As your child grows, you will need to change the way you secure them in the car. The law in the UK now requires that children stay in a car seat until they are either 12 years old or 135cm tall. This means that some children could be in a child’s car seat throughout primary school. But car seats can be incredibly confusing, especially as you have to keep replacing them as your child grows out of them. You can determine your child’s car seat through their weight and age. Although it may seem complicated, you can look at it as a series of fairly easy transitions from one seat to another.
Car seats belong in five different weight categories. The first group is Group 0, for babies weighing up to 10kg, then 0+ for babies up to 13kg. Group 1 is 9-18kg, Group 2 15-35kg and Group 3 is 22-36kg. You can also buy seats that combine several groups, for example, seats that move between groups 1, 2 and 3. You shouldn’t necessarily move a child to the next seat as soon as they reach the lower weight limit. It’s often recommended not to move them until they have outgrown the previous seat.
Rear-facing Car Seats
When your baby first arrives they’ll start off in a rear-facing car seat. These are the best kind of seat for adequately protecting your baby’s head, neck and spine when you move around, and in the event of a crash. You should try to keep them in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. It’s a good idea to keep them in a rear-facing seat until either they’re 15 months old, they reach the weight limit for the seat, or their head is level with the top of the seat. Rear-facing car seats can be convenient for using with travel systems that turn them into prams, like the one by Cosatto.
When your baby is 9kg, they can move to a forward-facing Group 1 car seat, although it’s safer to wait until they weigh 13kg. You should make sure to keep your toddler in a proper car seat, whatever you do, instead of moving them to a booster seat too early. They can stay in a Group 1 seat until they’re 4-5 years old. And it’s even becoming more common to find rear-facing car seats for these older children.
When your child reaches 22-36kg, it’s time to buy a Group 3 booster seat. It’s best to get one with a high back. Booster cushions and seats without a back won’t necessarily give enough support. They also don’t always position the child correctly for the adult seatbelt. In crash tests, these booster seats and cushions haven’t performed as well as the seats with full backs and supportive wings at the side.
To avoid changing seats several times, you could get a multi-group seat. However, these seats don’t usually provide adequate protection across all the weight groups.