Babies first trip from the hospital

By VicRoads and Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA)

Expectant parents are often bombarded with information on the latest and greatest accessories and equipment you need when you welcome a new baby into your life. Much of the information can be confusing and misleading.

Like all baby equipment, there is a plethora of brands and styles of child car seats available. So how do new parents choose and use the right car seat to ensure their baby’s car trips are as safe as possible?

Which child car seat to buy?

By law all babies under 6 months are required to be transported in a rear facing car seat or capsule. By lying down and facing rearward the impact of a crash is absorbed into the child car seat.

Australia has some of the most stringent safety standards for child car seats in the world and every seat sold must undergo rigorous testing to meet these standards. It is illegal to use a child car seat that has been purchased overseas if it does not meet Australian Standards.

You will need to choose between a capsule or a convertible car seat. A convertible child car seat can be changed to face the front when your baby is ready.

Also check that the restraint you choose will fit the size of your car. The Child Car Seats website is a great resource that can help you with your purchasing decisions. It provides comparisons on the performance of child car seats, information on ratings and correct use of child car seats.

Fitting your child car seat

It is important that you know how to fit a child car seat yourself. You will need to know how to adjust and check the straps as your child grows and maybe need to move the seat to another car The first step is to read the manual thoroughly. Also check your car manual to find the correct anchorage points for the seat in your car.

Follow the manual’s step by step instructions and don’t skip any steps. If you are not confident about fitting the restraint properly then contact a restraint fitter to teach you how to fit the seat correctly. Ask your fitter to watch you fit the restraint to ensure you can install the seat by yourself.

Using your child car seat – the do’s and don’ts

Before starting any trip with your baby there are some important Do’s and Don’ts to be aware of.


Ensure that:

  • the harness straps are level with, or just above, your baby’s shoulders
  • the harness is firm and without twists
  • all parts of the harness straps lie flat on your baby’s body
  • your baby’s arms are secured correctly in the harness straps
  • the seat belt buckle securing the car seat is done up
  • the harness belt buckle securing your baby is done up
  • the top tether strap is firm and appropriately attached to the anchor point

Important tips for travelling in a car with your new born baby:

  • do not swaddle your baby – the restraint will not work properly if the baby’s arms and legs are not in the correct position
  • do not dress your baby in bulky or padded clothes – this prevents the harness being adjusted tightly enough and therefore less effective in protecting the baby; if needed, place a blanket over the baby once securely fastened in the restraint
  • do not leave your baby sleeping in the capsule or convertible car seat – remove the baby from the car seat or capsule as soon as your journey is finished
  • carefully consider whether you should be using accessories – added accessories could prevent the restraint operating as it should in a crash, andtoys, mirrors and other loose items can turn into dangerous projectiles in a crash

So now you have researched, read the manual, learnt how to fit and use the restraint, and know how to place your baby safely in the restraint, you can be confident that your baby’s first trip home will be as safe as you can make it.

VicRoads and Early Learning Association Australia (ELAA) have worked with leading early childhood experts and researchers to put together easy to understand information to help parents make the best choices in transporting their babies safely.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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