One of the most important things to consider when having a baby is the type of car seat to purchase. Before our baby was born we opted for a Graco travel system (from Toys R Us) which included the stroller, car seat and travel cot. It wasn't the best build quality or particularly exciting, but it worked well for the first few months however we quickly found that our baby's legs outgrew the car seat within 4-5 months (despite it being advertised for up to a year or so) and sitting in the car got uncomfortable for her.
After deciding to upgrade, we soon realised this is a common problem. There are so many different options out there and finding one can be really confusing. The best way to tackle it was to focus on what our specific needs were as a family and go from there. So, up until now we would put our baby into the seat before we left the house and then click the seat into a fitted base, but now she was much bigger and it made more sense to carry her to and from the car instead. We narrowed it down to a list of what we wanted:
- high safety ratings & a trustworthy brand
- be able to adjust with her age
- easy to get her in and out
- most importantly: compatible with our car
After extensive research, including government safety guidance, EU regulations and recommended seats by well known baby seat retailers such as Mothercare, Kiddicare and Halfords, we narrowed it down to three options that suited our needs:
- MaxiCosi Opal
- Graco Junior Mini
- Britax First Class Plus
Note: If you are wondering why we didn't opt for ISO-FIX, this was because at the time there were no options available for both forward and rearward facing / compatibility with our car. If you also opt for a selt-belt fixed car seat then I'd strongly recommend you make sure there is no buckle crunch.
What we found
- The Maxicosi Opal wasn't as big as we thought it would be. The adjustments weren't as great as the video demo made them out to be and our little one didn't seem too comfortable in it which is a shame because secretly this is the one we were most leaning towards.
- Graco Junior Mini was ok, worst looking of the three and less features. It didn't seem to fit the car very well.
- Britax First Class Plus had better safety ratings, more comfortable for baby and fit the car much better. This was the cheapest of the three so we expected it to be the worst, so were suprised at the results.
Britax First Class Plus. We've had the seat a few months now and very happy with it - our little one wasn't really a fan of car journeys until we got this car seat, she now sleeps/sits comfortable without much fuss. In regards to safety, it has high marks but I pray with all my heart (can I get an amen anyone?) we are never in a car accident and never need to find out - my advice to drivers, especially parents is to be extra cautious when driving your family around, it's never worth the risk. Also when choosing a car seat don't be afraid to go into large retailers and get them to fit the seat to your car until you are happy with it - even if you end up buying the seat online, peace of mind goes a long way.
Another thing learned though this is that different seats behave differently in different cars (that's 3 differents!!!) so keep going until you feel 100% certain it's the best fit for your car/budget/criteria.
I'm tempted to post all the links I came across relating to safety guidelines but a bit concerned these change over time so instead here are two links to websites that have up-to-date information:
- UK guidelines: DirectGov / Think! Road Safety
- US guidelines: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
I have also since decided that when we upgrade the car, we'll also upgrade to the Britax Duo Plus ISOFIX OR BeSafe iZi Comfort X3 ISOFIX - depending on the outcome of the european debate re: rearward VS forward facing child car seats. If/when we do upgrade I'll be sure to post our findings.