The car seat dilemma // Is it the end of extended rear-facing for Toby?

I am a big believer in keeping your children rear-facing in the car for as long as possible. The statistics are hard to argue with – research has shown that it’s five times safer to remain rear-facing. In Scandinavia children must stay rear-facing until they are 25 kg (around four or five years old) and they are very unlikely to die or be seriously injured in a car accident.

In the UK it used to be very common to turn a child to a forward-facing car seat as soon as the law allowed, that is when they reached 9 kg. Thankfully, as more people become aware of the benefits of rear-facing seats, attitudes, and the law, are changing. The new iSize regulations say that a child must stay rear-facing until they are 15 months old. The different stage seats are then based on height not weight. At the moment iSize is running alongside the current regulations so existing car seats can still be used but eventually all car seats will have to comply to the new regulations, which also include more rigorous safety testing.

Most infant carriers (Group 0+ car seats under the old regulations) can be used until your child weighs 13 kg. For a lot of children this is somewhere between one and 18 months. However, if you have a very tall child, as we do, then they may well grow out of their infant carrier by height way before they reach the weight limit. In an infant carrier your child is too tall when their head starts to come above the shell of the seat. This happened when Toby was about 8 months old and I think weighed about 8.5 kg. He wasn’t heavy enough for a Group 1 forward-facing seat and even if he had been we still would have kept him rear-facing.

After a lot of research we decided to buy Britax Dualfix, which I reviewed here. Even though it was only two years ago there weren’t a lot of extended rear-facing options. The swivel feature of the Dualfix really appealed to me, and I was incredibly grateful for it when I was heavily pregnant and having to wrestle an uncooperative toddler into his car seat.

Britax Dualfix at 10 months

The Dualfix can be used until your child weighs 18 kg which for the average child is around age four. However, as I have since found out, it has quite a short shell (something it has in common with some of the other swivel seats) so at a month off 3 years old, even though Toby only weighs just over 15 kg his has almost outgrown the Dualfix. In this kind of seat it is OK for the child’s head to be above the shell as long as the straps are at or just above the shoulders. Toby is now 102 cm tall and with the headrest at its highest Toby’s shoulders are right up under it. If he grows another cm or two he’s not going to fit in this seat any more. Just to be clear though – this is nothing to do with Toby’s legs being too long or it being uncomfortable. He has never once complained about facing backwards, or not having enough space, it’s simply that the length of his body means the harness won’t fit safely soon. You can see in this picture that he is still perfectly happy in his rear-facing seat.

Dualfix at two and a half

Gabe is also getting close to having outgrown his infant carrier too so we’ll need to move him into the Dualfix soon.

So here is the car seat dilemma – what do we do with Toby? I am a firm believer in extended rear-facing and there are seats available which can remain rear facing up to 25 kg and have a much bigger shell. If we got one of those seats Toby would be able to stay rear facing until he was maybe 5 or 6 if he continues to grow at the rate he is now. But having already paid £300 for the Dualfix we would need to spend a similar amount again on another rear facing seat, and then when he outgrows that buy another seat for him to use until he is big enough not to need a car seat at all (which at the moment is when a child is 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first). We might be able to use the new rear facing seat for Gabe, but there’s a chance he would grow out of the Dualfix before Toby grows out of the second rear facing seat and then what do we do? Buy another seat for Gabe? I’m all for being as safe as possible but at between £200-300 per seat we could be looking at a very expensive few years.

The ideal option for me would be a seat which can be used rear facing until 18 or 25 kg but which has a tall shell, and can then be turned round and used either with the harness or as a high backed booster with the adult seat belt. I have found a couple of seats which fit the bill – the Joie Every Stage and the Klippan Triofix. The main problem with the Klippan seat is that there is nowhere nearby that stocks them so I would have to buy online and hope Toby fits in the seat OK.

The Joie Every Stage is more of a possibility but there are couple of things I don’t like about it – firstly it is secured with the seat belt and the way it is routed round the car seat means you either have the put the child over or under it to get them in the seat (Plus, our car seems to have short seat belts so I don’t know if it would even fit. The second niggle is that it has to be in the most reclined position when rear facing and I don’t think Toby would like lying back after being more upright for so long. There is a local shop that stocks the Joie seat so I suppose we could always go and try it and see what we think.

I would love to know if anyone has any experience of either of these seats, and what you think of them.

The other alternative is to buy a group 2/3 forward facing seat for Toby, put Gabe in the Dualfix until he grows out of it then get a similar forward facing seat for him too. Although I know the statistics about extended rear facing being the safest option, unfortunately there comes a point where we have to look at the financial implications too.

I think I have found a seat though that will be a good compromise. The Britax Advansafix II SICT is a forward facing seat suitable from 9-36 kg. Up until your child reaches 25 kg it is fixed in the car with both isofix and the car seat belt and the child is secured using a five point harness. Isofix on its own can only be used to 18 kg so most seats switch to using the car seat belt to secure the child after that but because the Advansafix uses both the child can be harnessed for longer. I think the longer I can keep Toby in a harness the better as the car seat belt would give him too much freedom to move around and get up to mischief! I also like the fact that after 25 kg when the seat is in its high backed booster mode it is still held in the car by the isofix so you don’t need to fasten the car seat belt when the child isn’t in the car. This seat also has additional side impact protection which can be moved depending on which side of the car the seat is on, and it has fancy guides which make sure the seat belt is positioned correctly when it is being used.

As you can probably tell I’m actually pretty sold on the idea of this seat already but I would love to know if any of you have used it, or indeed if you have any other solutions to my car seat dilemma that I haven’t thought of yet….and that won’t cost me the earth!

Review: Britax Dualfix car seat

When Toby was about 8 months old he outgrew his 0+ infant car seat. He was nowhere near the minimum weight to move to a next stage forward facing seat but being so tall the top of his head was starting to appear over the top of the seat.

Britax Dualfix car seat review

As it was I had read about the safety benefits of extended rear facing car seats and had no intention of moving Toby to a forward facing seat any time soon. We needed a rear facing seat that was suitable from birth but would last Toby for at least another few years. Unfortunately there weren’t a huge amount of options available to us. With the introduction of the new iSize regulations (you can read more about iSize here) there are more and more extended rear facing seats coming on to the market but even though it was only just over a year ago there weren’t many suitable seats available at the time.

Having looked at the options we decided to go for the Britax Dualfix. We’ve now been using this car seat for over a year so I thought it was about time I shared some of my thoughts.

Firstly, I wanted an isofix seat and we had to find one that was compatible with our car. The other main attraction of the Dualfix was that it can swivel from being rear to forward facing, and although we weren’t planning on using it forward facing for a good few years it was good to have the flexibility. The swivel feature also means that the seat can face the door which makes getting Toby in and out much easier (especially when you are 7 months pregnant!).

So, a few of the other details about the Britax Dualfix. As I’ve already mentioned it’s a combination rear and forward facing seat. It is fitted into the car using an integrated isofix base. The seat is suitable from birth to 18kg (approximately 4 years old). There are three recline positions – the seat must be used in its most reclined setting until your child weighs 9kg. There is also an infant insert included which should be used from birth until approximately 6 months. The straps are easily adjusted by moving the headrest up and down.

This photo shows Toby at about 10 months old with the seat fully reclined.

Britax Dualfix at 10 months

After more than a year of use then, what do we think of the Britax Dualfix?

On the positive side Toby has always seemed comfortable in the seat, from when he first started using it at 8 months, until now at almost 2. The straps are very easy to adjust and to open and close and Toby always seems secure in the seat. The biggest plus point has to be the swivel feature which allows the seat to face the door for getting Toby in and out. I’m sure this has saved my back from untold damage over the last 18 months!  In rear-facing mode with the seat in the most reclined position it will swivel towards the door but will not turn the full 180° to face forwards. This worked fine for us when Toby was smaller and was always using the seat in the reclined position.

So although there are some positive features of the Britax Dualfix there are also quite a few negatives that we have come across with this car seat . First of all it was quite difficult to fit the seat in the car in the first place. This may be partly due to the location and access to the isofix points in our car (we have a Nissan Qashqai) but it wasn’t made any easier by the fact that the seat is attached to the base making it very big to try and manoeuvre. However, once we managed to get it in the car it did feel very secure so no issues there. There are indicators which turn to green to show that the isofix points and supporting leg are fitted correctly, so you shouldn’t be left in any doubt that the seat is fitted safely.

The other main issue we have had with this seat is that the recline adjustment is very stiff. In theory you can adjust the recline with your child in the seat. In practice this is almost impossible. There is a handle under the front of the seat which must be pulled (and held) out whilst pushing or pulling the seat to adjust the recline. It moves fairly smoothly from the more upright positions to being reclined but it is very stiff to move it the other way. In order to move the seat to the most upright position you have to grasp the handle at the front, push in a safety button on the base, and push the seat itself into the correct position – very tricky unless you have three hands!  When Toby was smaller and always using the seat in the fully reclined position we didn’t have any problems. The issues with the recline only became apparent when Toby was about 12 months or so and wanted to see what was going on around him a bit more. At that age the most upright position seemed to be too upright – this problem is exacerbated when the seat is rear-facing as (depending on your car) the slope of the seats can make the car seat seem almost tipped forward. There is a middle recline position which would have been perfect but unfortunately in this middle position the seat no longer swivels to the door. Because the recline mechanism is so stiff it was too annoying to adjust it every time Toby was in the car so now he has the seat in the most upright position all the time. In this position the seat will swivel to the door and also the full way round to be forward facing if you choose. This is OK most of the time but if we are going on longer journey where Toby is likely to fall asleep we do find his head falls forward when the seat is fully upright.

This is Toby at 19 months with the seat fully upright.

Britax Dualfix at 19 months

The final niggle with the Britax Dualfix is that compared to some other rear facing seats which are now available the seat, and leg room when rear facing are quite small. As Toby is particularly tall it is likely that he will grow out of this seat way before he reaches the weight limit. I am hoping we can get another year out of it, by which point our new baby will be ready to move from his infant carrier to a bigger seat, so he can use the Dualfix and we can get a next stage seat for Toby.

So there are quite a few negatives to the Britax Dualfix but plenty of positives too. So when it comes down to it, would I buy another one? Honestly, probably not. I love the swivel feature of this seat but for something that costs £350 there are too many problems with it. As I mentioned at the start of this review there are more and more extended rear facing seats coming on to the market and some of these also have the swivel feature so I would probably look to one of those before buying another Dualfix.

Here you can see the seat facing the door – the swivel is the main selling point of this seat for me. Britax Dualfix swivel

 

If you’ve made it this far – well done! I hope you found this review helpful. If you have any questions about this seat or extended rear-facing in general then please feel free to ask. I’m no expert but I can certainly share our experience. And for the record, Toby is still perfectly happy rear-facing at nearly 2 years old and I plan on keeping him rear facing for as long as we can!

EDIT: Toby stayed rear-facing in the Britax Dualfix until he was just three. At that point his shoulders were right up under the head rest, even though he wasn’t over the weight limit for the seat. However, Toby is particularly tall, and has a long body so it was no surprise that he outgrew the seat at three. This is him at about two and a half and you can see he doesn’t have a lot of room left.

Dualfix at two and a half

Our younger son Gabe then moved into the Dualfix when he was about 11 months old and it is still going strong. He is now two years old and happily rear facing.

You can buy the Britax Dualfix from all good car seat retailers.

SAFETY NOTICE: I recently received a comment on this review from a reader who was concerned that the Britax Dualfix should not be used in the more upright positions when rear-facing, as shown in some of these pictures. I contacted Britax for clarification as admittedly it is not entirely clear from the instructions that come with the seat. This is the response I got from Britax customer services:

I am able to advise that the Dualfix car seat can be used in all three recline positions rearward facing. There are weight categories on the side of the seat base therefore for a child from birth until 13kg the seat unit is to be used in a fully reclined or in the slightly reclined position for this weight. For a child who weighs over an unclothed weight of 13 kg the seat is to be used fully upright or in the slightly reclined position for this category.

 

**I was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.