Sunday, 27 October 2013

Coming Soon - Product Review!

I’m very excited today. We have a brand new (not yet launched) product coming our way for a review. It should arrive any day now.

While the company are providing the product to us free of charge in order to provide the review, the opinions written will be entirely my own and I will not receive a fee for writing about the product.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Maxi Cosi Opal

Since J was still quite young (10 months) when he became too long to travel safely in the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix carseat, I was keen to find an alternative that would keep him rear facing for as long as possible, since that is the safest way for younger passengers to travel in a car.

Additionally, he was still under 9kg which is the minimum weight for a Group 1 carseat which made it even more difficult to find a suitable option.

Fortunately, it was around this time that Maxi Cosi launched their Opal carseat. This seat is a Group 0+ and Group 1 combination carseat, which means it’s suitable from birth up to 18kg. Up to 13kg the child can travel rear facing, and up to 18kg forward facing. As it is a combination seat, it offers the same seat size as a normal Group 1 carseat with the added bonus of being suitable from new-born, which meant I didn’t have to worry about J not being 9kg yet.

Maxi Cosi Opal Intense Red

Again we had a physical fitting prior to using the Opal – it is another unit fitted with the 3 point seatbelt in the vehicle. Even in my small 1999 VW Polo it fitted well, and comfortably even in the rear facing position. Many people are put off ERF seats because they think they’ll take up a lot of room – well I can confirm the Opal fitted very well, though it did minimise space for the front passenger as I had to have that seat quite far forward in order to accommodate the Opal rear facing. This meant that when Daddy P travelled with us he wasn't especially comfortable (he's 6ft+) but as we don't tend to do regular long drives with all of us in the car it wasn't a huge issue for us.

The silver hooks on either side of the seat hole the harness out of the way when you're getting the child in & out. The rubber backing on the harness pads ensures they grip the clothes, making escaping the harness much more difficult. Always ensure the harness is correctly tensioned to the child - you should not be able to get more then 2 fingers between the breast bone and the harness. The child should not be wearing thick padded coats or snowsuits which may lead to the harness not being correctly tensioned. 

The only annoying thing I found was the horizontal seatbelt section was right across the gap you had to put the child in / lift them out of the carseat which made it awkward. J was 10 months when he started using it so it wasn't so bad but with a newborn I would think this could be quite difficult. 

The Maxi Cosi Opal fitted rear facing in a 1999 VW Polo. There is a space between the back of the carseat and the front passenger seat as there should always be when fitting a rear facing carseat. The seatbelt in this vehicle was at full length to accomodate the Opal rear facing. There is no standard length for seatbelts in vehicles, so before purchasing one you should always get a physical fitting from trained staff to ensure the seat can be safely and correctly fitted. Sometimes the tilt of the vehicle seat may also make a carseat unsuitable as the carseat cannot be fitted at the correct angle, so it's important to check before you buy.

A comment that a lot of people make is that their child prefers to be forward facing, but I contest this, as J was rear facing and perfectly happy in his Opal up until he was 19 months old. This is beyond the new recommendation to keep babies rear facing til 15 months old. At 19 months old J hadn’t yet met the 13kg maximum weight limit for rear facing in the Opal, but he had reached the maximum height for rear facing travel in the Opal. There’s an indicator on the side of the seat to show you. Once you adjust the headrest to a certain height, it will show you that the seat can no longer be used rear facing – it’s due to the head crowning over the top of the main part of the carseat shell. He weighed 12.5kg by this point so he wasn’t far off the 13kg mark, and like a normal Group 1 carseat this seat can be turned forward facing from 9kg (though the recommendation from Maxi Cosi is to keep baby rear facing as long as possible)

J rear facing in the Maxi Cosi Opal at 18 months old

I love how easy the Opal is to adjust the harness height – there is no messing about. You grab the headrest and bring it forward, then pull the headrest up or push it down to adjust it. By doing this, it also adjusts the harness height. You should always go by the harness height for correct headrest adjustment – when using rear facing the harness should be level with the child’s shoulders, or a maximum of half an inch above or below the height of the shoulders. When using the seat forward facing, the harness should be level with the child’s shoulders, or a maximum of half an inch above. When forward facing, the harness should never be lower than the shoulders as in an impact this could cause compression injuries.

As well as this very easy harness adjustment, the Opal fabrics are even easier than the CabrioFix ones for removing to wash. Again, Maxi Cosi recommend a maximum 30 degree handwash only for optimum care, but again I have washed on handwash setting in the machine at 40 degrees and never had any issues. One thing I notice with the Opal is that after a few months of use the fabric becomes quite flattened, but a wash fluffs it back up again as good as new and again it’s nice and padded and comfy. The downside is that the harness pads can’t be removed for washing, but I found a damp cloth or a baby wipe cleaned them up no problem.  I’ve always managed to adjust the Opal harness to the right height required without any issues and because it can be done so easily & quickly it means you’re confident before every journey that it is correctly adjusted.

A huge bonus for me with this seat is that it is width adjustable. J looks quite lost in a normal Group 1 seat as they’re so broad compared to him, but in the Opal I can have the width set to fit him well and it doesn’t look really wide!

The downside to a combination Group 0+ and Group 1 carseat is that it is like a normal Group 1 carseat in size and weight, which does mean you’re unable to remove it from the car like the CabrioFix and fit it into a pushchair chassis, so it does mean you have to get baby out of the carseat and into the pushchair every time you arrive at your destination. I only ever used to use the CabrioFix on the pushchair chassis occasionally when we went to the shops by car, so it didn’t make too much difference to me not being able to do that.

J is now 100cm tall so the harness is on the highest setting but it is exactly right for him – he is forward facing as he is now 15.5kg but I am proud to have kept him rearfacing til 19 months old as this is far longer than many people manage.

A few months ago I got a new car which meant re-checking the fit of the carseat to ensure it was suitable for use. The new car is a Toyota Yaris Verso, and I find fitting the Opal in this vehicle so much easier as it’s taller than the Polo, with flatter seats in the back and plenty of space and it takes about a minute to successfully fit the Opal into this vehicle and there’s no messing about – the only thing I didn’t like about fitting the Opal into the Polo was the amount of fussing about you had to do because the seatbelt was only just long enough and there was such limited space in the car. Now it’s in and out within a minute and I’ve no issues doing it.

I really like this carseat and it looks so comfy and J can see out of the window brilliantly because of the height of it, it offers recline positions when forward facing so even if he falls asleep in it I can make him comfortable without any issues (there’s a button on the underside of the front edge of the seat to press in and lift the front of the carseat up in order to recline) The guideline is that a Group 1 carseat is suitable until approximately 3.5yrs old (maximum weight 18kg) while J will be well below 18kg when he hits 3.5yrs old he remains a very tall child for his age (on the 95th percentile) and as I mentioned before he is already using the highest possible harness setting so there’s no more scope to adjust it but he continues to be comfortable and safe and I’m in no hurry to change him to a high backed booster seat so I will be continuing to use the Opal for him for as long as possible.

J forward facing in the Opal - 100cm tall, 15.5kg, 3yrs 1month old 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Maxi Cosi CabrioFix & EasyBase 2

Before J was born, I did a lot of research into which carseat was the best option for me.

I wanted an infant carrier with a carseat base, but I didn't have IsoFix in my car, which meant that I needed a base that could be secured using the 3 point seatbelt.

As there is no standard length for seatbelts or seatbelt webbing in vehicles, when fitting a carseat using the 3 point seatbelt it is always recommended that you have a physical fitting from trained staff prior to purchase to confirm suitability.

The Maxi Cosi EasyBase 2 was suitable for use in my car at the time (a 1999 VW Polo) In combination with this base, we used the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix carseat (though the Maxi Cosi Pebble is also compatible with the EasyBase 2.)

The advantage of having a carseat base meant we could leave the base secured in the car and just click the carseat on and off as necessary. It saved time when we were going out, rather than having to mess about fitting the carseat every time you just got baby into the carseat in the house, carried the carseat to the car and clicked it onto the base before setting off. I was confident every time that the seat was correctly fitted and it saved time when going out with baby - which any new mum will tell you is a bonus!

J was very tall even as a young baby, but the CabrioFix was long enough for him to last quite a white. We removed the lumbar support cushion at around five months old as he needed the additional space for his bottom - the headhugger remained in place til he was 9 months. When I adjusted the harness on the carseat to come through the top holes, I brought it through the bottom holes of the headhugger to hold it in a higher position in the seat to be able to continue using it. 

I also got the matching footmuff to use with the CabrioFix which I found an excellent accessory, well worth the money - it meant J was warm enough in the car in his day clothes and just with the footmuff on, and because the harness goes inside the footmuff you can be confident the harness is correctly tensioned and not too loose on the baby because of the extra padding between them and the harness that you'd get by adding a winter coat.

As you expect to find with a child in a close fitting item such as the CabrioFix carseat, J got quite hot in it during the summer months so I also invested in a Summer Cover. This terry towelling fabric goes over the normal carseat fabric and means that baby remains cooler. Plus it's easy to remove and wash, which I did several times over and every time it came out good as new despite being the cream colour which a lot of people thought was really inappropriate for a baby carseat fabric colour!

The standard fabrics on the CabrioFix carseat can be removed for washing easily - and you don't need to mess with the harness at all to do so - which was another huge bonus for me. Maxi Cosi recommend handwashing fabrics at 30 degrees for optimum care, but I put them in our washing machine for a handwash cycle at 40 degrees and they came out brilliantly every time. I wash them then give them a fast spin in the machine and lay them on an airer to dry and they were ready for use again by the next morning.

Due to how tall J is, he became too long for the CabrioFix at 10 months old - his head was crowning over the top lip of the seat no matter how much I jiggled his legs to shift his bottom down and keep his head contained in the seat shell. In a rear facing carseat such as the CabrioFix, the head should not crown over the top lip of the seat, so at that point we needed to get the next stage carseat for him.

Our Dogs

This is our boy dog, Buddy. He is a Border Collie and was born in July 2005. He has been our dog since he was 8 weeks old. He is bouncy, playful, protective and loving. He and J are Double Trouble. They get into all kinds of mischief together!

This is our girl dog, Holly. She is a cross breed (Border Collie cross) We don't know how old she is, but we rescued her in December 2007 from a local rehoming centre after she was found wandering down a busy main road with no collar and no chip. She is cheeky, boisterous and loves nothing more than running round the garden with J.

Our Family

This is J with my mum. J calls her Nanan. 

This is J with my dad. J calls him Grumpa.

This is Daddy P's Mum - J calls her Grandma.

This is Daddy P's dad. J calls him Grandad.

Daddy P's sister & her husband - Auntie Jo & Uncle Dips

Cousin Aaron

My brother & his wife - Uncle Jay & Auntie Em

Monday, 21 October 2013

A Bit About Us

This is my son, J.

J was born in August 2010. He is currently 100cm tall and weighs 15.5kg. He is our product tester.

This is me with J.

We live in Norfolk with Daddy P.

Daddy P and I have been together since July 2000 and married since November 2006. 

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