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.
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.
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!