Newborn babies can't support their heads until the age of about six weeks. Therefore a child seat for this group must be rear facing, designed to support the head, neck and back evenly. From the point of view of safety it is better to keep children in rear facing restraints for as long as possible.
- The smaller 'Group 0' seats can be used for children up to 10kg, a weight most will reach at around 6-9 months.
- Many now meet the requirements of the more recently introduced 'Group 0+' though and are suitable for children up to 13kg (around 12-15 months), allowing you to keep the child in the safer, rear-facing position for longer.
- Many infant carriers/baby seats are fitted using an adult lap and diagonal belt whilst the child is restrained by an integral harness. No additional fixing kit is required so these seats can be easily moved from one car to another.
- A growing number of infant carriers on the market can be fitted using the ISOFIX system - typically a 'base' with a front support leg to prevent forward rotation attaches to the car and then the infant carrier is simply 'plugged-in' to the base.
- If you're considering an ISOFIX restraint check the vehicle handbook and child seat application list carefully first. This will ensure that you buy an ISOFIX 'category' and 'size class' compatible with your vehicle
Consider 'two-way' seats
- A cost saving option is to buy one of the 'two-way' seats. These are rear-facing for the first 9 to 12 months and then, after a few adjustments, forward-facing for a child in the next weight range (Group 1).
- Two-way seats are a compromise; they are generally heavier and less convenient to use than normal infant carriers and their fitting instructions can be complicated.
- Misfitting is most common with two-way seats.
- Carrying handles are essential and convenient. A sleeping child can be carried to and from the car and doors can be unlocked more easily.
- Consider buying an infant carrier that is part of a travel 'system' allowing you to transfer the child from the car to a buggy/pushchair without disturbing them.
- Check that the adult belts are long enough. Make sure the restraint can be installed in your car correctly and that it will sit securely at a comfortable angle for the child.
- Avoid harness adjusters located high on the straps. They can cause discomfort to a baby who falls asleep lying against them. You'll be adjusting the harness regularly as the child grows so look for systems that are quick and convenient.
- Check how easy the cover is to remove and replace. You'll have to remove it for cleaning at some point.