Wednesday 23 April 2014

A new car seat for my growing boy

In less than two weeks time, I will have a one year old. A ONE YEAR OLD. How did that happen? Who knew that babies grew up?

Ethan is certainly growing up fast; it's almost happening before our eyes. We will put him to bed at night and the following morning, he's lying there at least an inch taller* with more hair and another tooth peeking through his gums. * might be a slight exaggeration.

I've had to come to terms with the fact that my baby boy isn't really a baby any more, as he totters on the edge of toddlerdom. He's ready for 12-18 month clothes. He's starting to move around a lot more, toying with the idea of crawling / walking. And he's definitely outgrown his first car seat. It's his long legs - I swear, he'll be a giant like his dad before too long.

We've been researching all the new kit he needs for his next stage, from clothes and toys to choosing a new car seat, and we've been sure to take our time. In the early days of parenthood, it's easy to be swayed by special promotions, bright and colourful designs and too much technical blurb to even try and understand. This time, however, we wanted to take our time before rushing in and buying the first car seat that caught our eye.

It's an important decision. It's our son's safety at stake, after all.

I didn't know a great deal about car seats and what features to look out for before so I spent a lot of time looking at the different options, styles and finishes available to understand why some seats cost a little and others cost a lot.

Early on, we decided that we wanted a car seat that would last a long time - it's an investment and you might as well get your money's worth - so we looked at the Group 2 and 3 options, which can last up until the age of 12, or when they reach 150cm in height. Now that's good value!

Here's a helpful chart to make things a bit clearer on what the ECE group ratings mean:

Source: Cybex

When we started looking at different models, one seat really stood out to me; the Pallas-fix by Cybex. Fitting into the Group I/II/III categories and suitable for 9-36kg (approx. 9 months to 12 years), The Pallas-fix features a rather unusual looking adjustable safety cushion at the front to protect your child; completely different to the standard harness / strap design I'd seen on every other model available on the market.

Source: Cybex

My first thoughts were the seat looked a little different but that it had a great design and quality look to it, so I read on to see what the front cushion was all about.

This safety cushion is adjustable and resembles an inflated airbag, which apparently greatly reduces the risk of serious neck injuries from head on collisions without restricting the movement of your child. According to Cybex, it helps provide the highest level of comfort to your child, offers greater upper body movement and has maximum safety in frontal impacts especially when compared to conventional five-point harness systems.

Source: Cybex

With the safety box well and firmly ticked, I wanted to see how easy it would be to fit in the car, use on a daily basis and how it would evolve over time as Ethan grows up.

The Pallas-fix is described as a two in one seat, with the safety cushion for the Group 1 stage, which can be converted at around age three to make it the Group 2/3 seat Solution X2-fix. The seat features linear side impact protectors that absorb the force of side-impact collisions and it's also ISOFIX compatible.

Other features on this fab seat:

Source: Cybex
Clockwise from top left: 11 position height-adjustable headrest, 
comfortable recline function Group 1, reclining backrest and removable seat insert

That's the technical bit done and dusted - but what is it like to use?

Well, I loved this seat from the moment I opened the wrapping to the first time we put it in my car and every time I have sat Ethan in it since. It's a stylish design, the cover material and overall finish is high quality and it is really easy to secure Ethan in next to no-time - a BIG change from his first car seat, I can tell you!

All you need to do is pop your little one on the seat, pick up the separate safety cushion, slot this in front of their body into the two slots either side of the seat, then pass over the seat belt so it hugs against the safety cushion. That's it.

At first, it does look a little unusual, as your child can move their arms either side of the cushion and, in Ethan's instance, they can look rather small sitting in this great big new car seat. I think when we first fitted the seat, Ethan was just on the cusp of being the right size, but he's growing into it more now and he's always seemed very comfortable. In fact, he seems to relax instantly once he's sat in it and stays content or falls asleep in a matter of minutes.

His comfort is also aided by how quick and easy it is to secure him in place, so there's no time for fidgeting and there's no fiddly clips to deal with.

This seat is also available in a choice of colours, which was another plus point for me. Granted, safety and function were my top priorities when choosing a car seat, but I still wanted something that looked good in the back of my car too. Only the best seat in the house for my little boy! I chose the Blue Moon colour option, which is nice and bright (although different than pictured on the website) and will suit him no matter what his age, plus there's another five colours to choose from.

We have used this car seat for the past month now, running Ethan to and from nursery during the week and out on a few road trips where he has slept for three hours straight, completely comfortable and without any problems at all. I'm so pleased with how good it looks and how easy it is to use; it really has made such a difference.

The Pallas-fix from Cybex is a higher-end car seat than some options available on the high street. However, I took into consideration the longevity the seat offers, the timeless, stylish design, the quality finish and the unique safety feature of the front cushion when making my decision. For me, I feel these factors make for a brilliant car seat that will stand the test of time - for the next 11 years in fact!

And Ethan seems rather happy with his new seat too.

Top tips on choosing the right car seat:

It can be quite confusing when choosing a new child seat but here's some great advice from Cybex to help make the process easier to understand:

  • Seats with "semi-universal certification" are not permitted in all vehicles. Check the seat manufacturer's compatibility list to find out if the seat will fit in your car. In case of doubt, simply ask your car dealership.
  • Take both your child and your car to the specialised shop and test the seats to find out which one fits best.
  • Remember, child seats should be easy to install!
  • Check the length of the seat belts in the back to ensure they are not too short.
  • Children's harnesses must be easy to adjust, so that they can be tightened or loosened depending on what the child is wearing.
  • The safety seat should offer children who tend to sleep in the car, maximum side support and a comfortable sleeping position (Gr. I) or an adjustable head rest (Gr. II/III).
  • Never buy a seat for the child to grow into. Even though three-year-olds are theoretically old enough to sit in a Group II/III seat, they are often too small for it at the time.
  • Rear-facing child safety seats must not be positioned on the front passenger seat of cars with an activated front airbag. In this instance, the infant car seat must be installed on the rear seat.
  • When buying a new, older and/or used child restraint system, you should always ensure that it complies with the new ECE test standard. The current standard is known as ECE-R-44/04. 

* PR collaboration. I was offered this seat to product test but loved it so much, I didn't want to give it back so the nice people at Cybex let me buy it from them. Thank you!



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