If you have a car, you should know by now that it is required by law that, in Singapore, all children below the age of 8 years old are properly buckled in a car seat when travelling in a car. Therefore, please take note to get a car seat so that you can bring your baby home from the hospital safely.
I have to confess that I don’t have much detailed knowledge about car seats because I do not own a car. People who have actually used car seats before will probably be able to give you better advice on what car seat to purchase.
However, what I can do is to give you a very general overview and list down some official sites where you can get accurate information. Do note that not everyone who has used a car seat before can give you accurate information so it is best that you give the sites a visit.
Generally, car seats are divided into 3 categories :
1. Baby Capsules – for new born infants to babies up to about 20 pounds/9kg;
2. Convertible Car Seats – for older babies to toddlers;
3. Booster Seats – for young children.
The ‘pain’ about buying a car seat is that if you have a young infant, you will need a baby capsule. However, a baby capsule is seldom useful for a long time and soon, you will find a need to upgrade to a bigger car seat, and car seats are not cheap. Having said that, please do not compromise on safety for the sake of dollars and cents.
There are generally 3 types of car seat harness:
1. 5-point harness – 2 straps at the shoulders, 2 straps at the hip and 1 at the crotch;
2. Overhead shield – A padded tray-like shield that swings down around the child;
3. T-shield – A padded T-shaped or triangular shield attached to shoulder straps.
The 5-point harness type is generally more recommended than the other two, especially for young babies, as it is the safest. Overhead shield is generally not very recommended.
Another thing about car seat is that it is strongly recommended that you keep your baby facing the back of your car (rear-facing) for as long as possible, at least up to 1 year. This is because it is the safest position for your child. A convertible car seat can be both front and rear-facing but unfortunately, they are generally a little too big for young infants.
When buying a car seat, always try it in your car first to make sure that it fits nicely. Do not assume that all car seats can fit any car. Sometimes, it has got to do with the seat belt system of your car. So to be on the safe side, try it first. A carseat must fit properly in the car and can be very well secured. If it cannot be well secured, it is not safe.
When getting a 2nd hand car seat, make sure you get it from a person you know or trust. This is to ensure that you do not unwittingly get a car seat that was involved in an accident before, or a car seat that is too old. Car seats that were involved in accidents should not be used due to compromised safety standard. The plastic parts of very old car seats that have been exposed to sunlight and heat for too long are weaker and thus compromising on safety. Another thing to note is to make sure that the car seat comes with the instruction manual. Do not simply rely on the experience of the previous owner.
Lastly, I want to stress again the importance of keeping your child in a carseat. Do not compromise the safety of your child by trying to stinge or take short cuts. Your child is more precious than your money. Do not give excuses like ‘it’s only a short distance’ or ‘I am a safe driver’. It does not matter how long or short the distance is and it does not matter whether you are a safe driver or not. There are a lot of crazy, irresponsible idiots on the road.
As I said earlier, do visit the following sites for more accurate information on car seats :
Car Safety Seats: A Guide for Families by the American Academy of Pediatrics :
SafetyBeltSafe Site – a non-profit organization dedicated to child passenger safety.
Car Seat Compatibility Database