Planning for the arrival of your little one can be a very exciting, but also a very nerve racking time. You need to buy all kinds of things to keep them warm and comfortable while also ensuring they’ve got somewhere cosy to sleep and plenty to play with, too. One area where parents can get confused during this time is when buying a car seat, an item you’re likely to need soon after the birth as you take your child home for the first time, but the kind of item that raises plenty of questions among soon-to-be parents.
If you’re having your first child then it’s likely to be the first car seat you’ve purchased and you’ll be amazed at just how many options there are. Do you choose a Joie or a Britax Romer car seat? Should you buy a baby car seat or the kind of seat that’s future-proofed and likely to last for a few years?
All valid, common questions that we often hear at Uber Kids and ones that got us thinking as we kick off our child car seat competition in partnership with Britax Romer. In order to help parents and relieve some of the stress, we spoke to a number of parents and got their top tips for buying a car seat, so you’re equipped with everything you need to know before your little one makes their big entrance.
Read how each car seat faired in a safety test
Safety is paramount when it comes to choosing your car seat. We all know how important it is to protect our little ones and every parent, new or experienced, is likely to opt for the safest model they can afford – it’s natural.
Kaiden Laverty from A Suffolk Dad speaks from experience and told us “I learnt a lot when researching car seats for my first baby. Beforehand I had no idea how important rear-facing was past the legal age and that a lot of car seats out there just do not meet the safety standards that I was happy with. So, a couple of things I would say to look out for: research the safety tests your car seat passed and disregard them if they only passed the minimum requirement. Also, look into a car seat that will be comfortable to rear-face with as your baby grows – our little one was tall for his age so it was tough finding one with enough room but we soon found our favourite!”
Consider how you’ll use your car, and the car seat
Are you the kind of person who is likely to use your car to pop to the shops? Or maybe you use the car on very rare occasions, preferring to walk whenever possible? According to Sarah Anguish from Boo, Roo and Tigger Too, your approach to using the car is likely to change once you have a child and that in turn will affect the type of car seat you should buy.
Sarah told us to “Look at whether you will be popping backwards and forwards to your car on lots of little trips or whether you will only be using it once or twice a day (possibly the nursery drop off etc.). This will factor into whether you opt for an infant carrier that can be removed from the car and carried between destinations, and possibly attach to your pushchair, or whether you look at getting a fixed car seat that will remain in the car and you place/remove the baby in it each time you need to.”
Think about forward and rear-facing car seats
Would you prefer to have your child facing forwards, or backwards? There is nothing wrong with either option, and both methods are perfectly safe, it’s all down to personal preference and practicality as Mark Hirst from Dad’s Bible explains.
Mark told us “With my first three children I only ever purchased a rear-facing car seat. This is good and I am not knocking this seat for those who have one, but why not consider a seat that rotates on the base of the seat instead. My baby girl’s new car seat spins 360 degrees meaning I can place her in the chair and when we stop it’s a simple process of swivelling the seat towards the door to remove her.
“Honestly, she hated the original seat that I bought and this was fixed in position. Now all we have to do when we’ve parked is turn the seat towards my partner who sits in the rear with my baby girl,” he said.
One final tip from Mark is to “Make sure your child is securely placed in the seat and that it is correctly fitted. If you are in doubt just go back to the shop where you purchased the seat and they should have an expert who can assist you with this.”
Get a base for your car seat that fits the car!
There’s nothing worse than spending money on something, only to realise that it doesn’t fit. Whether it’s a pair of jeans you’ve ordered online without trying on or a new chest of drawers that are too wide for the space you wanted to build them in, sizing is always an issue and this can also apply to car seats
Cass Bailey from Frugal Family has a top tip here, she told us “I’d always recommend buying a car seat that comes with a base that fits into your car so you can just pop the seat on and off when you need to. Also, make sure it can slot into your travel system so you can literally move your baby from their buggy to the car and then into the house without any hassle – because, believe me, if they’re sleeping you do not want to have to be waking them up!”
Keep your child safe, comfortable and secure with an Isofix car seat
We’ve already covered safety, but how about comfort and security. Sabina Green from Deep in Mummy Matters shared her personal experience with us and highly recommends an Isofix car seat and seeking out professional fitting advice if you need it.
Sabina told us “I have always preferred to use Isofix car seats so I know they aren’t going anywhere. I have also always used Diono car seat protectors to go under the safety seat to protect my car seats and they have been invaluable. If your car has bucket seats ask for advice on the best seats available for your style of seat otherwise little one will be sitting on a tilt. I would always have a seat fitted by someone in the know before parting with any money. This seat could potentially save your child’s life so consider your options carefully, seek professional advice and don’t scrimp as you could regret it.”
Can your car seat double up as a booster seat?
Having considered safety, it’s also worth considering practicality and whether or not your car seat has the ability to serve a dual purpose. Henry Elliss from The Mediocre Dad said “Despite having had children’s car seats for over 10 years, I only recently realised that the ones we chose also come apart to double-up as a booster seat when the kids get bigger.
“My main tip would be to check how future-proof the seat is. Also, check whether it will work in other cars, or is it specific to yours? Being able to take it out and stick it in (for instance) the grandparents’ car is a big advantage.”