Assuming you don’t live within walking distance of your hospital, you will be driving your new baby home following the birth. Unless you have a car seat correctly installed, you will not be allowed to do so. According to Babycentre, the hospital staff might even check it is in there before letting you leave! Therefore, in that respect, a car seat is probably the most essential piece of kit you will need to buy before your baby is born.
These days there are two types of car seat: the traditional seatbelt kind and the newer Isofix system. Isofix is the EU name for the attachment points found in the back seat of modern cars. The idea is that you buy a special Isofix base that permanently clicks into the back seat, followed by a baby seat that in turn clicks into the base. They are broadly standard, but if you plan to purchase an Isofix base, it is worth checking with the retailer that your car is compatible. We spoke to Mothercare at length about Isofix car seats at the Baby Show, and the lady was able to look up our car on the system instantly. When we asked which type of seat is considered safer, she answered that she was “not allowed to comment”! The general consensus seems to be that Isofix is safer on the grounds that there is a much smaller margin for error. Whereas a seatbelt could become slack, the Isofix base is securely fixed into your car.
Our beloved old T-reg would not have passed the Isofix test but our new (secondhand) car purchased last year has the standard points. We therefore decided that an Isofix car seat would be the way forward.
It goes without saying that we then proceeded to purchase a seatbelt car seat!
Our car seat – part of our Graco travel system
When I logically thought it through I realised that it was the convenience aspect of Isofix that mainly attracted me. I have witnessed enough struggles with a seatbelt and car seat complete with fretting baby to appreciate the ability to just click the seat in and out – no need for seatbelt wrestling matches. However, the seat we have bought is accompanied by a base. The purpose of the base is to be permanently fixed onto the back seat with the seatbelt, whereas the seat itself… clicks in and out. No seatbelt fights required! Which therefore appears to tick that box for me. The only thing we’ll need to do before every journey is test the seatbelt… but only test it, not actually put it on.
In terms of the supposed superior safety, obviously we want the best for our baby (who doesn’t? I wonder whether anyone would ever actually admit that they’re not bothered…) but if we have an accident, I guess it will be bad either way. God willing, I doubt there has ever been an accident where they have said afterwards there might have been a different outcome with an Isofix car seat. Just need to remember to deactivate that backseat airbag!
In any case, our car seat is only appropriate from birth to 13kg so it’s likely we’ll need to replace it when our baby is about a year old anyway. Perhaps next time around we’ll go for an Isofix!