We were often asked,
“How to choose a car seat?”
“My child is now so tall, do you think we should upgrade his car seat?“
“When should we change her car seat?”
Choosing and buying a car seat or CRS (Child Restraint Systems) for a child can be an overwhelming experience for new parents. So much so that parents typically put it off until the child outgrows the first crucial stage of needs.
At CPS Malaysia, we have compiled a comprehensive chart that shows what type of CRS fits what stage of the child’s development.
Under ECE R44/04, child restraint systems are split into four groups namely Group 0/0+, Group 1, 2 and 3. Classifications are by weight of the child and an indicated approximation of age is also included.
Newborns from birth up until 10 kg are classified under Group 0 whereas birth up to 13 kg is under Group 0+. Rear-facing is mandatory for these two groups as the baby’s spine, neck and head are still fragile and requires maximum support. By rear-facing, all these crucial body parts are protected by the backrest and headrest of the CRS during a crash.
Although the transition weight of the baby that allows for forward-facing (Group 1) is 9 kg which is about the age of 9 months, we strongly recommend extending the rear-facing stage up until 13 kg or the age of 15 months old. If the CRS allows rear-facing at an even higher limit, for example, 18 kg in some convertible CRS, do so. Extend rear-facing for as long as the CRS weight and height limit allows it.
“We’re having a baby soon. Should we wait for the baby to arrive first before buying a car seat that will fit him?”
The answer is NO, do not wait for the baby arrival because you will need the CRS as soon as the baby leaves the hospital. If you’re not sure either your newborn will fit in a CRS, always opt for an infant car seat. Convertible CRS are made to suit two groups, namely Group 0/0+ and Group 1. In general, it is likely not snug enough for those newborns who are underweight or premature because of the sizing although most CRS does supply infant inserts to make it sizable for newborns. Most infant car seats are also infant carriers and it is adaptable to strollers, thus there is also a factor of convenience taken in. Your baby can use the infant car seat up until 10 or 13 kg or when its head reaches 2.5 cm below the edge of the top of car seat.
A convertible CRS can be used both rear-facing and forward-facing. In forward-facing mode under Group 1, it is for a child 9 to 18 kg in weight. Your child should be in this group of CRS with a 5-point harness until his/her shoulder passed the harness top-most slot, or until he/she reaches the weight or height limit of the CRS.
As the child outgrows the 5-point harness, it is time to use the vehicle seat belt WITH a booster. The need for a booster is basically to boost up the child so that the position of the vehicle seat belt is appropriately placed at the correct location – the shoulder and thighs. Without a booster, the 3-point vehicle seat belt will be placed in the neck and abdomen, which are soft areas and could cause internal injuries during a crash.
A booster is a type of CRS classified under Group 2 and 3. It can either be a backless booster or with the highback. Usually, the use of a highback booster will aid the child to sit comfortably throughout the journey and it offers a better head support for them. A combination booster covers three groups and can either be used with a 5-point harness (Group 1) or later converted into a booster (Group 2 & 3).
Moving on to adult vehicle seat belts
A child should sit in a booster until he/she is 135 cm in height. They can start using the vehicle seat belt only without a booster if they pass all 5 conditions on this 5-Step Test:
1. The shoulder belt should sit on the shoulder, NOT across their neck.
2. The lap belt should be crossing their thighs, NOT their stomach.
3. Sits all the way to the backrest.
4. Their knees bend comfortably over the edge of the seat.
5. Stay seated like these throughout the journey.
Often, the hardest condition to meet is #5 especially on a long journey where kids tend to fall asleep. They could be slouching in their sleep, or slanting towards the window. They could also reposition the shoulder belt behind them. If ANY of the conditions in the test above is not met, your child will still need a booster.
When transitioning your child from one group into the next group of CRS, try to stay in the previous group for as long as possible, because the safety features of a CRS are reduced as the group numbers increased as the child body structure matures.
Choosing a CRS doesn’t have to be a headache if you don’t look at the available models out on the market. Focus on the needs of the child and either it fits your vehicle seat and your budget. Above all, ensure that you understand how to use the chosen CRS so that you will use it correctly each time.