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Parenting 101: How to choose the best baby car seat.

If you thought you couldn’t feel more overwhelmed, excited, anxious and ecstatic than when you saw that second line come up on your pregnancy test… just wait until you enter a baby shop.

Anyone who has been in one will know that buying anything for your firstborn is tough. Where do you start? What do you need? Which one is a “good one”?

But the most important safety item, and one you will use from the minute you leave the hospital until your baby is seven years old, is the child car seat.

The pressure is on to get it right – so here are my top five tips on choosing the best one.

1. It’s never too early.

You might think you are being a little too prepared buying a child car seat before the third trimester, but don’t. Besides starting to feel exhausted ALL THE TIME, you don’t want to be making rational decisions when your hormones are at their peak and you can easily snap at the helpful sales assistant or cry because the packaging has a puppy on it.

If you are worried about where to store the car seat until you need it, put it on layby. And if anything happens earlier than it should, or you’re put on bed rest, your partner or family member can just go pick it up from the store.

"Besides starting to feel exhausted ALL THE TIME, you don’t want to be making rational decisions when your hormones are at their peak and you can easily snap at the helpful sales assistant or cry because the packaging has a puppy on it." Image via iStock.

2. Don’t worry about safety (because you don’t have to).

Thankfully, Australia has one of the toughest and highest safety standards for child car seats. So don’t go hunting for a bargain online overseas, stick with Australia where all child car seats have to comply with the Australian/New Zealand Standard 1754. Something like the Britax Safe n Sound range all not only comply but exceed the standard requirements, having been rigorously tested to make sure your baby is safe.

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Related: Tantrum shopping is a thing now. Have you done it?

3. Figure out what you need and want.

The type of car seat that your child needs (under state law) depends on their age and height. When they are newborn to six months old, they need to be rear facing. Once past the rear facing height marker, they move into a forward facing restraint until they are approximately four years old. Finally, they can sit in a forward facing restraint or booster until they are seven.

Besides age, you can also figure out which way your baby or child needs to face depending on how tall they are. The shoulder height marker lets you know when you can take your baby to the next level. Once they are in line or above it, they can switch to the front facing, and depending on the car seat, the shoulder straps can be moved higher to the next level.

Some car seats, called baby capsules, are for approximately the first six months. But they can be clipped in and out of the car (and sometimes onto the pram), which makes it handy when you don't want to wake a sleeping baby. Some parents swear by baby capsules, while others were fine without it. You can also get convertible car seats that take you from newborn to fours year old with their adjustable features.

"You can also get convertible car seats that take you from newborn to fours year old with their adjustable features."

4. Get in there.

Yes, I know it is a little weird playing with a car seat in a store, but it is just like test driving a car, so play with the straps and see if they are easy to adjust. Some stores even have toy babies that you can use to put into the car seat. Some seats in the Britax Safe-n-Sound range offer hassle free harnesses, so when you adjust the head or back rest as the baby grows the harness straps automatically reposition. One less thing to have to worry about when you have a baby.

Related: Decorating the perfect nursery for a new baby.

5. Trust the professionals to fit the car seat.

How hard can it be right? You just put it in and put a strap there and a click here and it’s safe. No. No matter how safe you think you’ve fitted the car seat, you’ve most likely missed so many elements. Like I said at the beginning, this is the biggest safety purchase you’re making, so get a professional to fit it.

Some stores offer a discounted professional fitting service that is associated with them. There are also companies that can come to your home to fit the car seat when you are ready. Now that you have the car seat checked off your list… there is just the other 176 things you need to buy.

What advice do you have for new mums?

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