Forward Facing, Isofix, Boosters – A Guide to Car Seats
A car seat is the most important piece of equipment you will buy for your child. It’s easy to forget, with everything you need to remember and juggle and consider, that the car seat is a piece of safety equipment: Its sole purpose is to protect your baby and/or child in the event of an accident.
Running The Stork Exchange has made me so much more aware of child seat safety, and how important it is to install a seat correctly. I get asked a tonne of questions by customers, especially as car seats vary hugely from country to country. We’ve also attended numerous training workshops with Britax and Maxi Cosi, so here’s a few pointers I’ve picked up along the way:
Forward VS Rearward facing?
Forward facing seats are fine as long as they are installed correctly, but Rearward facing wins hands down, in terms of safety. In Ireland we tend to turn our children around at 13kg (approximately 12 months) but in many countries, such as Scandinavia, it is possible to get rearward facing seats up to the age of 4 years and longer. The tide is turning here however, with the introduction of more and more brands offering rearward for longer, at various different price points. Rearward facing is the future: Volvo have even designed a car with the back seats all rearward facing.
Isofix VS Seatbelt?
Believe it or not, they are both equally as safe as the other, so long as they are installed correctly. The main advantage of Isofix is that it is easier to install correctly than a car seat installed with a seat belt, but in both cases it’s best to follow the instructions and guides provided to the letter.
Legal in America, and illegal in Ireland and many European countries. Invented and used to prevent Houdini Junior breaking out of the harness whilst driving, but if in an accident they can cause severe injuries to the chest area... but so would not being properly restrained in the car seat. A solution is to always make sure the harness is tight against your child’s chest, you shouldn’t be able to put more than a finger between the harness and your child’s chest.
Booster Cushion VS Highback Booster
Seatbelts are triggered by weight, and children are not heavy enough to trigger the seatbelt which is why we put them in car seats. If you are using a booster cushion, your child is heavy enough to trigger the seatbelt. However, the advantage of a high back booster seat (which is available up to 36kg / 12 years of age) is that it has added side impact, head and back protection – so where is the debate? One customer told me that while not “illegal”, you can no longer buy booster cushions in shops.
Pinch and Wiggle
One of my customers told me this little trick, to make sure the seat and your child are installed correctly. Pinch the harness to see if it’s tight enough, if you can pinch more than an inch, that’s not good (is it ever!) so tighten it again. Once installed and with the child inside, try wiggling the seat forwards and backwards, with your left hand (if you're right handed or your right hand if you’re left handed). The seat shouldn’t move too much either way, and if it does, tighten it again!