Save your child’s life ― here is how to use your child’s car seat correctly.

Using an infant or child seat properly is essential to keeping your child safe in your vehicle.

But with so many car seats offering different functions on the market, it can be quite overwhelming for parents who want to ensure their child’s safety.

Here’s our handy guide to ensure that your child is using the appropriate seat for his age and life stage.


Ages 0 to 2: Rear-facing car seats

Your baby should be sitting in a rear-facing seat till they are at least 2 years old, or as long as possible.  In case of an accident, your child's head and neck will be better protected in a rear-facing seat, since the force of a crash will be spread out over the back of the chair instead of directly to them. Rear-facing seats also offer the best protection for a child’s developing spine.

Also ensure that they are still below the upper weight or height limit of the car seat. Before your child turns 2, you should switch to a car seat with higher weight and height limitations so that they can remain rear-facing for longer. 

There are three types of rear-facing seats: an infant car seat (rear-facing only), a convertible seat (which can be converted to forward-facing for older children), and a 3-in-1 seat (rear-facing seat that can be converted to forward-facing and used as a booster seat later on). 

Here are the basics of a setting up a proper rear-facing fit:
- Use the harness slots at or below your baby’s shoulders.
- Ensure that the harness is snug, and that its chest clip is placed at the centre of the chest.
- No more than an inch in either direction of movement is acceptable for the car seat (besides the top of the seat, which is supposed to move).
- A minimum of 2 inches of headroom is required between your child's head as well as the bottom of the car seat.
- Adjust the angle of the car seat to make sure that your baby’s head is not flopping forward. Newborns require a more reclined angle, while older babies with neck control can often ride more upright.
- Never place the rear-facing car seat at the front seat of a vehicle with an active airbag.

Ages 2 to 5: Forward-facing car seats

Once your toddler reaches the maximum weight or height allowed for their current rear-facing seat, they should be buckled into a forward-facing seat. A five-point harness should be able to keep your wriggly tot in their seat. During a collision, the forward-facing seat's harness will absorb the force at the child's shoulders and chest before sending it to their hips. 

Here’s what to take note of when installing forward-facing seats:
- When you convert your rear-facing seat to a forward-facing one, move the shoulder straps to the slots that are at or above your child’s shoulders.
- Ensure the chest clip is at your child’s armpit level.
- The top of a car seat shouldn't be higher than your child's ear canal.
- Adjust the angle of the car seat. Now that it is forward-facing, you may need it to be more upright.
- Always check the car seat instructions to ensure that it is well-secured and the seat belt is locked and tightened.

Ages 5 to 12: Booster seats

A booster seat is appropriate for an older child, once they outgrow their forward-facing seat due to either weight or height. For safety, ensure that the vehicle safety belts are positioned properly on them. According to the Singapore Police Force, anyone below the height of 1.35m is required to be secured with a child restraint appropriate for a person of that height and weight or use a booster seat to supplement the seat belt. 

Booster seats either have a high back or are backless. High-back boosters should be used in vehicles that don’t have headrests, or have low seat backs. Backless ones can be used in vehicles that have high seat backs.

Here are the basics for booster seats:
- Boosters don’t have harness straps as they use your vehicle’s safety belts.
- The booster seat raises your child to the appropriate height, so that the lap and shoulder seat belts fit properly over the strongest parts of your child’s body. The lap belt should lie low and snugly over your child’s upper thighs. The shoulder belt must go past your child’s neck and shoulder, and diagonally across their chest. It should not cut into your child’s neck or slip off their shoulder.
- Your child's head should be at a level with the top of the booster seat's back if it has one.
- The backseat is the ideal location for booster seats.

Ages 12 and up: Seat belts 

When a child outgrows their booster seat, they should switch to an adult seat belt and sit in the back seat until they are at least 13.

Here’s what to take note of when they make the transition: 
- Your child/teen should sit all the way back in the vehicle seat with their knees bent at the edge of the seat.
- The vehicle shoulder belt should fit evenly across their chest, not cutting into their neck or face.
- The vehicle lap belt should be across their upper thighs.
- Their feet should be flat on the floor.
- Ensure they can remain seated comfortably this way for the entire ride.

Top picks for car seats

Given how car seats are essential for your little one, even at the newborn stage, here are our recommendations for the best ones in Singapore. 

1. Maxi-Cosi Opal Baby Car Seat 

- This car seat that can be used from birth up to 4 years. It comes with a newborn insert and a unique angle base for optimum recline in the rear-facing position. These features make it a suitable infant car seat for younger babies.

2. Shears Baby Auto Car Seat

- This affordable option can grow with your child from the baby to toddler stage. You’ll be able to easily adjust it to three different positions, even with your child in the seat. The shell and head panels are outfitted with foam for side impact protection. 

3. Joie i-Spin 360 Car Seat

- This seat features a 360º pivoting protector that spins rearward, forward, and everywhere in between. There are also auto-engage side panels for side impact protection. The Smart Ride feature safely locks the seat in the rear-facing position for children aged up to 15 months. 

4. Joie Stages Fx Car Seat

- Suitable from birth up to 7 years (up to 25 kg). This versatile seat can be easily switched from a rear-facing position to a front-facing position, and is perfect for long-term usage with soft and comfortable padding.

5. Peg Perego Viaggio 1-2-3 Via Car Seat

- Catered specifically to older children, the car seat is designed with 4D total adjust technology which allows the headrest, backrest, seat and side protections to be adjusted independently for maximum comfort.

6. Graco Junior Maxi Child & Junior Seat 

-  An affordable option for older kids, this seat’s adjustable armrests and headrests allow it to fit comfortably as your child grows till 11 years old. There’s also an integrated seat belt guide in the headrest to ensure correct position of the seat belt. 

Video: Syahirah Maszaid

Photos: iStock

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