As a first time parent, there’s a lot to think about even before baby’s arrival. From diapers, to feedings, to the right kind of crib, it seems like every decision regarding your new addition leads to more and more questions.
However, one of the most important decisions parents will make is ensuring we choose the right car seat to keep our bundles of joy safe when on the road.
To set the record straight, I spoke with Elaine Dimitroff, a Team Leader, in the Partnership and Development section of Ministry of Transportation’s (Ontario) Road Safety Marketing Office to clear up the age-old question: “Does one car seat size fit all?”
Know Your Range
ED: Each car seat is designed or developed for specific height and weight ranges. They should be used according to the child’s development. Some children grow a lot quicker than other children. You always need to ensure the child’s development needs are within the manufacturer’s specs on height/weight ranges. There are typically three stages of car seats. The infant car seat, toddler seat, and an older child may be ready to use a booster seat.
Every child is different. Some of our children are taller, but not as heavy so you still want to keep them in each stage of car seat for as long as possible and as long as the car seat accommodates their height and weight.
When to Move Up In Size
ED: As a child grows, parents and caregivers should look for the specific manufacturer-recommended weight and height ranges on their baby seat and make sure their child fits within them – if not, they should be trading up for the appropriate size. For an infant, an infant carrier seat (also known as a bucket seat) can be used for convenience. This type of seat is one that you would install the base in the vehicle, and then connect the carrier into the base to lock it into place when in use as a car seat. The carrier can then be released and popped out when you want to remove the child from the car.
Once the child outgrows the carrier seat (as some only go up to a maximum weight of 10 kg (22 lb.)) you still will want to keep them in a rear-facing position for as long as possible – and until the child is walking unassisted – as this is the safest position for them to be in. A great option is an infant/child (or convertible) car seat. It’s a bigger seat and can be turned around to the forward-facing position as the child grows. Once they grow to 18 kg (40 lb.) they may be ready to move to a booster seat – which by Ontario law, can only be introduced when a child is between 18 and 36 kg (40-80 lb.). While that’s just a minimum requirement, it’s suggested that you use a forward-facing seat with a harness, as long as it accommodates the child.
Check the Date
ED: All baby seats have a manufacturing date on them so you can keep tabs on how old the model is. Some seats actually come with an expiry date printed on them to give you a sense of when the seat should be replaced. Before using a seat that has been passed down, make sure it meets the current federal standards.
The National Safety Label
Car seats are tested by the manufacturer, and they have to meet Transport Canada’s criteria. If they meet all the standards and the points that are required, then a national safety mark label is attached to the car seat.
ED: Before thinking about buying a seat from another country keep in mind Canada has its own set of safety rules for car seats. Each seat needs to meet Canadian federal safety standards set by Transport Canada. If they meet all the standards and all the points that are required, then a national safety mark label is attached to the car seat. All car seats for use in Canada must be affixed with this label to be used in a car that is registered in Canada.
Don’t Buy Used
ED: It is advised that you exercise caution when you buy a used seat. The reason for that is, you don’t know the history of the seat so it could have been involved in a collision and may have lost its structural integrity. You don’t know how the previous owners treated the car seat, so it might have cracks in it or visible or invisible marks. The other reason would be that seats manufactured before 2012 might not meet the current federal safety standards. On January 1, 2012, the federal standards were changed so make sure to check the date of manufacture before using.
So, as you can see, the answer is that no one car seat fits all. Before choosing one for your child, make sure to review federal safety regulations, ensure your seat has the national safety label, and follow manufacturer directions on height and weight ranges that are suitable for your child.