One of the many decisions you will need to make before your baby is born is what type of car seat to purchase. There are 2 main options for car seats that are available for newborn babies
- Car Capsule (0 to 6 months or 0 to 12 months)
- Convertible Car Seat (0 to 4 years, some are suitable from 0 to 8 years)
What is the difference between a car capsule and a convertible car seat?
A car capsule has two parts; a base that is installed and fixed to the car, and a capsule that the baby lies in. The capsule attaches to the car by clicking into the base, and fixing a tether strap from the capsule to an anchor point in the car. You can install and remove the capsule from the base in the car while the baby is still strapped in. A capsule can also be attached to many prams and strollers with the use of adapters - this is referred to as a travel system. Most capsules are suitable from newborn to approx. 6 months. Some capsules are suitable from newborn to approx. 12 months. Newborns are required to be rearward facing in the car. All capsules are rearward facing.
A convertible car seat is one piece which fixes to the car. You cannot remove it easily, and you cannot remove it with the baby in the car seat. Convertible car seats are suitable for newborn babies and toddlers as they can be rearward facing and forward facing. Most convertible car seats are suitable from newborn to 4 years. Some go on to convert to a booster seat, making them suitable to 8 years. However, 0 to 8 years convertible car seats are not very popular as they are quite bulky and most people prefer to switch to a booster seat once their child is approximately 4 years old.
If you purchase a capsule, you will then need to consider what car seat you will use once your baby outgrows the capsule. Most capsules are suitable from newborn to 6 months old. Legally, once your child is 6 months old, your child can use a forward facing car seat. However, this is not recommended. It is highly recommended that you use a rearward facing carseat for as long as possible - at least until your child is at least 12 months old. Babies are head heavy and their spine and muscles are not properly developed until around 2 years of age. Rear facing position is the safest way for a baby to travel in case of an accident and there are many statistics to support this. Therefore, if your child grows out of the capsule at 6 months, you would need to purchase a convertible car seat so they can continue rearward facing. In summary, here are our recommendations for the options available.
Capsule suitable from 0 to 12 months
Car seat 6 months to 8 years
Capsule suitable from 0 to 6 months or 12 months
Convertible carseat 0 to 4 years
Booster seat 4 years +
Convertible carseat 0 to 4 years
Booster seat 4 years +
There are other options, however, these would involve using a forward facing carseat from 6 months, or using a convertible car seat suitable from 0 to 8 years. We do not recommend using either of these options.
Do I need a capsule?
A lot of expectant parents ask 'do I need a capsule?' The answer depends on your personal preference, your lifestyle and your budget. If you live a busy lifestyle, a capsule is wonderfully convenient. It can make the difference between a 15 minute shopping trip, and a half-day expedition.
Here are some key reasons to consider a capsule
- You can strap baby in the harness before taking it to the car
- You can take baby out of the car without disturbing them. The baby is able to stay asleep uninterrupted.
- You can take the capsule out of the car, and attach to your pram. (Make sure you check the compatibility between your pram and capsule before purchasing these items).
- When you have an older child and a newborn - running errands, popping into kinder, swimming lessons etc. is a breeze. Simply detach the capsule from the base and take the baby with you - either carry the capsule or attach it to your pram
- Some capsules are designed to accommodate for premature or smaller newborns.
We should note that it is recommended that you do not leave baby in a car capsule for longer than 2 hours at a time. Your baby's spine is still developing and your baby needs to lie flat to help with breathing. Therefore, the curved shape of the capsule is not a recommended sleeping position for periods of more than 2 hours. However, you should note, there is one capsule available in Australia that can recline to an almost lie flat position when outside of the car. This means that the 2 hour time limit does not apply when the capsule is out of the car. The capsule is called the Cybex Cloud Q.
What are the disadvantages of a capsule?
The main consideration here is cost. A convertible car seat lasts longer than a capsule because it can switch to forward facing and last up to 4 years. Therefore, if you buy a capsule suitable to 6 months, then a 0 to 4 convertible carseat, then a booster seat - that is 3 car seats for your child. In this situation, the capsule is not essential as the convertible car seat would be suitable from newborn. However, a cheaper option may be to purchase a capsule suitable to 12 months, then a forward facing carseat suitable from 6 months to 8 years.
What should I consider when purchasing a capsule?
So you have decided to purchase a capsule for convenience. How do you choose which one? Here are some key factors to consider:
Safety is always the top priority when it comes to car seats. Australian Safety Standards are some of the most stringent car seat standards in the world. All capsules sold in Australia must meet these standards. However, some go above and beyond the minimum requirements. Some extra features to consider
- Extra layers of protection beyond the shell
- Side impact protection to take the first impact of an accident, absorbing most of the force before the energy transfers to the shell that the baby is in
- Extra layers of head protection
- Increments for strap adjustments - if increments for strap adjustments are small, this is safer as it allows the straps to be adjusted to suit the child perfectly
Ease of use
Can the harness straps be adjusted without having to un-thread and re-thread the straps? Is it easy to adjust the headrest? Is it easy to install the base to the car, whether by the seat belt method or the Isofix method of installation?
Comfort for baby
Can the capsule recline when it is out of the car, on the pram or on the floor, so the baby can lie flat and comfortable? Is the seat fabric luxurious? Is there enough padding? How about sun protection, does the capsule have a large canopy and is it UPF50+?
0 to 6 months, or 0 to 12 months? Can it lie flat so that it is suitable for sleeping for periods of more than 2 hours?
Check that the capsule and the pram you buy are compatible if you intend to use as a travel system. Also check that it fits in your car. Most baby retailers will be happy to take the capsule out to your car to check that it fits.
Weight / Longevity
Capsules that are suitable to 6 months will be smaller and lighter than capsules that are suitable to 12 months. Capsules with additional safety features do weigh more. Keep in mind that if you are using as a travel system, you shouldn't need to carry the capsule much as you can attach to your pram instead.
If you have a nice looking pram you will also want your capsule to match with beautiful design and premium fabrics.
Capsules that have more design features do tend to cost more due to the technology in it - such as recline function, extra layers of safety protection, easy to use functions and quality of the materials. Also, typically capsules suitable up to 12 months will be more expensive than capsules suitable up to 6 months.
If you have any questions that aren't covered here, please reach out to our team. CONTACT US