Baby seats (group 0+ and 0)

Infant carriers for babies from birth to 13kg (0+) or 10kg (0) (approx. 15 months or 6-9 months)

It is better to keep children in rear-facing restraints for as long as possible

It is better to keep children in rear-facing restraints for as long as possible

Your newborn baby won't be able to support his or her head until about six weeks and won't be able sit up until much later.

This is why child seats for the youngest children are all rear-facing, designed to support the head, neck and back evenly.

Remember that you must not use a rear-facing child seat on a passenger seat where there is an active passenger airbag fitted. The close proximity of the child's head to the airbag could result in severe injury or death if the bag is triggered in an accident.

It is better to keep children in rear-facing restraints for as long as possible.

The smaller 'Group 0' seats can only be used for children up to 10kg, a weight most babies will reach by around 6-9 months.

Group 0+ seats are a better choice because they are suitable for children up to 13kg (around 15 months) and allow you to keep your child in a safer, rear-facing seat for longer.

Many infant carriers/baby seats are fitted using the adult lap-and-diagonal seat belt while the child is restrained in the seat by an integral harness. This means that these seats can be easily moved from one car to another - assuming the adult belts are long enough.

You can also buy infant carriers that are fitted using the Isofix system. Typically these combine a 'base' attached to the car and a seat that clips easily into and out-of the base. The base will have a front support leg to prevent forward rotation in an accident. Check the vehicle handbook first to make sure you buy the right Isofix category and 'size class' to suit the vehicle

Price can be a concern

Compared to child seats for older children, infant carriers are only used for a short period of time.  This means they are suitable for hire schemes, and your local authority Road Safety Officer should be able to tell you if there are any hire schemes operating in your area.

Buying secondhand can be an option but don't buy anything that you even suspect might have been involved in an accident. It won't give the same protection as a new one.

Check that nothing is missing or broken - including the fitting instructions which are essential if you're going to be able to fit and adjust the seat properly.

Buying from family or friends is a good idea because you'll know the history of the seat and can be sure that it's not been involved in an accident.

Car boot sales, free ads and other sources where you don't know the seller can't be recommended.

'Two-way' seats

Seats that can be used rear-facing for the first 9 months and then forward-facing up to three or four years may look a good idea if money is tight, but they are a compromise.

They are bigger and heavier than an infant carrier so you lose all the convenience of being able to carry the child in and out of the house in the child seat.

Fitting instructions can be complicated as well which means that two-way seats are often installed incorrectly.

Convenience

  • Carrying handles are important. A sleeping child can be carried to and from the car with one hand which makes unlocking doors easier
  • Infant carriers that are part of a travel system allow you to transfer the child from the car to a buggy/pushchair without disturbing them.
  • Make sure the infant carrier can be installed correctly in the car. It must sit securely at a comfortable angle for the child and the adult belts must be long enough to go around the child seat as shown in the instructions.
  • Think about the child's comfort. Harness adjusters located high on the straps can cause discomfort to a baby who falls asleep lying against them.
  • Is the harness easy to adjust? You will have to adjust it regularly as the thickness of clothes changes and the child grows so it's best to find a design you get on with.
  • How easy is it to remove and replace the covers? You will probably have to remove it for cleaning at some point.

(27 September 2012)