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Car Seats

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May 17, 2013 by Dadinator

I thought, for a change, I might offer some advice rather than simply navel gaze on this blog. 19 months ago The Lad joined us and we had spent most of the 9 months prior making plans and preparations for his arrival, including the purchasing of lots of bits and bobs, and the receiving of many items from grandparents and other relatives. We were thrifty, we bought a lot second hand, visited markets and used eBay to bargain hunt. We’ve used almost everything we’ve purchased for The Lad, so we didn’t go overboard. I thought I’d try and do one almighty advice post on what you need/don’t need for a baby and how to go about deciding what to get, but I realised shortly after starting that some of these topics are going to get quite lengthy. So I thought I’d start with the very first baby device you’re likely to use with your little one, the car seat. They’ll go from the hospital into the child restraint and then home to all the other junk you’ve bought to make your life easier. Many fathers will talk about the profound sense of terror that permeated their first drive home. I remember feeling shell-shocked and overwhelmed by the idea that I was taking my son home, and that our household suddenly had a new person in it. I wasn’t scared, just sort of dazed. The Wife sat in the back (they will probably want to sit in the back fellas, don’t take offence), and  left a hand on our son to make sure he kept breathing for the entire journey. I do remember fumbling with clips and belts and things to get The Lad in the seat and safe. 19 months down the track I can do it in my sleep. I’m pretty sure I have….

If you google ‘baby seat’ or something you come up with loads and loads of advice. I’ve tried to filter through it a bit for you, but it’s down to you do do your research and make your decisions. I’m not endorsing any brands of car-seats here (although I do mention the one we bought ourselves), and I am not an engineer or anything, so keep all that in mind when you read over this post.

So here’s The Dadinator’s lowdown on Car Seats:

Unless you live within walking distance of the hospital that delivers your baby, or you home-birth, this item is non-negotiable and second hand isn’t really an option. Before I go any further I urge you to read up on car seats in your relevant road authority in tour state. For fellow Victorians, Vicroads material is here, some quick googling will get to the equivalent page in your own state. For about the first 6 months of life your little one will need to face backwards (N.B. this depends on size not age, consult your manual, standard disclaimers etc etc….). You can get a dedicated rear facing capsule, or a convertible seat which can be turned around when they are bigger. We went with a convertible seat because we believe in getting something to last.

There are pros and cons for both:

Convertible seats are more expensive but will last you longer (ours will suit our boy up to the age of 4).

Capsules are GENERALLY cheaper, and you can get models where the capsule detaches from the base and forms a carry-able bassinet for your baby while they are still small. I’ve even seem some where the capsule detaches from the base in a car then clips onto a pram unit, so you can then take bub around the place without the fus of taking them out of the car seat. Do your research, there’s plenty out there. However once bub hits a certain height/weight they need to be swapped for a forward facing model.

Other practical advice: measure your back seat, this thing will impact your ability to cary passengers,  and check that your car has appropriate hooks and anchors to strap in your child seat. You can buy anchors which can be mounted in pretty much any car on the market when you get your seat if necessary (around 20 bucks.) Also, while there’s loads of information out there online, there’s no substitute for face to face advice from someone who knows their stuff, they can have a look at your back seat to see what might be suitable.

All child restraints should conform to Australian standards (AS 1754 if you’re curious if it doesn’t say AS 1754 on it, don’t touch it with a 50 foot pole….), but I was happy to go over and above that standard for my progeny. Ours, which was a gift from my in-laws, is by Britax and has served us well. We got a second one for our second car last year, and went with the same brand but a different model which is forward facing only, won’t take a child under 6 months but will last until he is 7. Interestingly the company has a replacement service for their seats if you are ever in a crash. By the way, if you are ever in a crash, you need to think seriously about replacing your child restraints straight away (even if they look fine). You may find your car insurance will cover you for replacement costs.

Here are some useful sites to help confused mums and dads to be out there:

CREP – A one stop child restraint testing shop. Rates child restraints on safety and ease of use. If you have one in mind you can type the model number into the search engine to see how it went in testing.

Choice Magazine – You need to be Choice subscriber to access this content, but look out for choice magazine in your local library if you don’t want to fork out for it!

RACV – I’m Victorian, so this relates to Victoria. Other car associations will also have info. RACV also provides a list of approved child seat fitting stations across the state.

And here’s VicRoads again – Check in your own state for more specific info, I understand the different states have different material.

So there’s a start for you. The Child restraint is a safety device required by law if you intend to put your child in the car. It’s a big deal and warrants your attention.

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