Saturday, 30 November 2013

Maxi-Cosi 2wayFix base and 2wayPearl - An Introduction

As you may have gathered from some of the posts I’ve been doing recently, my most recent product test will be the new Maxi-Cosi 2wayFix base and 2wayPearl carseat.

Maxi-Cosi 2wayFix base and 2wayPearl 2014 Raspberry Red rear facing position

Maxi-Cosi 2wayFix base and 2wayPearl 2014 Raspberry Red forward facing position

This brand new product is not yet available for sale. It will be officially launched in January 2014 and can be purchased from your local Maxi-Cosi retailer. However I have been fortunate enough to be selected by Maxi-Cosi since J meets the criteria exactly that they’re looking for to get feedback about this product.

Extended Rear Facing (ERF) is much safer than putting your child travelling forward facing too soon. Currently the European standard is ECE R44-04 which states that a child can go into a forward facing carseat at a minimum of 9kg. To accompany this information, there is an approximate age guideline of 9 months. However, the truth is that many children are not the minimum weight of 9kg when they reach 9 months old – J wasn’t 9kg til he was almost a year old – but many parents misunderstand the information provided and when they see the approximate age guideline they accept that as the age that their child must go into a Group 1 carseat, which most commonly is forward facing. The result is that many children go into a forward facing Group 1 carseat much sooner than necessary. 

Group 0+ carseats (infant carriers) are suitable til 13kg. J didn’t reach 13kg til he was 20 months old. Technically speaking I could have been transporting him in the CabrioFix or Pebble carseat til he reached 20 months old on the basis of his weight – however, due to his height, this wasn’t possible. As a very long baby / now tall child, the harness of his CabrioFix was over a half inch below his shoulders and his head was crowning over the top lip of the CabrioFix by the time he was 9 months old. It was for that reason I swapped him into an Opal carseat, to keep him rear facing for longer as the thought of him going into a forward facing carseat at that point was not an option as far as I was concerned, especially since he was not yet the minimum weight requirement for a Group 1.

When you look at a baby, toddler or pre-school child you will notice their head is rather large and out of proportion in comparison to the rest of them. Couple this with the fact that their neck / spine muscles are less developed than an adults, and in a forward facing carseat a rear impact could cause some serious injuries to a child that is too young. If an impact can give an adult whiplash, think how much damage that could do to a delicate child’s neck? In a rear facing carseat the child will be pushed into the safety of the seat during impact, the shock being absorbed by the seat across the width of their shoulders rather than concentrated on the neck.

Some people will say that their child is too tall to be comfortable rear facing. J was rear facing in his Opal til he was 19 months old and he had plenty of room. At 19 months old he reached the maximum height to be rear facing in the Opal – there is a guide on the side of the carseat to demonstrate when the child is too tall for rear facing and must go forward facing. At no point were his legs squashed, or did he show any signs of being uncomfortable. Far from not liking travelling backwards he always enjoyed it, and being able to play peek-a-boo with other drivers when we were travelling in the car was a favourite past time of his. Even if his legs had been a bit squashed I would far prefer an ankle or leg injury in comparison to a neck or spinal injury had we ever been involved in an accident.

Comfortable and snoozing, rear facing in the Opal carseat at 18 months old

Lots of people will say their child prefers to be forward facing. How does the child know, if they have only ever travelled rear facing, that they prefer forward facing? Why is the child dictating what to do when as the parent, it is your job to keep them as safe as possible? You wouldn’t let them run in the road because they wanted to, because you know it’s not safe – so as you know its safest to travel rear facing for as long as possible, why not? It’s safer for everyone to travel rear facing, adults included – the amount of whiplash injuries caused by RTC’s show that.

J was still rear facing in my car in the Opal long after he was forward facing in my parents cars in the Pearl. He used the Pebble on the FamilyFix base in their cars for longer than he was in the CabrioFix in mine simply for the fact that the recline option for the Pearl on the FamilyFix base provides a more upright sitting position for the Pebble or CabrioFix and allows more leg room. Once he reached 9kg he then started using the Pearl in their cars, but always as reclined as possible, so that in an impact the shock would travel up the length of the carseat rather than against him. Due to this he knew what it was like to be forward facing and rear facing, and I never had any issues getting him to travel rear facing in my car. It was also far easier to get him in a rear facing seat as you place them into the seat from a comfortable position outside the car – in a forward facing seat it’s much more awkward to get them into the seat properly (with the exception of the Axiss, which turns to face you).

Under new standards, which were introduced in June 2013, a child travelling in an iSize approved carseat must remain rear facing til 15 months old. At the time of writing this, the current ECE R44-04 standard is running alongside the iSize standard for some time to come, and at this moment the only carseat which is approved to iSize standard is the Maxi-Cosi 2wayFix base and 2wayPearl.

Yes, it’s expensive, and yes, it’s only suitable for use in cars that can offer IsoFix points. Bearing in mind it’s the first of its kind, you know the price will come down once more of these seats are available and it becomes more commonplace for iSize seats to be used. Currently the iSize standard only covers IsoFix fitted units, so a seatbelt fitted base or carseat cannot meet iSize standard. To read up about the iSize standard, click here and for any enquiries to the Maxi-Cosi team click here.

We have had a delay in being able to start testing the product as the vehicles we will be testing in are my parents – a 2012 Vauxhall Insignia and a 2012 Vauxhall Corsa. Since we live a long distance from my parents it isn’t a possibility of popping into see them very frequently and as mum has not been well J hasn’t spent as much time with her recently as he would normally. This was an unforeseen circumstance that we couldn’t have predicted. She regularly looks after him one day a week usually, so he would be with her and travelling in her car and my dads car much more often. We have had a physical fitting by trained staff in both vehicles of the 2wayFix base and 2wayPearl and it is a successful fitting with no loss of space to the front seat passenger in either vehicle. I was concerned that in the Corsa we would find that the front seat passenger had to be moved quite far forward but it was not necessary to move the at all – it takes up the same amount of space in the vehicle as the FamilyFix base and Pearl.

Vauxhall Insignia

Vauxhall Corsa

With the 2wayPearl you must keep the child rear facing til 15 months then you have the option of leaving them rear facing or going forward facing for the remaining use of the unit, which is when the child reaches 105cm (approx. 4yrs) I will be testing the 2wayPearl in rear facing and forward facing positions in the Insignia and the Corsa with J as he is 3.5yrs old and 100cm (15.5kg) I am interested to see whether he seems to have any preferences or seems more or less comfortable rear facing than he does forward facing etc.

I am very much looking forward to this product test and I hope you enjoy reading about my experiences here. Please remember that all opinions provided are my own and I am not receiving a fee from Maxi-Cosi to promote their product. I am a big fan of Maxi-Cosi products and a big fan of ERF and this combination is very exciting for me!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Maxi Cosi FamilyFix / Maxi Cosi Pebble / Maxi Cosi Pearl

When my mum and dad discovered I was pregnant, they decided it made sense for them to have a carseat to use in both their vehicles as they are very “hands on” grandparents.

They decided that the Maxi Cosi FamilyFix base in combination with the Maxi Cosi Pebble would be the best idea, as a check on the Car Fitting List advised* the FamilyFix base was suitable to use in both their vehicles at the time, and a physical fitting from trained staff confirmed this. At the time, they also purchased the Maxi Cosi Pearl, the Group 1 carseat for 9-18kg that also fits on the Maxi Cosi FamilyFix base. Collectively this combination is known as the FamilyFix Collection.

The FamilyFix base is fitted with IsoFix only.

Fitting the FamilyFix base is very straightforward. It is only fitted using IsoFix - there is no seatbelt option. You can use the yellow plastic IsoFix guides if necessary, but sometimes the IsoFix points are very easy to locate and anchor to without the guides. (If you need guides call the Dorel UK Customer Care team to order) Once the IsoFix points have locked in that’s the first green light illuminated and your first ‘success’ chime. You then adjust the support leg correctly for your second green light and chime. The final green light and chime is when the carseat (either CabrioFix, Pebble or Pearl) is fitted onto the base. It’s very straight forward and self-explanatory and if you get a red light and a ‘fail’ noise you know instantly something has gone wrong with the fitting.

Red lights on one and two indicate incorrect IsoFix fitting and incorrect support leg fitting. The final light is not on, indicating a seat is not in place on the base. The three green lights show the base is functioning properly.

To remove the seat from the FamilyFix base simply use the grey release clip at the front.

Using the Pebble on the FamilyFix base has all the advantages of using any carseat with base combination, but as well as that when the baby gets older you can use the recline positions offered by the FamilyFix base, which when using the Pebble will allow baby to sit more upright and have more leg room, thus promoting Extended Rear Facing. The Pebble is suitable for use up to 13kg (approx. 12-15 months) and J used the Pebble in mum and dads cars til he was 13.5 months old, when he did become too tall even after the base adjustment. At this point he moved into the Pearl carseat. The minimum weight for using Pearl is 9kg - maximum is 18kg. This carseat is a Group 1 forward facing.

Initially I insisted that when travelling in the Pearl he was in the most reclined position, as by doing so if there was an impact the force would be more likely to travel up his body than shunt against him and potentially cause injury. This suited J very well as he likes to have a nap in his carseat when he’s out with Nanan and Grumpa!

I think its fair to say that J - and Tiger - are very comfy in the Maxi Cosi Pearl

Both the Pebble and the Pearl have an easy-out spring loaded harness so when you press the red button to undo the harness it literally springs open and out of the way, making getting your child in and out really easy. The harness height is adjusted by the head rest which you pull forward and up or down as required. Once the harness height is correct, you know the head section is at the correct point for optimum protection even in a side impact. The fabrics on both carseats are again easy to remove with no messing about with the harness required. Washing is again recommended by Maxi Cosi as handwash only 30 degrees, I’ve always done them handwash cycle in the machine at 40 degrees and they come out fluffed up and good as new. Whenever I strip the fabrics off a carseat to wash them I always give the carseat shell a good thorough vacuum to make sure there is no crumbs or debris around the harness which could cause problems tensioning / releasing the harness properly, and give the plastic a wipe over with a soft cloth and some furniture polish to keep it clean and operating smoothly. I’ve never had issues with my carseats or harnesses by looking after them well. I tend to remove fabrics once every 3 months for cleaning unless there has been some sort of disaster (normally involving chocolate!) Also it’s a good idea to remove the carseat every so often anyway to clean the vehicle seat and re-fit to confirm it is fitted properly and all pieces are functioning correctly.

On the front of the FamilyFix base there is a grey button you can press at any time to check if all the lights still show up green (correct fitting) and ‘success’ chime. Beware that if you take a corner too quickly and the support leg lifts from the floor, the second green light (for correct installation of support leg) will activate ‘fail’ chime and then ‘success’ chime when the support leg rights itself after the corner. In addition, when the products were brand new they had a very annoying squeak as you travelled. This was solved by wiping the carseat shell and the base over with a soft cloth and some furniture polish to add a little layer of lubrication and since then if the squeak starts again just wipe over and it stops. It would be a good idea to do it every 3 months when you wash the fabric and clean out the carseat as part of your upkeep and maintenance.

My mum and dad tend to get me to double check the fit of the base and seat before they take J out in either of their cars, but it is always correctly fitted and it’s just them doubting their own abilities! The unit swaps between mums and dads cars and is suitable in either. I really like this unit for the ease of use, along with the security of knowing with the light and sound indication that it is fitted properly. J is always comfortable and secure in the seat and thanks to the base he is up quite high in the car so he can see all around him without any issues - when he’s awake, that is!

* Maxi Cosi advises a physical fitting of the car seat is carried out in your vehicle by a Maxi-Cosi trained advisor who are available at your local nursery retailer prior to use to ensure a safe fitting. Maxi-Cosi cannot be held responsible for the performance of an incorrectly fitted car seat or a car seat fitted without physical fitting confirmation. 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Family Time

My mum isn't very well at the moment, so I've travelled from home to stay with her & dad for a few days. Fortunately I had time booked off work anyway and so did Daddy P - unfortunately the circumstances mean that while I'm here, he is at home with our Ickle Pickle Pot J and our dogs; while I am here, sleeping in the bedroom that was mine when I was a teenager and sitting up on the computer way after my dad has gone to bed and thinks I have too.

I drove away from my boys today with a heavy heart. I really didn't want to leave them at home alone, but in this instance it's for the best. I keep checking my bags thinking I've left something vital at home - it's only just dawned on me the vital thing I have left at home is my husband and our son. I miss them terribly already and I only left them this afternoon! Sitting here editing photos taken over the last week have just reminded me of the little monkey I have at home and what a wonderful little man he is (when he's not screaming and throwing a massive tantrum!)

J feeling the love

Also of course missing my wonderful husband, who is so wonderful that without a moment's hesitation he suggested that I travelled down here to stay with mum and he'd stay at home with J, and thankful for wonderful husband's work colleagues who quickly moved mountains to ensure that his holiday time could start earlier than planned, enabling me to get here today (Friday) instead of the planned Sunday.

While I left the boys with heavy heart, I know they'll look after one another. I did all the shopping before I left so I know they won't go hungry and Grandma P has promised me she'll look after them in my absence. I couldn't stay at home fretting while mum was in hospital and dad was beside himself. He makes out like he's tough as old boots but he's a soft old sausage really and he adores my mum. Watching them walk hand in hand earlier made me melt, I'm so proud of them - they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in September this year, and they still walk hand in hand.

Here I am, sitting in my old bedroom listening to the rain fall on the sloping window and the trains going past on the railway line that feels close enough to touch, yet somehow it's so quiet compared to my house with dogs claws scrabbling for grip on laminate flooring and either a dog singing, a radio playing a favourite song, the TV showing Thomas, or Peppa, or Shrek for the five hundredth time or a toddler asking "Why, mummy?" and a washing machine on spin cycle. Its very odd to have switched from wife & mummy mode back into daughter / older sister mode. I am missing Daddy P and J like mad but right now my family time has to mean being here for my wonderful mum like she has always been there for me whenever I've needed her.

With my mum