Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A little bit about car seats.

This is a sponsored post for the NRMA via Digital Parents Collective 

When I was pregnant with Popps there seemed to be an endless number of things on the list of items we must have. Prams, cots, cradles, wraps, slings, baby bags, monitors, designer toys and the list went on. I soon realised that a decent car seat was actually the most important item to consider when you look at the list of things your baby will need.

It took me a couple of seats to work that out, so here is what I suggest you do to save yourself purchasing an excessive numbers of car seats.*

Firstly, when it comes to the cost consider that your baby will be in a couple of car seats for at least seven years, long past the point of being pushed in a pram or sleeping in a cot and certainly past the time you want to hear their every word on a monitor strapped to you as you walk around the house. If you need to save some coin, ditch the nappy bin, the dummy strings, the bumbo, the floor mats and all those things that last a few months and put the money to the car seat.

It can be difficult to choose the right car seat, there are many to choose from and they do differ quite a bit. There are also road rules that you will need to abide by that assist in looking after the safety of your child. The laws differ depending on the age of your child and apply to babies under six months, from six months to four years and four to seven years. Each age group has a specific style of seat recommended. Some seats will work for many years, but you will generally use at least two different seats until your child is seven.

All car seats must meet the Australian Standards, regardless of cost, but you can consult the NRMA’s test results to choose a top safety rating restraint.  This site also tells you how easy the seat is to fit.

You can buy a second hand car seat or use one which you know the history of. If the seat is second hand, take a look at the sticker on the side or back of the chair, this will tell you when the seat was made, if it happens to be more than ten years old, then the seat is no longer considered safe, no matter how clean it is and how little it was used. If you are unsure if a seat was previously in an accident then don’t risk using it for your child either.  

Once you know you are looking at a seat that meets safety standards the next thing to look for is how easy it is to use and will it fit in your car.

Crucial to any new seat I now buy is how easy it is to adjust the straps. Make sure you play around in the shop with the straps. Often Immy might be in a bulky coat and jumper in the morning and I need to lengthen the straps, by the time we are strapping in again later in the day she may be in a t-shirt. I adjust the straps each time and the car seat with the push button adjustable harness is far simpler to use for both of us. I also did this when the girls were newborns. Tiny babies can be fiddly, it can be easier to lengthen the straps quite long, place the baby in the seat click them in and adjust accordingly. If you are unsure how tight to make the straps, you should be able to fit two fingers between the child and the straps.

When Popps was a newborn we purchased a cheaper seat for the second car, initially we were moving the one seat from car to car which is a really stupid idea. Currently we have both cars fitted with appropriate seats for a 6 year old and a 3 year old. We also have spare seats in case we need to travel with a little friend in each car and one for the grandparents to use.

While a booster seat for a child over the age of 4 doesn’t legally need to use the tether strap in your car we only use those that are. I also prefer to use booster seats that have what is called an anti submarine clip on the seat; this clip ensures the belt is held down around the hips area and stops the belt creeping up over your child’s tummy where little internal organs could be damaged in the case of an accident.

Once you have fitted a few car seats into a car you get used to it pretty quickly, but the statistics show a very high number of seats are not fitted correctly into cars. There are now a number of places that provide free fitting of child seats into your car or you can pay a small fee to have it done for you. Mr H did this while I was in hospital and it made that first wobbly drive home from hospital a tiny bit calmer. They showed him how to fit the seat and included the additional buckles we needed at the time.  

In a perfect world you will never test the safety of the seat you choose, but the Child Restraint Evaluation Program  has done many tests and rates the seats accordingly - it can be a useful place to start when you begin the search for a car seat.  Interestingly, not a single seat gets the full five stars in the ratings for both safety and ease of use. The things that are not taken into account are the added extras; cup holders, cushioning, fabric design, and speakers in the headrest. These are things that your child doesn’t need to be kept safe, but they can be rather useful for parents, especially those that spend many hours in the car.

Buying the right seat can be tricky. But never fear, there are plenty of people who can help you.

If you are in Sydney and heading to the Sydney Baby and Toddler Show on 28-30 September you should track down the NRMA booth and go and talk to them. NRMA wants to share everything they know on how to keep kids safe in and around cars. They will be able to help you with any further questions you have about the right seat for you.  Also, if you are an NRMA member you get 40% off the cost of the ticket for the Show.

* At last count I have had nine seats for two children. This wouldn’t have been required if I did my reading first. 


  1. Ah, this is a cause I'm passionate about! One thing I find really interesting is that people in baby shops (and shops like Target) seem to be completely undereducated, and it is essential to do your own research using reliable sources like the NRMA.

    We found that baby shops just want to push Safe N Sound seats which often aren't the safest option (but often the most expensive). In the booster seat category, the safest seat is one of the cheapest! They often try to onsell the H harnesses too, which research says can reduce the safety of a carseat if not refitted correctly every single time you get in the car.

    Phew, off my soap box ;) A blog post well worth sharing, Claire. Too many kids are not in appropriate car seats and it's the simplest thing we can do to ensure their safety.

    1. Oh Tam, thank you, you have made my day by being a similar lover of car seats. I do have a few preferred seats but I am reluctant to mention them here as the brand of seat is not the debate to have. As with everything kids (and their parent's budget) come in a range of sizes and shapes and the right option can really differ a lot. I have another cheaper seat right now though and I am about to kick the thing to death. The adjustable head rest falls down all the time and needs to be re positioned on EVERY ride. For me, for a bigger kid, the Hi Liner is a great option, but far from the only option. And yes, I butted into a conversation in Target with a parent buying a booster for a 2 year old, not sure it was appreciated though!!

  2. Great post Claire. Really important for new mums and dads to learn but also for busy mums and dads who forget the basics. The CREP testing is easy to understand and only takes a minute to check out the safest on the market.

    My gripe with carseats is the twisted straps. It just seems to happen every now and then for no particular reason, meaning the seat needs to come out for them to be straightened! So my tip would be to learn about how the seat is fitted properly, then when it needs to come out of the car (for travel, twisted straps, whatever...) you know how to put it back in safely. And if you don't think it's in securely, take it to the professionals!

  3. Argh, my pet hate is when my friends put photos of their kids on facebook and they are badly restrained! I could just die! lol Some let their kids push the straps down from their shoulders and looking like lap belts instead. They think it's cute :(

  4. Sharing this on my blog wall! I have blogged about car seat safety and am so happy to find another post on that isn't about selling a seat.


Commenting brings amazing luck, you must try it and see how you go!