A beginners guide: What stage car seat do you need when?
Does your little one wiggle and scream for the duration of car journeys or are you the lucky owner of a car sleeper? (we are only a little bit jealous). But no matter what your little one does in the car, they need to be safe! Buying the correct car seat for your little one is an important decision for every parent. The process of buying a car seat can be totally mind boggling with all the different options and confusing jargon. This is before we get in to the constantly evolving regulations... of which there are currently 2! We want to help simplify the world of car seats for you so you can focus on finding the one that is right for your little one, your car and you.
First things first…..
How old is your child? How tall are they? How much do they weigh? These 3 questions are the key to establishing what stage (group) you need.
All babies come in different shapes and sizes and grow at different rates, therefore, the size of your child is more important than their age when selecting the right car seat.
A very simple breakdown of car seat classification would be –
- Baby (group 0+) – Birth to 15 months (40cm – 75cm)
- Baby & Toddler (group 0+1) – Birth to 4 years (40cm – 105cm)
- Toddler (group 1) – 1 year to 4 years (70cm – 105cm)
- Toddler & Child (group 1/2/3) – 1 year to 12 years (70cm – 150cm)
- Child (group 2/3) – 4 years to 12 years (100cm – 150cm)
Car seats can either fit into a single group, or cover many groups at once as they can adjust as your little one grows.
Laying down the law
The UK has strict laws on children carseat safety and it is important to know the rules and regulations to avoid the risk of a £500 fine if you’re caught using an unsuitable or incorrectly fitted car seat. In the UK, when riding in a vehicle all children need to be in a car seat from birth until 12 years old, or until they are 135cm tall - whichever they reach first.
Previously, children who weighed as little as 15kg could use backless booster seats, but concerns over safety resulted in a change in the law. The updated rules mean that backless booster seats will only be approved for use for children weighing more than 22kg and taller than 125cm.
To find out more, take a look at the government guidelines
1 more thing, remember to ALWAYS check that the car seat that fits your child must also fit every vehicle that it will be used in. We are always happy to advise compatibility but the manufacturers website is the go-to for this level of info!
So back to the question of what car seat do you need and when? Below we have broken down the groups into categories explaining which car seats would work best for you at each stage.
Baby (group 0+)
Approx Birth to 15 months (40cm - 75cm)
Also known as Infant Carriers due to their light weight portable nature. They have a handle making it easy to carry them from the car to your house or to connect them to your stroller, creating a travel system, without disturbing your sleeping baby. However, their small size does mean they have a relatively small age range and you will need to transition to the next stage car seat quicker than other groups.
This type of car seat must always be installed in a rearward facing position as this is the safest way for a little one to travel and is mandatory until 15 months. We would also recommend you use this type of seat with an ISOfix base.
ISOfix is an internationally standardised car seat fitting system. This allows you to fit a car seat directly into your vehicle without using a seat belt, the base simply locks into place using ISOfix anchor points built into the car. This is the safest method to install your seat in the car as the seat is held securely in place and it also ensures the car seat is installed correctly. ISOfix is found in most modern cars and is a simple way of installing your car seat.
With this one, due to its small age range, it is handy to buy a modular system for added convenience and to save you money in the future. A modular system involves a base that allows you to use a second stage seat on the same base when your baby outgrows their first car seat.
Baby & Toddler (group 0+1)
Approx Birth to 4 years (40cm - 75cm)
This ‘combination’ car seat has become extremely popular in the past few years. There are several benefits here that offer children increased safety, added piece of mind for parents and extra convenience.
Most Baby & Toddler car seats give you the option to leave little ones in the safest rearward facing position well beyond the 15 month mark, for as long as possible right up to 4 years. You can easily upgrade from your infant carrier to one of these as soon as you like, often this happens when the infant carrier gets too heavy to carry. They have the ability to be turned to face forward after 15 months and 75cm if you choose. Most of these car seats now rotate to face the car door making boarding sooo much easier!!
However, due to their size and design it does mean that these are a lot heavier than the classic infant carrier car seats, with some weighing up to 15kg, meaning these car seats often remain in the car. These are a great choice if you don’t plan to use your car seat on your pushchair to form a travel system, and the seat will last your child all the way through their toddler years.
Toddler (group 1)
Approx 1 year to 4 years (40cm - 105cm)
These car seats can be either rear facing and forward facing. This is where you will be thankful for your earlier purchase of a modular system. If you chose to use a infant carrier with a modular ISOfix base then this is the time you can use your toddler seat on it.
These have a shorter age range when compared to the previous group. This can be a pro and a con, it means that it doesn’t need to adapt as much so is tailored specifically to the exact stage of your child development, on the other hand, you only get a few years use out of it.
As awareness of the benefits of rear facing for extended periods increases and the popularity of rotating combination car seats grows, our product range for this once popular category is now limited to second stage seat in a modular system.
Toddler & Child (group 1/2/3)
Approx 9m-12 years (170cm - 150cm)
Perfect problem solver in our opinion.These are ideal for large families with several cars being used regularly. Always an ideal ‘additional’ seat for occasional use by parents, grand parents and everyone involved in little ones life.
Another ‘Combination’ seat that covers from 9 months until 12 years! Converting in to a child seat at 4 years old.
Child (group 2/3)
Approx 3-12 years (100cm - 150cm)
Now your little one is growing and getting bigger (where did that time go!?) they can move up to a high back booster seat. These seats do not have a harness or shield as seen on their previous seats – they utilise the car’s seat belt and act as more of a booster with deeply padded head and side wings. Your child is safest using the 5 point harness or impact shield for as long as possible.
Most group 2-3 car seats feature an adjustable headrest, and some can also adjust in width or have adjustable leg rest to ensure your growing children are kept safe and comfortable. Additional feature such as armrests and cup holders add that extra bit of comfort for your little one.
We know it can be confusing, which is why we’re here to give you a helping hand to make your choice. Just give our super friendly team a call on 01276 408494 and we’ll talk you through it or pop in to store.
At Natural Baby Shower, we offer a free car seat demo and fitting service. Our trained team will take you through everything you need to know about fitting and adjusting your car seat.