Published: Sunday 05 June 2016

There’s a wealth of options when you come to choosing a car seat for your newborn, so where do you start? Aside from liking a colour or picking a seat that will fit in your car, there are a number of key safety aspects that you can help you make your decision:

However, there are three basic points to start with:

  • The seat you choose must conform to the United Nations standard, ECE Regulation 44.04 (or R 44.03) or to the new i-size regulation, R129.
  • The seat must be suitable for your child's weight and size.
  • And it should be correctly fitted according to the manufacturer's instructions - many retailers offer demonstrations of how to do this in your car, or will even fit it themselves.

There are various other points you’ll want to consider:

Will you be getting the seat in and out of the car on a regular basis? If so, you might want to think about the weight of the seat or perhaps consider a fixed based where the seat slots in and out easily (but securely)?

How long do you want the seat to last? Some seats can, in theory, adapt and see a child through from birth until they’re much older. You may also want to think about how long you wish your child to be rear facing. Current advice is to keep children rear facing as long as possible. Some countries already require children to stay rear facing until they’re 4 years old. Young babies should, by law, be rear facing until they’re 15 months. Rear facing seats offer offer greater protection to the head, neck and spine so the longer a child be seated in this direction, the better. Some seats can be used rear facing until a child reaches a certain weight and can then be turned round to last a while longer. Newborn babies are classified as Group 0 so you’ll need to check that the seat is suitable for this Group.

When you come to buy your seat, be sure to do lots of research. Check out the manufacturer’s websites as well as retailers. Some organisations such as Which? review car seats, so you might want to check those out.

It is not advised to buy a second hand car seat as you cannot be assured of its history and whether it might have been involved in a previous accident. Similarly, with hand-me-downs: ensure you know how the seat has been used and how old it is; seats usually have a ‘date manufactured’ sticker on them. Plastic degrades after a few years, so you may want to bear this in mind. Many seats older than a few years do not comply to current safety standards.

Instead, purchase a new seat from a reputable retailer. Preferably visit the retailer and ask if which seats are suitable for your child and car. Of course, you may well have a specific budget in mind, so do mention this as well. Many retailers will allow you to try the seat out in your car before you buy and will help you fit it.

If you’re not able to visit the retailer (for example, you order online), double check their returns policy so that you can replace it or get a refund if it is not suitable for your needs. ROSPA have a comprehensive website dedicated to child car seats where you find a wealth of information to help you buy and use your baby’s car seat.

Thinking about these factors can prevent accidents or minimise injuries if one should happen. Why not be even more prepared and take a Baby and Child First Aid Course, either on one of our open courses or, with friends, in the comfort of your own home? Check out the course details for more information.


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