An engineer's guide to buying the "best" baby car seat in Singapore
Choosing the right car seat is possibly one of the most important safety decisions we can make on behalf of our children, but we typically spend a lot less time making it, than we do deciding which stroller, cot or bouncer to buy. Well, I know I did, first time around. The "best" car seat for you is the one that best fits your lifestyle, your budget, your vehicle and your child. What's best for your friend, is not necessarily what's best for you.
So, what do you need to look out for when buying a baby car seat, toddler car seat or booster seat in Singapore? Well, it's vastly different if you have a car or not, so jump ahead choose-your-own-adventure style and we'll get cracking.
You rely on taxis...
Infant car seats (called capsules in Australia, rear-facing only car seats in the US and bucket seats in Canada) can - by and large - be easily and safely used in taxis in Singapore, and they're also the most convenient option. They attach to your stroller, they are reasonably lightweight, have a carry handle for convenience (check out the 'right' way to carry a baby car seat), and a sun canopy for comfort.
Not all infant car seats are compatible with all strollers. Typically, the top-tier European brands are all compatible with each other, but there is the odd exception (eg. Britax and some Nuna seats). When you have a car seat that's compatible with a stroller, it's called a travel system - but you can mix and match to your heart's content. For example, having a Cybex stroller with a Maxi Cosi car seat is totally do-able, officially compatible and still called a travel system.
By and large, infant car seats attach to buggies by 'clicking' into adapters on the pram - these kinds of adapters are often referred to as 'post adapters' because they look like little posts sticking up from the frame of your stroller - an example of this is on the egg stroller with its adapters. Some strollers have 'frame adapters' (also called ring adapters) where the car seat sits in a squarish frame attached to the stroller, then gets strapped in for added security - this is how the Mountain Buggy Swift's universal car seat adapter works. Finally, there is a strap-in type of adapter where the car seat sits on the stroller seat, and a strap that's attached to the buggy chassis goes through the car seat's seat belt path and secures it in place. The best example of this is on the Mountain Buggy Nano and Nano Duo - and it's the reason these two prams are compatible with more car seats than any other stroller.
European, American or Australian car seats
European infant car seats (identifiable by the bright orange "E-in-a-circle" sticker on their underside) are compatible with the usual lap-and-shoulder seat belts in Singapore's cabs and Grab cars, but largely not compatible with lap-only seat belts (often found in the centre rear seat of older cars). In contrast, American seats (identifiable by their chest clip) and Australian infant seats typically aren't compatible with taxis here at all, unless you use a locking clip which can be fiddlier and is not always approved by your car seat’s manufacturer (which is important).
Infant car seats are typically outgrown sometime in your child's second year (12-24 months), but their age is not a relevant factor in knowing whether they have outgrown their seat. Check your manual, as seats vary, but the general rule for European infant seats is that they are outgrown when the child exceeds 13kg or when their head is no longer contained inside the shell of the car seat and is popping out like a lipstick - whichever happens first. So if your toddler carries their height in their legs, they'll likely get a lot more time out of their car seat than a toddler who carries their height in their torso.
If you have a car...
Then, mate, the world is your oyster. Broadly speaking, you have two options:
(1) to use an infant car seat as mentioned in the taxi section above, or
(2) to choose a longer lasting car seat (typically to around 4 years old) that stays in your car and doesn't attach to your stroller.
Infant car seat with a base
Infant car seats really shine in the first 4-6 months before baby's circadian rhythm kicks in and they start getting fussier about where and when they sleep. This is because you can easily remove a sleeping baby's car seat from the car and tote them around without having to wake them up. Sign me up.
All the pros and cons from the taxi chapter still apply here, except you get to use the infant car seat with a base permanently fixed in your car that makes it incredibly convenient to simply 'click' your car seat in and out of the car without having to reinstall it each and every time. Plus, the bases have a lot of legitimate safety features built into them. Worth it.
Once the infant seat is outgrown, most of the manufacturers offer a toddler seat that is compatible with the same base you already have - at a fraction of the price of a complete toddler seat - so you can squeeze more life out of the investment you made on the base.
One point to note: bases and infant seats are not mix-and-match. Each infant seat will only have one compatible base and you can't cross between brands.
Permanently installed, longer lasting car seat
If you would rather get one seat from the start that can last for the first four years or so, then you're going to want to check out the rotating car seats that can be used from birth: the Maxi Cosi Mica and Britax Dualfix. Cybex and BeSafe also make great rotating seats, but they're suitable from 6 months of age.
Rotating seats (you guessed it) rotate toward the car door to make it incredibly easy to buckle or unbuckle a sleeping infant and challenging toddler, alike. They have multiple recline angles, can be used rear facing (safest!) or forward facing all the way up to 18kg (average four year old) and are generally just the easiest car seats in the world. Worth a squiz at our boutique.
Need more car seats recommendations? Check out how to get the right newborn car seat in 5 simple steps!