Baby expo season is upon us, with Mama Magic landing in Cape Town this weekend. Many families are reaching out and asking what to look for when buying a car seat on sale. I thought I would share my top tips on navigating the sales pitches and coming out with the safest seat.
Things you should know before taking on the Mama Magic Baby Expo
For all parents
- Many of the safest car seat brands are not available at Mama Magic! This includes Axkid, BeSafe and Recaro.
- Be 100% clear on WHEN the car seat stock will arrive. A bargain isn’t a bargain if the seat arrives after your child is born or after they have outgrown their previous car seat.
- Not all car seats are created equal. There are very good reasons that some seats are more expensive than others, which you can read about here – The Cost of Car Seats.
- Not all car seats sold in South Africa are safe! Most pass minimum safety requirements, but some unethical people sell seats with very little or vague credentials.
- You can’t always trust the person selling you a car seat. Many people who sell seats know nothing about the quality or safety of the seats… This doesn’t make them bad people, just people who sell “baby things”. Learning about car seats can be confusing. And sadly the safest seats are rarely the most profitable. Do your research before buying (which you are doing now). Don’t be persuaded by someone because they have incredible sales skills.
- A newborn needs an infant seat from birth to 13kg or 75cm, around 1 year old.
- A toddler should rear face in a toddler seat until a MINIMUM of 18kg or 105cm, around age 4.
- There are incredibly safe car seats, not at the current baby expo, that let you keep your child rear facing in a harness until 25kg or 125cm, around age 6.
- A child needs protection in a full back booster seat until 1.5m tall, when they can pass the 5 point test. This is usually between 10 and 12 years old.
Top tips for the expecting parents at the Mama Magic Baby Expo
A baby needs an infant seat. No exceptions.
Just because a seat says you can use it from 0 kg does NOT mean it is suitable for a baby. Ethical car seat salespeople will tell you that your baby needs to be in an infant seat until they can sit on their own. Ideally, they should stay in the seat until they reach the maximum height or weight on the orange sticker on the seat. This is usually at 13kg or 75cm, around age 1. All infant seats are exclusively rear facing.
If budget is an issue, buy the safest infant seat and forget the isofix base.
Isofix isn’t a safety feature, except in reducing mistakes installing seats. I have recently seen a number of parents who have made errors with the isofix base, so that isn’t always true. A proper seatbelt installation is even a percentage point or so safer in most independent testing.
In an infant seat, isofix is definitely a great convenience and makes life a lot easier – which every parent needs. That said, the base often costs as much as the seat itself.
On the topic of isofix bases, some brands will sell the base as a long term investment. There are a number of gorgeous modular systems available, these bases work with both the infant and toddler seat. While there can be great value in this if you have a bigger budget than most, it is worth keeping in mind that the safest toddler seats don’t need isofix. And that isofix seats limit harness use to 18kg, as opposed to the Axkid Minikid or Move, the BeSafe iZi Plus or the Volvo Maxway (seatbelt only install, allowing harnessing to 25kg).
Lastly – choose your travel system AFTER buying the safest seat you can afford. Many travel systems come with no-name brand infant seats that don’t even come with a manual.
My top 3 infant seats to look for at Mama Magic Baby Expo
Criteria: seatbelt or isofix installation, independent safety test scores with safety focus, available at the show (Axkid’s Modukid Infant seat arrives in early 2020, Recaro and BeSafe won’t be at the show but offer incredibly safe infant seats).
- Maxi Cosi Pebble Plus
- Nuna Pipa Icon
- Joie i-Gemm (Check the name carefully, it is the i-Gemm and not the Gemm that you are looking for.)
Top tips for parents of babies at the Mama Magic Baby Expo
Your child is safest in a rear facing car seat!
- The longer you can keep your child rear facing in a harness, the safer they will be. Do not consider a toddler seat that cannot rear face until at least 18kg or 105cm.
- Forward facing a child under age 2 could result in critical injury or death.
- Your toddler seat should offer rear facing as an option to AT LEAST 18kg or 105cm (around age 4). And you should use it IN THAT POSITION until that weight or height.
- There are 3 brands that offer truly extended rear facing car seats, up to 25kg – Axkid (125cm), BeSafe iZi Plus and Volvo Maxway (115cm). None are at the current Mama Magic show in Cape Town.
- Unless you financially have to purchase a multistage seat, rather select a seat designed to protect your child in the specific stage of development they are in. The safety needs of a 4 year old are very different to that of a 10 year old.
Reminder – isofix is not critical and increases the price of the seat, while also preventing rear facing with the harness past 18kg. Make sure your car has isofix and a top tether point before considering seats that require them.
My top 3 toddler seats to look for at Mama Magic Baby Expo
Criteria: rear facing to at least 18kg, available at the show (Axkid, Recaro and BeSafe do not have stands, but their seats are of the safest in South Africa)
- Cybex Sirona M2 i-size This seat only installs on the isofix base. Rear facing with five-point harness to 18kg or 105cm, around age 4. Does allow forward facing.
- Maxi Cosi 2Way Pearl. This seat only installs on the isofix base, which is sold separately. Rear facing with five-point harness to 18kg or 105cm, around age 4. Does allow forward facing.
- Safeway Polar. Best budget seat. Isofix and Top Tether OR seatbelt installation. Rear or forward facing with 5-point harness to 18kg or 105cm. With isofix AND top tether, forward facing with harness to 25kg or 115cm, average 5-year-old. Full-back seatbelt positioning booster seat up to 1.5m tall, between ages 10 and 12 years.
Top tips for parents of children age 4 and up
A seatbelt is designed to distribute crash force to the strongest points on an adult male of 1.5m or taller. These are over the shoulder, across the chest and over the pelvis. On a child under 1.5m tall, the seatbelt will transfer all crash forces to the neck and the unprotected belly and organs. The likelihood of critical injury or death is incredibly high. They need a full-back seatbelt positioning booster seat to keep them safe.
- Your child will use the full back seatbelt positioning booster seat from the time they outgrow their (hopefully extended rear-facing) toddler seat until they reach 1.5m tall, between the ages of 10 and 12. So it is a long term investment and the last seat you will need!
- A “booster cushion” is NOT a car seat. While they may prevent the worst of the injury from the vehicle seatbelt, they do nothing to protect the developing body of the child from the immense forces of a crash.
- The booster seat you invest in should have clear red markings to show you where the guides are that keep the seatbelt safely in position.
Reminder – isofix is not critical and increases the price of the seat. At booster stage, the isofix is simply to keep the seat in place when your child isn’t in it. It is as easy to simply click the seatbelt in as they get out the car.
My top 3 full-back booster seats to look for at Mama Magic Baby Expo
Criteria: must have full back and side impact protection to 1.5m tall, available at the show (Recaro do not have a stand, but my daughter is in the Monza Nova Seatfix 2 and the previous iteration of the Axkid booster, their updated version Bigkid arrives in 2020!)
- Cybex Solution S-Fix
- Maxi Cosi RodiFix AirProtect
- Safeway Opto
Final thoughts on shopping for car seats at the Mama Magic Baby Expo
- A nice looking seat is not necessarily a safe seat.
- Recognising a brand name from other baby products does NOT mean their car seat offering is a safe one.
- Do not choose your car seat by what comes with a travel system.
- Be determined to only choose a seat that offers rear facing as an option until at least 18kg.
- Know whether your car has isofix, top tethers, and / or full 3 point seatbelts. The make and model won’t give you the correct information. You need to physically check your car.
And lastly, while receiving a discount on a premium seat is an amazing opportunity, if you can afford the best seat for your child and they aren’t at the Baby Expo, it isn’t worth the discount… Take full advantage of baby expo show specials on diapers, clothing, baby wraps and baby toiletries and invest in the BEST when it matters the most.
My top 3 infant, toddler and booster seats NOT at the Mama Magic Baby Expo
Car seats save lives.
This article is completely unsponsored. #CarseatFullstop does work with some of the brands mentioned, selling only the safest of their seats to raise funds to continue the education and awareness-raising that is its core purpose. If you are not attending Mama Magic or you would like to purchase one of the amazing seats that isn’t at the show, or you would like to support the work we do helping families make the safest choices for their children… Purchasing the safest seat for your child through us makes a huge difference!