If you’re like most new mums, safety is your top priority. You expect to leave the hospital with the best car seat possible for your new baby, but how do you know which one is right for you?
Choosing the Right Car Seat
Three things matter the most when choosing the car seat that’s right for you: safety and age-appropriateness, comfort for your child and ease of use for you. Even the best-reviewed car seat won’t give you what you need if you buy a model that’s meant for an older child, or if it’s too cumbersome for you to manage alone. Try several models in-store first. Practice snapping together the harness, adjusting the straps and using the base, if you’re testing an infant seat. Can you comfortably carry the seat across the store? Is there adequate padding? Can you lengthen the straps without pulling the seat away from the car? The answers to these questions will help you narrow down your choices.
The Difference Between Infant Seats, Car Seats and Booster Seats
Your new baby will progress through at least 3 different styles of car seats as he or she gets older. After your baby is born, he or she is at her most vulnerable. The safest car seats for your new baby are rear-facing models that feature a base and a portable seat. You’ll securely attach the base to a seat in the rear of the vehicle — never in the front, as a deployed airbag can harm your infant. You can keep the base installed and remove the portable seat whenever you exit the car.
When you place your baby in an infant seat, he or she will face the back of the vehicle. Many parents hang a small, child-safe mirror off the car’s rear headrest so they can easily see their baby’s face. Your infant must always face the rear of the vehicle when riding in an infant seat.
When your child outgrows the infant carrier, it’s time to upgrade to a forward-facing car seat.
The forward-facing car seat allows an older, larger child to face her parents. Like the infant car seat, the toddler car seat belongs only in the rear of the car. You’ll securely attach the car seat to your vehicle using the seat belt and possibly an anchor. You’ll secure your child in the seat using multiple harnesses. It’s important that the harnesses fit snugly, but not too tight. Plan on loosening the harnesses as your child grows.
Booster seats are for older toddlers who have outgrown the car seat. They’re not portable, but they are much lighter and easier to manage. The booster seat’s job is to elevate your child enough so that the car’s seatbelt can do its job safely.
There are 3-in-1 options available - these are known as convertible car seats. Designed to adapt as your child grows, a convertible car seat provides years of use from a single seat. Beginning as a rear-facing car seat for infants, a convertible car seat then transitions into a forward-facing seat for your toddler and ends as a belt-positioning booster for your older child.
The Best Car Seat Brands
Britax Safe-n-Sound - The industry leader in car seat technology, ensuring your child's safety in the car.
Infa-Secure - Infa-Secure provide practical, safe and affordable car seats. An Australian owned and operated family business.
Maxi-Cosi - High quality car seats providing safety for babies, toddlers and kids. Have been providing safe car seats for decades.
Safety 1st - Safety 1st provide safe, reliable and comfortable car seats for your child. Putting Safety 1st with mums and dads around the world.
Baby Love - Committed to making parenting easier and more enjoyable. Offering high quality car seats.
Know the Ages & Stages
Most parents don't know they are using the wrong car seat. Do you?
All children must be safely fastened in the correct child car seat for their age and size. A child who is properly secured in an approved child car seat is less likely to be injured or killed in a car crash than one who is not.
Five things to remember are:
Age is important - the younger the children are, the more fragile they are, and the more protection they need.
Know the limits! - ALWAYS follow the weight and height limits of the car seat.
Fits your vehicle - not every car seat can be installed correctly in every car. Try before you buy.
Easy for you to use - try out the features of the car seat, choose one taht will make it easy for you to use correctly every time.
Maturity matters - a booster is designed for children mature enough and big enough to sit still in the proper position for the whole ride.
The Latest in Car Seat Safety Information
Get up to date with the latest Australian car seat safety information in 2017.
Make sure your baby’s car seat complies with the latest safety requirements is a legal obligation. It is a good idea to seek the services of a professional child car restraint fitter to ensure peace of mind. Your baby car seat retailer should be able to assist you, or alternatively visit the Royal Automobile Club in your state or territory and see if they provide restraint fitting services close to home.
Travelling with your Child
It's important to know how to position your children when travelling.
If travelling with one child only, place them diagonally opposite the driver’s seat, so they are not travelling on the ‘traffic side’.
Remember, your baby’s car seat need to fit not only the baby but also the car! Be aware of your growing baby and how it's position in the car will need to change as it grows.
The following is a guide only and based on information for Victoria – your state or territory legislation might differ.
Determining the right restraint for your child
Six Months and Under
If your child is under six months of age, they must travel in a rearward facing approved child restraint
Six Months to Four Years Old
If your child is six months to four years old, then it comes down to their size.
Your child must travel in either a forward facing or rearward facing approved child restraint with deciding factor will be your child’s size.
Four to Seven Years Old
If your child is aged between four and seven years old, again, it comes down to your child's size.
Your child should travel in either a forward facing approved child restraint with an inbuilt harness or should travel in an approved booster seat.
The deciding factor will be your child’s size. It's important to be observant of how your child sits in the car.
Seven to 16 Years Old
If your child is aged between seven and 16 years old, then it comes down to their size,
Your child should travel in an approved booster seat or can sit in an adult car seat using a seatbelt.
16 years or over
Your child is ready to use an adult car seat with a proper fitting adult seatvelt.
Note: a booster sear may be used with a child safety harness or a lap-sash.
Too Tall or Heavy?
If your child is too tall or too heavy for the restraint recommended for their age group road rules allow your child to use an approved restraint in the next age level category to them. However:
The restraint must be the right size for your child (do see a professional restraint fitter if you are unsure)
The restraint must be properly adjusted and fastened
The restraint must be correctly fitted to the vehicle
Does my Restraint meet Australian Standards?
All child restraints must meet Australian & New Zealand standard (AS/NZS 1754). This standard has been carefully designed to ensure your child is the safest when travelling and is one of the strictest child restraint standards in the world.
When purchasing your child restraint, make sure you look for the standards approved sticker.
What is CREP?
CREP stands for Child Restraint Evaluation Program, and it is essentially a body of independent information about the level of protection from injury provided by child restraints. In addition CREP details just how easy it can be to use a child restraint. The online resource is supported by VicRoads, RACV and TAC in Victoria.
What is ISOFIX?
ISOFIX is a method of attaching a child restraint to your actual vehicle, without using a seatbelt. ISOFIX compatible child restraints have connectors that attach to ISOFIX anchors (in cars that have installed ISOFIX anchors). These child restraints also come with a top tether strap – it is obligatory to use this strap as well. In short – ISOFIX compatible child restraints give you an alternative option to using a seatbelt. Read more information here