Saturday, 28 January 2012

Car seat adventures

My grandfather was a facial surgeon, and for a long time the only one in our capital city. Whenever there was a vehicle accident, he was called to operate. This happened weekdays, weeknight and most weekends. He would often go weeks at a time without seeing his children (my mother and her siblings) since he was the only one who could operate.

This wasn't because he was a workaholic, or so focused on his career that he neglected his family (far from it). It was because if he didn't care for these people, then they wouldn't ever go home to their families, since there was no one else to operate.

Along with the neurosurgeon with whom he frequently operated, my grandfather was critical in getting the Queensland state government to legislate that seatbelts were compulsary to wear. Queesland was only the third place in the world to do so, after New Zealand and Victoria. When these laws came into effect, my grandfather immediately noticed a decrease in the number of operations he was required to perform after accidents, and in the severity of the injuries which were sustained.

Perhaps because of this, car safety is of critical importance to me. For those who aren't aware, in Australia children are required to be in a rearward facing seat or capsule until six months (or eight kilograms). Until four years they need to be in a five point harness seat, and from four year to seven years in a booster seat. I wholeheartedly support anything which makes car travel safer, especially for little ones.

Our plan for car seats was for Chubs to have a capsule until she was six months. After this, we planned to purchase a convertable seat which would have a five point harness from six months to four years, and then converts to a booster seat until seven years.

Well, this was a great plan, except for the fact that Chubs was too chubby for her capsule at four months. Legally she would have been ok to go into a forward facing convertible seat, but she couldn't yet sit up by herself with good head control. The danger with that is that in an accident she would have less support.

Due to this, we purchased a 0 - 4 years convertible seat. In this seat, she could stay rearward facing until 12 kilograms (more than the nine kilogram maximum in the capsule). Of course, if we had know this originally, then we could have purchased the convertable seat from the beginning and skipped the capsule hire altogether. (We will now need to buy her a booster seat at four years, but they are much cheaper than the car seats for younger bubs.)


I'm not sure, had I known this, if we still would have used the capsule. It was useful having the 'bucket' part because if Chubs was asleep we could carry her in. However, more often than not she would wake when we got the bucket part out of the car, so I found I would often leave her in the car anyway and hang out the washing (our line is right next to the carport), sit in the car on the laptop or otherwise leave her and wait close by for her to wake up.

On occasion if we went out at dinner time I would put her to sleep in the bucket part, but again she would often wake when it was time to go home and I could have used the stroller anyway. It was very compact though, and useful as a little seat when visiting. It was probably the same amount of effort to remove the tether strap and take the bucket part out as it was to just unclip the harness and take her out.

Some expensive strollers have a part where the capsule can be clicked into the stroller, although we didn't have one of these. If we did have one of those I'm thinking it would be very convenient, particuarly if you have more than one child?

The convertible seat which we purchased does take up heaps of room, and apparantly it's one of the smallest on the market. When it's rear facing, the front passenger seat needs to be all the way forward, and the backrest totally verticle (and not very comfortable). The capsule didn't take up nearly as much space as that. We have a small 4WD estate car. If we had a small hatchback, I don't even know if a convertable car seat would have fit at all.

What has been your experience with car seats? Do you like capsules or not? How does having more than one child affect your choices?

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