Baby on board

baby on board

Whether you rent, purchase, or use a hand-me-down, capsule and car seat safety are paramount, explains Tiffany Brown.

When parenthood arrives, you might find yourself a mum-on-the-go enjoying a packed schedule of social engagements for yourself and bubs, or you may end up at home for days on end blocking out the world and just enjoying your new baby. Either way, for most new mums there will be some car travel in your life. Your priority is now going to be keeping your precious bundle as safe as possible out on the road.

Get in early

As you’ll hear repeatedly at your antenatal classes and during your midwife visits, make sure you have a car seat tted, organised, and ready to roll well before your due date. (After all, Dad will have enough to contend with when you go into labour without having to rush to the nearest baby store to collect the car seat you should have picked up weeks ago!) If you choose to rent your child’s first infant seat, some providers now give you a little grace on the rental to allow you to get the seat fitted with plenty of time to spare.

 

Capsules

A capsule is the word commonly used to refer to your baby’s rst car seat, which can slot into a “rocking” base in your car’s back seat. This unit can easily be transferred by a carry handle, so you can move your baby in and out of the car without having to strap, unstrap, and disturb them.

Some brands of capsule are compatible with stroller frames, too, giving you maximum portability with your little one. Many people find this particularly advantageous considering the amount of time their newborn babies spend sleeping. A capsule seat will suit an infant from around 2kg up to 13kg in weight, depending on the model, and must always be fitted in a rear-facing position.

 

Convertible car seats

The other type of seat suitable for newborns is a convertible car seat, which can be positioned in either a rear- or a forward-facing position. The main advantage to these child restraints lies in future-proofing your car seat purchase. The restraints are strapped or tethered to the back seat using one of several internationally accepted methods, and can accommodate children up to a weight of 36kg. The down side? They are less portable than capsules, so you’ll nd yourself disturbing baby by moving them in and out of the seat if you travel by car frequently.

New Zealand law provides that children up to the age of seven should be restrained in an appropriate child’s car seat or booster seat. Seven- and eight-year-olds should be seated in a child restraint if one is available, and children up to the age of 14 must use seatbelts and sit in the back seat. It’s wise to keep these future requirements in mind when committing to the purchase of a car seat.

 

Buying secondhand

Buying second-hand may seem like a great solution, especially for an infant seat that you’re only going to use for a short time. However, you need to exercise extreme caution. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be honest about the history of the second-hand car seat they are selling. Standards for appropriateness and safety are updated all the time, so an older seat, or one manufactured elsewhere, may not conform to the modern ideal, even if it’s brand new and never been used.

 

Ask these questions before you buy secondhand:

 
When was the car seat made?

Check the manufacture date on the seat’s shell. Don’t buy a seat that’s more than 10 years old, or whose manufacture date is missing or looks like it’s been changed.

 

Does it have an expiry date?

Look for a date, or markings that say “Do not use after”. Some car seats only have a limited lifespan of five to eight years.

 

Which standards does the car seat conform to?

Legally accepted standards in NZ are NZS 1754 (a black and yellow “S” mark safety sticker), AS/NZS 1754 (a red and white sticker with five “ticks”), or UK ECE 44.03 (orange or red sticker with an “E” and a number in a circle). If there is no sticker don’t buy it.

 

Does the car seat come with an instruction manual?

If not, can you find the information you need to fit the seat correctly online, or will a registered child restraint technician fit it for you? If no, don’t buy it.

 

Are there missing parts?

Parts may include locking clip, padded inserts, tether bolt, harness straps, a cover, or other accessories. If you’re unable to buy replacements for the car seat, it has expired and shouldn’t be used.

 

Are you confident about the car seat’s history?

If you suspect the seat may have been in an accident or mistreated, don’t buy it.

 

Is there any obvious damage?

Look for excessive sun-fading, mouldy straps that have been bleached and whose webbing is now weak, a torn or frayed harness, and cracks, splits, or white marks in the hard plastic parts of the shell. These characteristics indicate a seat whose ability to keep your child safe is compromised

 

Renting

Renting rather than buying is a good option if you’re a little undecided, to help with cash ow (expecting a newborn can be an expensive business!) or if you’d like to have the benefit of an infant capsule for a short time before investing in a car seat that will take your child through to their older years.

The following list gives you information on car seat hire options and costs in New Zealand. Most retailers recommend booking as early as possible. A couple of months prior to your due date is best, and ensures you’ll get your pick of their available stock.

Baby on the Move: Seats cost between $50 and $185 for six months, depending on the model.

Baby Factory: Capsule and bases cost $30 for one month, $40 for three months, or $50 for seven months, with a $40 refundable bond. Convertible car seats cost $50 per week for up to 10 weeks’ hire, with a $100 refundable bond.

Sweet Beginnings: Capsule and bases cost $30 per week, $75 for one month, $120 for three months, and $185 for six months. Convertible car seats cost $40 per week, $55 per month, $90 for three months, and $150 for six months. They also offer a nationwide delivery and collection service for just $10.

Baby Travel: Both capsule and bases and car seats cost $6 a day or $30 a week, with a $60 refundable bond.

Hire Things: Capsule and bases from $25 per month, car seats from $30 per month. Hire Things have locations all over the country.

When buying or renting a car seat, most retailers offer the services of a trained child restraint technician to t it, and instruct you how to use it properly. Take advantage of this service. You’ll have plenty to think about once baby arrives, and worrying about the seat is one less headache.

 

Tip

Not only should your baby’s child restraint be properly installed from the get-go, ensure the straps are all appropriately adjusted for their body weight and size (unlike this little lady, whose straps need some adjustment to be safe!). You’ll need to continue to check the straps every few weeks as they will require adjusting as your baby grows.

 

Rear-facing is safest

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) recommendation is to seat children in a rear-facing position until 24 months. Facing away from you and towards the rear of the car, your infant’s vulnerable spine, head, and neck are more protected in case of accident. A baby’s head accounts for about a quarter of their entire body. On impact, a rear-facing baby’s body moves back into the seat shell rather than forward and away from the safety of the seat. It’s vital never to fit a rear- facing seat into a seat with airbags. These could cause serious injury or suffocation in an accident.

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