So, the nitty-gritty. Your little one will need to use a car seat until they're 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first. Despite this height regulation, a lot of car seats are still based on weight. i-Size car seats are different, taking your child's height into account. They make up the first phase of the new European car seat regulation, R129. This legislation is designed to improve the safety of child car seats, and will eventually take over from the old car seat regulations (snappily known as R44/04).
do i need to throw out my old car seat and get an i-Size one?
Hold that thought. Although i-Size is the brand new European standard, it's not replacing the old regulations. The two are running alongside each other, and seats tested under the old standard are still safe to use. One day the old regulations will be phased out, as the idea is for all car seats to meet the stricter safety standards of R129. You can find out which regulations your car seat has been tested under by checking the letters and numbers on the side.
how does i-Size make my baby safer?
There are three ways that i-Size is better for your little one's in-car safety. The first is that they're easier to fit, because they use ISOFIX (yep, another new term to learn and yep, we've written a handy guide to that too). The second is that i-Size gives really good protection against side impacts. The third way they're safer is based around regulation. With i-Size, babies have to stay rear-facing until they're 15 months old, which is much safer if there's a prang.
why is travelling backwards safer?
Under the old regulations children could switch to a forward-facing car seat at nine months, but it's actually safer to keep them in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. Babies are built differently to adults, and their little bones are really fragile. They've also got bigger heads than grown-ups. No, we're not talking about ego – their proportions are different when they're small. If they're facing forward and you need to brake hard, the force of being thrust forward could do significant damage to their neck and spine.
how else does i-Size differ from the old car seat regulations?
All car seats are tested thoroughly for safety, but i-Size tests are just a little bit stricter. For example, car seats under the old regulations are tested for front and rear impact. i-Size takes it a little bit further, adding a side impact test and using dummies with 32 sensors. They're only available with ISOFIX, which attaches the seat directly to your car's chassis. This is a lot sturdier than using the seatbelt, and much easier to fit: a test found that shockingly up to 71% of car seats are installed incorrectly. There are no car seat groups with i-Size like there is with older car seats, they simply use height (a bit like buying clothes).
why does height give a better idea of fit?
Aside from regulations based on your child's height, another reason to choose a height-based car seat that it's easier for you, the parents. It's easier to take your baby's height with a tape measure than it is to weigh them. You can also tell if they're starting to grow out of it. Another reason why height is better is that children grow at different rates. Some children have growth spurts earlier than others, but they might weigh the same as a child who's much shorter.