfortunately, there are many, many options and different brands offering various kinds of car seats in all sorts of lovely colours and variations although most are fundamentally the same.

Naturally, as parents, we don't only want the best for our little ones but safety and awareness is a must when it comes to these. It's also hard to know how much to spend, which is why we'll be addressing that a little lower down.
Children, by law, should be in car seats until they are at least 135cm tall or 12 years old.
More specifically, In the United States and Canada, all children are generally by law required to ride in booster seats until they are at least 4 feet or 145 cm tall or a minimum of 36 kilogrammes or 8 years old. This can vary within the different states, so check your local laws accordingly before making a purchase.

In the United Kingdom according to the law , all children travelling in the front or back of any car, van or goods vehicle have to use the correct child car seat until they are either 135cm in height or 12 years old (whichever they reach first). After this, they must use an adult seat belt.

Children must ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are a minimum of 1 year old or 10 kg. However, 2 years is the American Academy of Pediatrics current recommendation, and the current trend is to keep a child rear-facing for much longer, as it is a safer position for the child.


Things to consider
before you buy
The type of car/s you'll be using the seat in.
Isofix (Also known as L.A.T.C.H.) is the international standard for car seat attachment points in passenger cars. A car seat that is adequately rated will have all three Isofix mountings. The good thing about Isofix is that you don't have to use a seatbelt, making the seat far more secure in the car.

Generally, you'll find that there's 3 points: 2 at the base of the seat and 1 which is either a strap/s which is fixed to the back of the chair or a drop down foot. To make things easier, cars that are fitted with Isofix usually have the Isofix mark on the seats.
The cost factor.
What's your budget? How much would you be willing to spend?
Prices can range from $50 to $500, and above. Plus, you'll want to consider whether you will use the same seat for multiple children.
Baby/Child Size and Age.
How big is your child? Are they large or small for their age group? Remember, age restrictions are far less accurate than weight and height restrictions, because all babies grow at different rates.

The recommended age in which the infant/child is able to use the chair can overlap, so that they use it for as long as possible, as long as they are comfortable and secure. As a basic guideline for all chairs, if the head of the chair is more or less level with the child's eyes, then they have outgrown it - but we'll go into details regarding this with individual chairs shortly.

Online vs Offline Shopping.
If your seat is bought offline you have the advantage of being able to take your child/baby to the brick and mortar store to ensure a good fit.

Meanwhile, shopping online has the advantage of having access to seats not necessarily available in your local stores. A qualified online vendor will have a return or exchange policy in place to make sure that you end up with the very best car seat for your needs.

What car do you drive.
What car do you drive, and how many cars will the seat be used in? Will you just be using one car shared by all members of your family, or do you have more than one car? Will the child also be riding in grandparents' vehicles, babysitters', etc?

The good news is some manufacturers will have a list of the cars with which their child seats are compatible. You can find this out by checking the car seat manufacturers' websites before making your purchase.
car seats
The different types of car seats are:
Convenient Rearward facing Infant Car Seats - From newborn to roughly 12 months.
Combination seats
(Rearward and forward facing)
Forward Facing Child Car Seat
and booster seats
Safety Precautions
for all kinds of seats.
The back label of your child/infant seat will provide you with the height and weight limit of that particular car seat. It's advisable to keep baby in the rear-facing position for as long as possible, facing away from the airbag. Ideally, a child should never be in the front seat of the car, and should never be in a seat with airbags.
Get your car seat positioning checked by a professional. Most police and fire stations will do this for free, but there locators for these services available online.

DO NOT pull on the seat or shake it from side to side to check if it is secure or loose! Car seat safety is as much about correct angles and latching as it is about tightness - and what's more, you can knock the seat out of the correct position by jostling it around.
Think about how tall you are and how much leg room you and your front passengers need, as this may affect the position of the car seat. When you test out a seat in your own vehicle, move the front seats as far back as you normally would.
Make sure the seatbelt or harness is untwisted, and not too tight to the point of being a health hazard. A simple test for this would be to put in 2 fingers between the harness and the infant/toddler. This applies to both forward and rear facing seats with an internal harness.
Something that's often overlooked is the child's clothing, such as thick winter coats and jackets. It is not safe to have a child wearing a winter coat in a car seat, as make the harness looser than it should be on a child. Take the coat off before putting the child in the seat, and if the car is cold, use blankets or a cover to keep the child warm. Parents need to make sure that winter gear and other clothing does not get in the way of child seat safety.
Stay away from the second hand, used, or even non-accredited brands as this puts your child's safety at risk. Getting used seats from work colleagues, friends or family can make us feel that we do not need to check the basics, because they come from a trusted source.

If you will use secondhand seats, be sure to check the labels on the seat, especially the expiry dates. Make sure to check the history of the seat, as well as models that have been recalled back by manufacturer's. Before you buy a car seat, check that it has not been recalled by using this database:
http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SearchSafetyIssues

Try and stick to known, reputable brands (e.g. Graco Nautilus , Evenflo, Graco Milestone, Maxi Cosi etc.) as they are likely to have documentation for installation, plenty of reviews, and even advice in forums online.
Although many car seats will come with age recommendations, it's important to note that children naturally grown at different rates. i.e .My 2 year old might be smaller that your 1 ½ year year old.

Don't rush them to an older/higher age group seat if they are still a perfect fit for a lower age group one. Conversely, don't keep them in a seat that they have outgrown, even if they are still in the correct age recommendation.
Does your car have a top tether mount? This is to stop the car seat tipping forward in the event of an accident. Generally car that are newer than November 2012 should have this feature
For most rear facing seats, the handle bar would need to be in a certain specific position i.e. up straight or fully back. In early infancy, a third of the baby's weight tends to be on their head, so check the headrest on the seat to make sure that it is fully supportive.
Make sure to refer to the manual for this information.
A note on Using
Belt-Positioning Booster Seats:
Using belt-positioning booster seats instead of seatbelts alone reduces the risk of death
in a car accident by half for children, and is required by law.
When the child has reached the the recommended maximum weight and size for a car seat's internal harness, you can switch to a belt positioning booster seat, generally between 8 and 12 years of age. Booster seats require a lap and shoulder strap seat belts to work correctly.

On children, the shoulder section of a seatbelt often crosses the neck rather than the shoulders. Naturally this causes discomfort and can be dangerous for the child. Having the seat belt under their arms or completely behind them renders the belt completely useless when it comes to providing safety. In this scenario, the child's head, neck, shoulders and arms would be left flying forward in the case of an accident.

A belt positioning child seat is meant for preventing this exactly. If you imagine this scenario but this time with the child in a belt positioning booster seat both their head and shoulders would be safely secure reducing the risks of neck and spine injury.

Convenient Infant car seats, Designated rear-facing seats (Infants)
Convenient Infant car seats,
Designated rear-facing seats (Infants)
Generally 0 - 10kg (22lbs), from newborn to 12 months. Check your local laws and the guidelines of reputable car seat manufacturers. The child lays flat in the rear facing seat, secured by a harness.
Different types:
Group 0
Babies up to 10 kg (22lbs) roughly up to 6 months - generally for premature or low birth weight babies, not very common.
Group 0+
Babies up to 13kg (29lbs), used from when they're born to 12 - 15 months.
Group 0+ &1
This is for babies and toddlers up to 18kgs, from birth up to 4 years old.
Pros:
  1. Most can be carried out of the car and can be used as part of a pushchair/buggy/stroller.
  2. Built to protect newborns from car accident or sudden stops. reduces the risk of death or injury by 90% in comparison to being unrestrained.
  3. The protection is targeted and is greater for the baby's head, neck and their spine compared to forward facing seats.
  4. Usually have an energy absorbing inside
  5. Most will come with a five point or 3 point harness that will hold your baby in comfort and safety
  6. These will have a handle to help lift the seat up to either carry the seat while walking (usually for short distances) or transferring to a stroller.
  7. Very convenient is the infant is sleeping as the seat can simply be detached and transferred to your cosy living room.

Cons:
1. Can be quite heavy to carry

2. Ideally, you may want to take your car and newborn to your nearest retailer to try the seat. However in today's internet world shopping online also has it advantages such as access to a wider range of seats that may not be readily available at a store near you.
Although you should always make sure that you have a return policy in place before making the purchase in case the size is not right or the proper labels are not on it.

3. It's crucial that the seat is installed according to the manufacturer's specifications exactly as they are most likely to be not only safe for you little one but also based on government regulation.

4. The manufacture our be able to advise you regarding the suitability of the seat to your car. Sadly because not all cars are built this should always be checked. Should have the 'E' label marking showing that it's EU approved. In the USA the standard is the FMVSS 213 (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213. In Canada it's known as Canaldian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.

5. Prices vary but for trusted brands it's usually anything between £40 - £65. The manufacturer usually includes the necessary instructions but basics are making sure the harness is finger tight to the point where you're able to insert or 3 fingers under the harness. Think about the size of your car, seat access, your seats in the car and where you would ideally like to have the seat. Also, strongly consider getting one that's transferable to a stroller. This is extremely convenient in a lot of situations where you'll be walking around so you don't have to carry the car seat.

Product Recommendations:
Group 1 child car seat
(Rear and forward facing, Convertible car seats)
Convenient Infant car seats,
Designated rear-facing seats (Infants)
Once they've outgrown their convenient rear facing infant car seat.

Weight of 9 - 18kg according in most countries children spend the longest time in these.
Generally, 20 - 40 lbs (1 to 3 years old) depending what state you're in USA -
Check will local authorities or reputable manufacturers.

Naturally because of this, getting the best is a necessity.

Types of convertible car seats:
Group 1
Toddlers 9 - 18kgs 20 - 40 lbs
about 9 months to 4 years
Group 1, 2 & 3
Toddlers and children from 9 to 36 kegs (20 - 79lbs)
about 9 months to 12 years
Pros:
  1. Convertible, meaning they, Can be both rear and forward facing
  2. Can also be moved in multiple cars as it detachable
  3. Generally easy to install
  4. Children spend the longest time in seat, saves, money
  5. They provide impact protection Will have either a 5 point or 3 point harness
  6. The harness whether 3 or 5 point will help spread the force of a crash over a wide area of chest and pelvis
  7. Many and most will have an adjustable back providing flexibly t suit the weight and height of the child
Cons:
  1. Although basically the same, there's many different variations to chose from which can be tedious and time consuming.
  2. Inline some infant car seats, the seat cannot be transferred to a stroller
  3. Obviously, it's advisable to go for something that's easy to install and comfortable for the child.
  4. By the time your child gets to use this chair their back muscles should be strong enough

Product Recommendations:
Forward Facing Booster Seats (Small child seats,
High back and no back).
Forward Facing Booster Seats
(Small child seats, High back and no back).
Booster steals are used once the child has outgrown a Group 1 forward facing seat.

General guidelines for booster seat installation:

  1. Always check the manufacturer's manual
  2. Toddler/Child seats go in the rear seat, one with a lap and shoulder seat belt.
  3. Backless booster seats should only be used with a high seat back or headrest.
  4. The belt would need to go over the child's booster seat and across their body.
  5. It's essential to use both shoulder and lap belts.
  6. To help with the above, most car seats will have lap belt guides which are cut out grooves on the left and right hand side of the booster seat.
  7. Make sure the lap portion sits below hip bones and upper thighs and not on the child's belly.
  8. Also look out for shoulder belt guides, similar to lap belt guides but for shoulders. These are useful for guiding the belts away from the child's neck as this can cause irritation and gradually lower safety as the child is bound to keep removing it.
  9. These shoulder belts should cross the centre of the shoulder and chest.

There are 4 Types in total:
Booster seat with internal harness
High Back Belt Positioning Booster (Note that some of the above mentioned seats can be later adjusted to belt positioning booster seats)
Backless Booster Seats
Built In child restraint (built into car)
Among these kinds,
there are 2 variations:
Forward facing only seats
These are for children who have outgrown their rear facing or convenient convertible seats but are too small to use a grown up adult seat belt. Seats can be used forward facing with a harness for children who weigh up to 40 to 80 pounds (depending on the model). Although manufacturers are not currently making any forward-facing–only seats, many remain in use from previous years.
Combination seat with harness
Seats can be used forward facing with a harness for children who weigh up to 40 to 90 pounds (depending on the model) or without the harness as a booster (up to 80–120 pounds, depending on the model).
Pros:
  1. Gets the child prepared for using a normal seatbelt
  2. Easy to install
  3. Can be easily transferred from one vehicle to another, especially in the case of the small backless boosters
  4. Although prices can vary they are generally affordable as seen in our price guide.
  5. More back support for the child
  6. Generally easily adjustable as they use the car's seat belt in th awe of high backed booster seats.
Cons:
  1. Unlike other 2 types of seats this one is broken down into 4 subtypes and without the proper guidance a parent can be easily confused.
  2. It takes time to get the child used to seat belt positioning. If done incorrectly this can irritate the child, especially if the belt keeps going near their neck. Make sure to check the child's position in the booster seat regularly to ensure their safety and comfort.
Product Recommendations:
In summary…
For an infant car seat, the recommended size and weight is generally 0 - 10kg (22lbs), from newborn to 12 months. Recommended brands are Evenflo and Chicco, on both affordability and good reputation.

For convertible car seats the recommended size and weight for Group 1 is:
Toddlers 9 - 18kgs (20 - 40 lbs), about 9 months to 4 years.
Group 1, 2 & 3
Toddlers and children from 9 to 36 kgs (20 - 79lbs), about 9 months to 12 years. Recommended brands are Graco, Costco and Evenflo.

For Booster Seats the weight and age requirements are 15 - 36 Kg (33lb - 80 lb), generally 4 - 7 years old, but always check the requirements for your region. Recommended brands are: Cosco, Maxi-Cosi and Graco.

On all the above mentioned seats look out for the 'E' approved label for Europe and the USA equivalent which is FMVSS 213 (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213. In Canada it's known as Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213.

Remember:
  1. Make sure the seat is fitted properly for your child, and move up to the next level of seat once the child meets the weight or height requirements.
  2. Rearward facing seats should never go in the front of a car if there's an active airbag on the passenger side.
  3. The child seat must be installed properly. Get professionals to help check it. Do not shake the seat to check that it is secure.
  4. Find out if the seat complies with laws in your respective area, state or city.
  5. Always read the manufacturer's instructions.
  6. Be sure to check the expiry date as over time, labels may have become faded and the condition of the seat declines.

Be safe and protect
your most important passengers.

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