Ask Kat: Rear Facing Bucket Seat

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As the mum of three small boys, an expert in baby products and a no-nonsense parent, resident blogger Kat Armstrong always seems to be called upon by friends, family and strangers to answer tough parenting questions. We thought it was high time she shared this knowledge with you, and her series Ask Kat was born. If you have questions for Kat, you can email her at


Dear Kat,

We’re getting ready to buy our first car seat, but I’m seeing so many conflicting reports of where the safest spot for baby is in the car. Some websites say middle, some say behind the driver, and others still say behind the passenger. It’s enough to make me feel like any car seat will be bad news! What’s the best placement for a rear facing bucket seat in a car?

Julie, Ottawa


Wanting to keep our kids safe is a top priority for all parents, and car seats especially are a tricky beast. With seats ranging in price from $100-500, different styles (bucket, convertible) and different brands, it’s hard to know which is best. The very first thing you should do is decide on your budget, knowing that cost does not affect safety in your child’s car seat.

Once you’ve settled on a budget range, take a look at your car, and what you’d like to get out of it. Do you want a bucket seat, knowing it needs to be replaced by age 1 because you expect to use the seat a lot? Would you rather jump right into a convertible and buy only one time? Do you think you may have multiple kids? You don’t need all the answers, but it’s good to have an idea of what you think your needs might be.

Now, all this to answer your question – where is the safest spot in a car. The answer, in short, is “it depends.” It depends because different safety tests have garnered different results depending on car type, seat, impact and more. What all car seat safety technicians, police officers and fire fighters can agree on is that what is MOST important is whether or not your seat is properly installed, and how you use it.

One of the best pieces of installation advice on car seats I ever received was that the seat should be so tight in it’s place that when trying to move the seat, the car moves, but the seat stays still. I always thought my seat was tight enough, and then I learned this gem. Now, I can move my three car seats in and out of the car and get them in tight every single time.

Depending on what car type you have and what seat you decide to go with, you may find that it’s ideal for the seat to be on the passenger side or driver’s or even in the middle. With multiple seats, I was recently told, “most vulnerable kid in the middle.” I thought this meant baby, but no! It meant forward facing/booster seat (most vulnerable meaning least amount of seat to protect them).

And finally, if you do decide to go with a bucket style seat, it’s very important that you use the seat properly. This means that you should NEVER EVER try and buckle your bucket into the basket of a grocery cart. There is not a single car seat on the market designed to do this! If you insist on bringing your bucket seat into a store, please place it in the large basket or on it’s appropriate stroller base. Further, do not place any extra “after market” pieces into your car seat that could potentially stop the straps from being as tight as possible – that means no snow suits, no blankets behind baby and no extra padding.

Good luck, and happy car seat shopping!



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