Guide to baby car seats from birth

Your baby's first car seat will ensure their journey through life starts safely and smoothly - so it's worth making sure you're considering the right things when deciding which make and model to buy.

baby asleep in car seat

The law 

Children must normally use a car seat until they're 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first.

Only EU-approved child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital 'E' in a circle.

The same rules apply for children with disabilities, unless a doctor confirms they're exempt on medical grounds.

You can choose a car seat based on your child's height OR weight.

Choosing a car seat by height: i-Size

i-Size is a European car seat safety regulation which came into effect in the UK in 2015. Crucially, this doesn't replace existing regulation, but runs alongside it.

Babies/toddlers remain rear facing until they are too tall for their first seat.  Typically this is around 15 months old, but you must check the maximum height stated on your car seat's label.

You have to use ISOFIX (the international standard for attaching car seats to passenger seats) to fit these seats.

Research suggests that they provide better neck and head support.

Car seats by weight

The 'old' way of categorising car seats is by your child's weight - but grouped by numbers and symbols, rather than the weight of the baby they should contain. Helpful.

The first car seat should be either a Group 0 or a Group 0+. The 0 will fit your baby from birth to 10kg (22lb); the 0+ will be a bit pricier but will fit your baby until he/she's 13kg (29lb).

After this, they'll need a Group 1 category seat, which is suitable for children from 9-18kg.

There are also 'combination' seats, classified as Group 0+/1, which can be adapted to change from rear-facing to forward-facing once your child's bigger, and so fit them from birth to about four years (but, deal-breakingly for some parents, these seats can't be taken out of the car).

Seats can be fitted using ISOFIX (if available) or using seat-belts.

Other things to consider when choosing a car seat

Portability - you'll spend a lot of time lugging the car-seat-plus-baby bundle from car to house.  However light the seat may seem in the shop, once there's a child in there, it gets heavy - and heavier still as the months go on.  

Ease of installation - have a trial run at installing the car seat before the trip home from hospital. It takes a bit of getting used to and can be particularly stressful when you're fumbling with seatbelts and your newborn is howling at being exposed to chilly fresh air for the first time.  Alternatively, buy a seat that comes with a special click-on base: once you've got the base fitted in your car, you just click the car seat on to it each time.

Comfort - head support is essential for a newborn, so check your seat has a head hugger/newborn insert, which can be taken out as your baby gets bigger.

Last updated: over 1 year ago