Car seat woes

Oh my head hurts. My brain is full of thoughts and facts about car seats; questions and information and more questions! I’m not sure if there answers or solutions, but below is some of the things I’ve been thinking about…

So here’s what I want: an extended rear facing isofix car seat that fits in the back of a vw polo. This, it seems, is the holy grail.

Baby R and I have been back and forward to mothercare 3 times. The staff have tirelessly carried car seats and bases in and out to my car. They have put them in (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) and out, smiled through some major stroppy meltdowns (mostly from the boy, although the 20 mins it took to get the one out that technically should not have gone in our car did push me to the edge), and they’ve patiently stood by and kept silent about the grubby state of my vehicle even though I know they’ve noticed the empty food wrappers and dirty muslins and discarded toys. My lasting impression of these shopping experiences (other than frustration about the fact that I still have not got a new car seat) is that I strongly believe the way car seats are sold needs to be improved, and my observations and suggestions are below:

>information from staff needs to be consistent. I have asked various members of staff the same question (which is one I am struggling to answer at the moment): is it safer to put my child in an extended rear facing belted car seat, or in a forward facing isofix car seat. I have had conflicting answers to this which has confused me further.

>additional information about car seats – particularly safety ratings and the results of crash tests – should be available for customers from all car seat retailers. This is the focus of most parents when choosing a seat, and without it you are relying on the sales persons opinion which may be biased by a number of factors. I asked one sales person about safety ratings and she told me all car seats are as safe as each other, they just differ in design and style and I should base my decision on the one I prefer the look of as they all essentially do the same thing. Which? does not agree with this statement and neither do I. This is a dangerous message for parents, particularly those without the time to do their own research.

>manufacturers need to be aware of how the seat is fixed in the car and the impact this has on the parents ability to get their child in and out of the car. In both belted rear facing car seats and isofix using a top tether car seats, the fixing passed between the car seat and the door, cutting the space in half and meaning I had to ‘post’ Baby R through a tiny gap to squeeze him in. This was highly unpractical and surely must be unsafe in the event of an accident or other situation when getting the child out of their seat quickly is important. We have ruled these seats out for this reason, I’m sure no parent would be be able to use them rear facing for long.

>the only car seat that met our criteria and that fitted in our car was at such an angle that when my son was secured in the seat he was dangling forward and his head was further forward than his knees. It was obvious that if he fell asleep his head and arms would dangle forwards, and the sales person said she was shocked and said it seemed dangerous, although it was correctly installed. I cannot believe that this is truly a safe or comfortable way for anyone to travel, particularly someone so small and precious.

In summary, my experience has been extremely disappointing, not at all because of the service from mothercare – they have been patient and helpful and lovely, but disappointed at the lack of choice and the barriers preventing me from keeping my child safe. I am shocked to discover that I have almost no option but to put my child forward facing, when all the recent research I have read is clear that rear facing is five times safer in the event of an accident.

Parents and grandparents and carers and friends – we need to demand better for our children. For now, we will not be taking Baby R in the car until we have found an acceptable solution, if such a thing exists!!

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