Baby Seat Guide
It goes without saying that while travelling, you’ll want to ensure that your child is as safe and as comfortable as possible, with this in mind, investing in a baby car seat that meets regulations is absolutely essential. In fact, research has shown that this investment reduces the risk of an infant fatality in a car crash by 71%.
It’s not only parents that take child car seats and their regulations seriously either – but the police also do too. Get caught without a car seat, and they’ll issue a £500 fine should your child car seat not be fitted correctly or deemed to be not inline with car seat laws.
Purchasing the correct baby car seat not only means that your child will have the best possible protection, but also that you’re staying on the right side of the law and avoiding a potential fine too. So, what are these laws?
In 2017, concerns regarding safety resulted in a change in child car seat laws in the UK. Prior to this change, children weighing 15kg could use a backless booster seat, these days only children that weigh at least 22kg and measure over a height of 125cm (just above four feet) are legally allowed to use backless boosters. These child seat regulations only apply if the backless child car seat is designed after March 1st 2017.
Child car seats are designed to fall in line with car seat law while simultaneously offering a superior level of protection for your children, but with this design comes a whole host of other benefits too.
Baby seats and child car seats are designed with safety features in mind first and foremost, in particular, they protect children’s soft bones while they’re still in the growing phase as well as internal organs throughout every stage of development.
Of course, child car seats are designed to cope in the unthinkable event of a crash, and they undergo stringent safety tests before being allowed to enter the market. Car seats will:
Protect the head and neck
Prevent the baby’s head from moving around, this avoids the head coming into contact with surrounding surfaces in the car as well as the neck stretching.
Distribute pressure from child restraints as much as possible across the back, the strongest part of an infant’s developing body.
Protect the body
Protect the child by surrounding them with a specifically designed shell; in the event of a crash, this shell prevents them from being struck by debris or other parts of the vehicle.
It’s worth mentioning that you should also invest in and use a rear-facing baby car seat until your child is at least 15 months old, or ideally as long as possible within the weight or height limits of their particular seat. The reason for this is that a rear-facing car seat will pull the child into it during a frontal impact, protecting the head and back and limiting movement of both the head and the neck.
A front-facing child car seat leaves the child more exposed and open to jerking forward during a frontal crash.
There are three main criteria of car seat available on the market today, each with their own design features and each catered to your child throughout different stages of their development.
We’ve detailed these below along with some of their main attributes and selling points:
0 - 2 Years Old
Rear facing car seat.
2 - 5 Years Old
Forward facing car seat
5 - 8 Years Old*
Booster Seat - *When able to fit properly
8 Years Old plus*
Seat Belt - *When able to fit properly
Rear-facing car seat
- Ordinarily used for children up to 22 - 35 pounds, though remember to always check guidelines and instructions on the specific model.
- Rear-facing car seats should only be used for vehicular travel, avoid allowing your child to sleep or feed in the chair while not in the car.
- More often than not they will feature a base that can be left in the car, allowing for easy removal and fixing into place without installing the seat each time.
- Models are small in size and ergonomic in design, featuring the likes of carrying handles for added ease.
Convertible car seats
- As the name suggests, convertible seats can be switched from rear-facing to forward-facing as the child ages and outgrows the weight or height limits of the rear-facing child seat’s guidelines. These guidelines are higher (up to 40-50 pounds) which also makes convertible seats ideal for larger babies and toddlers.
- Although bulkier, convertible seats last longer than rear-facing only car seats.
- Features an incredibly secure five-point harness that attaches around the shoulders, hips and between the legs.
- Again, these car seats should only be used for vehicular travel, not for sleeping or feeding while outside of the car.
All-in-one car seats / booster seats
- An extremely versatile model of car seat, they can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and even as a booster seat in conjunction with the car’s standard seatbelts, giving them excellent longevity and value for money.
- Though they lack separate bases and often carrying handles too, they also have higher weight limits (40-50 pounds), meaning that they’re suitable for bigger babies and toddlers too.
Now that you’re fully aware of the benefits of child car seats as well as the different models on offer, how do you choose the right car seat for you and your child? First things first, you need to consider these three key areas:
Weight and height
You’ll need to weigh and measure the child in order to pick a car seat that’s the right fit. Car seats based on a child’s height are called i-Size seats, while weight-based children’s car seats offer options ranging from 0-9kg up to 15-36kg.
Many newer car models (and all cars produced after 2011) include ISOFIX fitting points in their seating as standard, so it’s a good idea to purchase an ISOFIX car seat if possible. Look out for i-Size car seats, a height-based model of car seat which features ISOFIX mountings.
While choosing a car seat, you should also consider the following criteria:
- If the child is under 15 months old they must be seated in a rear-facing child car seat. A child’s neck strengthens at 15 months old, only after then is it safe to fit a front-facing car seat.
- Under no circumstances should you fit a rear-facing child's car seat in the front of a vehicle if there’s an active airbag on the passenger's side.
- Once a child reaches more than 125cm in height and weighs more than 22kg they’re able to be seated in a backless booster seat.
- Highback booster seats are recommended if the child is smaller in stature.
- Child car seats are required to be fitted with a diagonal seat belt system or ISOFIX car seat mountings.
- Before the age of 12 or measuring less than 135cm, a child is required to use a car seat by law. After this age or height is reached they no longer require a car seat.
With all things considered, you now need to narrow down the right seat for you by measuring for a child car seat. To help with this process, take a look at our easy-to-follow size guide below:
|Group||Child's weight*||Approx. age of child||Child's height¹|
Birth - 10kg/22lb
Birth to 6 - 9 months
|40 - 85cm|
Birth - 13kg/29lb
Birth to 12 - 15 months
|40 - 85cm|
0+ and 1
Birth - 18kg/40lb
Birth to 4 years
|40 - 105cm|
0+, 1, 2 and 3
|Birth - 36kg/79lb||Birth to 12 years||40 - 150cm|
9 - 18kg/20 - 40lb
9 months to 4 years
|85 - 105cm|
1 and 2
9 - 25kg/20 - 55lb
9 months to 6 years
|85 - 150cm|
15 - 25kg/33 - 55lb
4 to 6 years
|105 - 150cm|
1, 2 and 3
9 - 36kg/20 - 79lb
9 months to 12 years
|85 - 150cm|
2 and 3
15 - 36kg/33 - 79lb
4 to 12 years
|105 - 150cm|
|*Applies to R44.04 seats||¹Applies to iSize seats|
Modern child car seat designs make installation as simple as possible, however, there are some areas that parents (and new parents in particular) might overlook. To give you extra peace of mind and make sure that your little ones are secured into their seat safely and soundly, here are some common car seat mistakes that you should be aware of and avoid.
Fixing the car seat too loosely
It’s vital that you fix your baby car seat firmly in place; attach it too loosely to the base and, in a collision, the seat may come loose, causing the seat and infant to hit the back of the front car seat and risk serious injury.
You can quickly and easily test this by grabbing the car seat at the base with both hands. When pulling at the harness, the seat should be able to move no more than 1 inch when moved from side-to-side or front-to-back, if it does move beyond this measurement, things will need to be tightened up.
The harness is not fastened tight enough
By not wanting to fix the harness too tightly and cause their child discomfort, many parents will unwittingly make the mistake of fastening the harness too loosely. The danger of this is that your child may come loose from the protective seat in the event of a crash, risking serious injury.
You’re able to avoid this by pinching the harness fabric between your fingers once your child is fastened in. If there’s still some slack and the harness isn’t snug, you’ll need to tighten it.
The harness clip is fastened incorrectly
Securing the harness chest clip in the wrong spot is another common mistake made. If the clip is in the wrong position the harness straps risk slipping off the child’s shoulders, which in the event of a crash, may cause the child to be ejected from the seat.
The harness clip should always be positioned at the centre of the chest and in line with the child’s armpits in order to ensure the straps are fully secure.
Not installing a rear-facing seat at the right angle
There’s much more to rear-facing car seats than plonking them on the backseat and hitting the road, the seat has to be at the correct angle too. If the seat is installed too far forward, this could cause your child’s head to drop forward, thus disrupting their breathing and risking cutting off their air supply altogether.
This can be avoided by bearing in mind the sloped angle of the vehicle’s backseat and adhering to the child car seat’s instruction manual. Rear-facing seats have an in-built angle indicator or adjuster, so achieving the right angle should be fairly straightforward.
Putting your child in a forward-facing seat too soon
As should be clear by now, rear-facing baby seats are incredibly important and absolutely necessary. Some parents will switch to a forward-facing seat too soon, but it’s vital that your child remains in a rear-facing position until they’ve reached the maximum height or weight limit of their seat.
By ignoring these guidelines, you’re risking your child’s spine and head while their bones are still forming. Should a child be facing forwards during a crash, their heavier head can jerk forward and risk causing serious spinal injuries or even death.
Allowing your child to sleep or eat in the seat outside of the car
As we’ve touched upon earlier, baby car seats should only be used for vehicular travel. This isn’t just down to forming bad habits, but rather the design of the car seat itself and the risks involved with using it incorrectly.
Child car seats are designed to sit inside of a car, with everything from the balance to the angle specifically manufactured to accommodate this environment. Leaving your child to eat or sleep in a car seat outside of a vehicle can be deadly, resulting in avoidable accidents and fatalities such as the seat flipping and causing injury or your child slipping and becoming asphyxiated by the straps.
Yes, you should always remove the likes of thick jumpers, winter coats and snowsuits. These bulkier items of clothing can compress in the event of a car crash, leaving the straps too loose to safely protect your child.
Dress the child in thinner, less restrictive layers of clothing and keep them warm by wrapping a coat or blanket over the harness straps if needed rather than leaving them in heavier clothing.
You should avoid this scenario altogether if possible, especially if your car features airbags in the front seats. Doing otherwise may result in serious injury or potential fatalities should you be involved in a car crash.