Last month I got to visit the Harrogate baby show! It is a trade show for those in the nursery industry, with lots of shiny new products on display! I saw lots of new products, both good and bad – and some that were just plain wacky!
Of course Britax are top of my list! They were displaying their new seats – the Xtensafix and the Max Fix, as well as the Max Way and I must say, they are very exciting new products!
At long last there is a good quality ISOfix group 123 seat coming out! The Xtensafix incorporates style, safety and usability beautifully, which is severely lacking in other group 123 seats. In group 1 mode there is a fully useable recline feature, not just a vague tilt that you get with other 123 seats. It has an integrated and easily adjustable headrest and harness and easily converts to the next stage seat. It is secured with ISOfix points and a top tether, or the adult 3 point seat belt. The biggest feature of the Xtensafix is that it has a harness weight limit of 25kg – which is fantastic for parents with heavy, but small children or for parents that wish to keep their children in a 5 point harness past the standard 18kg. However, to utilise the 18 – 25kg harness usage you must fit the seat with the 3 point seat belt AND top tether.
Overall it is a fantastic seat and will fill a large gap in the market for an ISOfix group 123, but I have some reservations at how many parents will fit the seat with the 3 point seat belt and top tether correctly to utilise the extended harness option.
The Max Fix is an ISOfix group 0+1 combination seat that is rear ward facing from birth to 18kg. It has a rebound bar and foot prop that means there are no tether straps, making installation quick and easy. I actually got to see this seat being fitted and it is no more difficult than fitting a normal ISOfix seat. Again, it has the integrated headrest and harness for easy adjustment, and a 7 recline function as well as a newborn insert, making it truly suitable from birth.
Overall it is an absolutely brilliant seat, and perfect for parents that are not interested in a travel system or those that want to move on from the infant carrier but still need/want a rear facing car seat.
The Max Way is a new Britax product, although it has been on the market a little while now. It is a seat belt fitted group 1,2 seat that is rear ward facing only, with a foot prop and tether straps. The Max Way is really well padded and also has the easy adjust headrest and harness, it’s easy to fit and simple to use!
I have to say, I was really impressed with Britax for having so many extended rear facing seats on display, and the new colour range is fabulous – especially the colour ‘grape’! For a company making its money from front facing seat sales it really is brave of them (and decent of them, compared to some other companies) to be pushing their extended rear facing range – here’s hoping more and more parents see the huge safety benefits of keeping kids rear facing now such a large manufacturer has extended it’s range!
Britax also had an ‘adult’ test rig! They had 2 adult sized ‘child’ seats, one impact shield one and another with a 5 point harness. This is an extension from the video they released of the roll over crash test they did http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik_9_FxAfrI
The demo was to clearly demonstrate the difference between an impact shield seat and a 5 point harness seat – and boy did it show the difference! The test seat launched you forward! Here are some photo’s of me having a go!
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Britax releasing that video, and some people I spoke to thought it to be a dirty marketing trick and that the seat wasn’t fastened properly. I must say that I beg to differ – when a car seat is crash tested, the seat belt has to be tightened to a certain tightness, which is done electronically, and you can clearly see in the video that the seat belt is fitted correctly. Another point, the seat has been de-branded. Although I can tell what make seat it is, it has had all branding removed.
I don’t think it is a dirty marketing trick at all, and I think Britax had good cause to have concerns over impact shield seats. The roll over crash test on R44.04 is done at a rotation of 3-5̊̊ degrees per second, so very slowly. When the Britax test was done, it was at 30mph – which is a much more likely scenario. If a seat is found to not perform under ‘real-life’ circumstances, then that information should be released so people with that seat are fully aware of the limitations of the seat and can make an informed decision as to whether they are happy with it or not. I think Britax have done a huge service to parents everywhere by releasing that video.
The Snugglebundl – all I can say is WOW! Generally speaking, I don’t really hold all that much of an interest in other baby products, what with being a car seat expert and not having kids myself. But the Snugglebundl really is amazing!
The Snugglebundl is a baby lifting blanket, with so many uses! It’s a strong, but really soft blanket with strong handles, and a head hugger to really snuggle your newborn. I was first drawn to it as it can be used in a car seat, newborn babies shouldn’t spend too much time in their car seat, but lots of parents are reluctant to move their sleeping baby once they’ve fallen asleep in the car so just leave them in it. The Snugglebundl can be used to lift baby out of the car seat without disturbing them, and you can then cradle them, rock them or lay them down to continue sleeping, undisturbed – which will hugely reduce car seat usage.
Not only can it be used in car seats, but it also helps mum’s lift and care for their baby when they’ve had a C-section, it can be used in trolley baby seats, to rock the baby, swaddle the baby, to give mum’s discreet breastfeeding if they wish for it and to help make passing the baby easier. I put that last one as I am absolutely terrible at passing babies back, not because I want to keep them! But I’m so worried about their heads, and fragile little necks and bodies that I don’t know what bit to pass first – with the Snugglebundl I don’t have to worry about that. I can snuggle the baby then pass it back to Mum, or to my partner for a snuggle by holding the handles, gently lifting baby and passing over – easy!
I specifically went to the Hauck stand to check out their new Varioguard seat. It’s a group 0+1 seat that rear faces with ISOfix and foot prop to 18kg, or can be fitted with the 3 point seat belt rear facing to 13kg then turns front facing to 18kg. It’s a really nice looking seat that is easy to use and comes with 5 colour options. The recline is very generous and the seat features an easy adjust harness.
High Back Booster
I also saw the bodyguard high back booster whilst at the Hauck stand, and that too is very nice. It truly grows with a growing child as when you raise the headrest, the side parts of the seat extend – truly accommodating the child right the way through.
I’ve known about the 5-point plus for quite some time, and regularly recommend it to clients as a solution to escape artist children! It is a simple device to prevent children from escaping from the car seat harness. It fits into the child seat and wraps around the harness, underneath the harness pads, closing the gap where children get their arms through. The big thing for me with the 5 point plus is that it has been fully crash tested. Aftermarket products for car seats do not legally have to pass a crash test, which is why companies can get away with selling things like chest clips, which can cause serious injuries to children if not used correctly.
More info here! - http://5pointplus.com/
Graco have a new high back booster coming out at long last! I have despised the rubbish high back boosters they do for years, and I die a little bit inside every time I see someone with one. They do not pass any side impact test and have been on the which ‘don’t buy’ for ages for lack of safety, yet people STILL insist on buying the awful things! When I gave the Graco rep this view, he gave me the old “yes, but they are better than nothing”
Well, OK… but does that give you a licence to make rubbish seats? The Britax Adventure is very similar in price to the Graco and that gives side impact protection.
The old and new seats:
Ruby & Ginger
Another accessory! I loved the Ruby & Ginger car seat cover so much! It’s a warm cosy cover that goes over the car seat to keep little one snug, without interfering with the harness and causing an unsafe fit.
I also made a special trip to the Joie stand to have a nosy at their products! They have some really lovely stuff and their car seats are innovative and stylish, whilst being easy to use and fit! They have some exciting new products in the pipeline, but my favourite one by far is the Joie Stages.
The Joie Stages lasts from newborn to 25kg/7 years old. It rear faces from newborn to 18kg, and is front facing with the harness 9 – 18kg. It then converts to a high back booster to 25kg. The seat is really well made and has very well padded, comfy covers. It is also really easy to fit, and has an easy adjustable headrest and harness!
Downsides: The two main downsides to this seat for me:
1) The way the seat fits means that when used rear facing; the seat belt runs diagonally (as it does with an infant seat) which is no problem for a small baby/toddler, but as the child gets older (2.5/3 years) it would be increasingly difficult to get them in and out of the seat.
2) The seat must be kept in full recline when used rear facing, so an older child may get frustrated with it, and with the way the seat fits there will have to be a height limit for safe usage, which will reduce the rear facing time (although it’ll be longer than other 0+1 seats).
The Stages is a fantastic seat, really well made and comfortable, as well as easy to use. It’s a brilliant option for parents who want to keep their child rear facing as long as possible, but are unable to afford an extended rear facing seat.
So, we’ve come to the bad….. Please remember that these are simply my opinions, they’re not factual and I’m not saying a product is unsafe – I’m just giving my opinion, my point of view, from viewing and operating the product. All opinions are my own, and I encourage others to form their own opinions and if they like a product – to go buy it!!
It pains me to put this seat in with the bad, and it nearly went in with the good! The Cybex Sirona is a group 0+1 ISOfix seat that is rear facing from birth – 18kg, and can front face with an impact shield from 9 – 18kg.
Good points? – It swivels, so it is super easy to get baby in and out of the seat. It has a rebound bar and foot prop so there is no need for tether straps.
The Sirona is beautiful. It’s sleek, it’s shiny, and it looks like it’s turned up from outer space. It’s fashionable – since when could a car seat be fashionable?!!! But there are, unfortunately a few features of the seat that let it down.
1) It rear faces to 18kg, but it has a very small seat shell. Having viewed the newest Sirona, you really would struggle to have a 4 year old child in that seat.
2) Front facing with an impact shield. Now, I know impact shields are Cybex’s ‘thing’ but why on earth would you make a seat with the option of being really safe and rear facing to 18kg, then throw an impact shield into the mix???? It complicates the seat, and I think parents should at least be given the option of using the harness in front facing mode.
3) It’s £400 and in my humble opinion, it really isn’t worth it – Sorry Cybex. Give me the Hauck Varioguard or Britax Max fix any day!
Although it is a stunning seat, and will be perfect for some families – I can think of a fair few other seats I’d rather buy.
Seriously? Corbeau? Recaro is enough thanks – please stick to your racing seats!
I have to say, my heart sank a little bit when I saw the Corbeau sign, and then car seats. The rep was also completely sexist with no idea of the car seat market. He described buyers of car seats as “Dad’s are the ones who make the car seat decision. So we’re making it easy for them, they’ll see the Corbeau name and know we make racing seats from seeing them on Top Gear. The seat is normally going in Dad’s car so he wants something that’s going to look good and is stylish – which is where this comes in”
1) I receive tons of e-mails a week regarding advice on car seats – I have yet to have one from a Dad.
2) When I worked at a major retailer, my main customers were Mothers, normally coming in during the end of their maternity leave to get the car seat sorted before their return to work. They had their car with them, and the seat went in that (once confirming if the seat would go in Dad’s car or not). I worked for Halfords, which is generally viewed as a ‘man shop’.
3) They want something that looks good and is stylish? Do they not want something safe then?
4) Do you really think all Dad’s watch Top Gear?
5) The seats looked horrible. The covers were quilted, and the plastics of the seat not the best quality. They were like a down market Recaro.
I was really looking forward to seeing CasualPlay’s range of seats, but was sorely let down. They had some lovely looking seats at the back of the display, which looked to be decent quality, but turn to the main display and there was a huge range of cheap looking seats that didn’t look much better than the Nania seats.
They also have something called the Retraktorfix coming out. It is an ISOfix seat with a 5 point harness, but the harness is on a locking reel (like a seat belt) rather than pre-tensioned like the harnesses you normally see on seats. I immediately had alarm bells about this, a locking device on a car seat harness??
1) An older child could easily pull down and remove the harness.
2) A child would be thrown forward and the harness would lock, snapping the neck forward far more violently than a normal car seat harness.
3) A child could lean forward in the seat and if an impact happened, they would be outside the protection zone of the side impact wings and also already stretching their neck and spine, which would then be thrown further forward and locked back.
I did not like this seat idea at all, however, I can accept that this would be brilliant for a parent or grandparent that just didn’t have the strength to pull the harness tight – so it absolutely has it’s place on the market, but do I think all car seats should have this? No.
The pushchairs were gorgeous however!
So that was my trip to the Harrogate baby show! It was a brilliant day out, although one day is nowhere near enough to see everything – next year I’ll be staying over!
There are some lovely products coming out and there really is going to be something available for every single situation!