Hello dear mums and dads. Let me tell you a story: once upon a time, the kids and I were driving on a quiet street. Everyone was sleeping at the back. I stopped by an intersection, waiting for the traffic warden to wave us through. Then, gbam! A car ran into us at full speed, from behind. All I recall is the kids went flying around the car, shrieking in pain and fear as they hit different parts of the car. All because they were not safely strapped into seatbelts or car seats.
Accidents do happen
Abroad, car seats are mandated for use for children’s safety. We don’t have the luxury of proper vehicle safety for children here and you would be shocked to hear of the number of casualties that arise from accidents involving children. When a car accident happens, the physics involved (energy, force, acceleration) can cause your kids to fly around. Into windscreens (which is usually fatal), back of seats, dashboard and even their bodies moving fast can cause whiplash (neck strain).
A car seat is a mini seat, complete with harness, molded for a child’s weight. There are different types of car seats, the 3 main being:
Infant Car seat
This is the smallest, for newborns to about 8 months to a year. They’re small and low-slung and always face the back of the car, usually with a handle above, for easy carrying. The good thing? They’re perfect for very tiny babies. They also come with stroller units, so you don’t have to keep disturbing a sleeping baby removing him from his seat. The bad thing? Your child will outgrow it in a year.
Convertible Car seat
So clever manufacturers decided to make a car seat that can be used for a few years. Enter the Convertible Car seat. Can it be used for a newborn? Yes, but it’s built to be big so your 1 week old baby won’t be snug in it (you may need to put some pool noodles or rolled-up towels to adjust the seat. But by 2 months, it is pretty good for babies and lasts for 5 years (my 3 year old is still using hers from birth). So in terms of a good bargain, this is it. But if you are going to use a stroller, then a convertible car seat is NOT for you, as it doesn’t fit into any stroller and you can’t even remove it easily from the car.
This is for older kids, from age 3+ to about 12 years. Most times, your car seatbelt won’t fit in the right places for your child, so this helps it do so. Booster seats are not a legal requirement in most countries, to be honest.
Which brands do I go for?
Chicco, Graco, MaxiCosi, Britax, Evenflo, Nuna, there are a lot of good brands out there, at different price points.
Can I buy a car seat second-hand?
No. You don’t know whether the second-hand seat was involved in an accident, and you cannot be sure what stresses the seat absorbed during the accident. A friend bought a second-hand car seat and the minute she braked suddenly to avoid a danfo, a crucial part of it snapped off. Only God saved her baby. It’s much better to buy a cheaper brand-new car seat than buy a big-name brand second-hand car seat.
After my accident, I went out and bought 2 car seats for my kids. It seemed like I was wasting money, but then a danfo ran a red light and nearly slammed into my car. My kids were safely strapped in this time. And I was at ease.