M&B Awards blog: Baby on board and going car seat crazy.

Is it just me, or do other mums find choosing a car seat weighs heavy on their conscience? And what’s your opinion of previous car seat winners? (see bottom of post)

Hands up if you have an isofix point in your car?

This will amaze you: Out of 4,015 mums who applied to be a Mother & Baby awards tester this year, how many…? Go on. Have a guess? Or perhaps everybody knows this?

Perhaps, I should explain why my jaw dropped at the answer. Four, maybe five years ago, isofix car seats were entered into the Mother & Baby Awards for the first time. I remember I found it nigh on impossible to find enough mums who had isofix points in their car and I was quite ready to thrown my hands up and declare that it would be impossible to do a proper test. If I found one mum, none of her friends has isofix, so everybody would have to examine the isofix car seat in the one and only car it would fit. “How’s this going to catch on?” I remember thinking, “and what good if an isofix car seat wins and most people can’t use it?”

So I built the question into the application form just to make my life a little easier. 2,703 mums said that they do have an isofix point in their car. That’s more that 67%! Put it another way, ask 20 car-driving mums and only 7 will say that they don’t or they don’t know if they do. Certainly shattered my early scepticism.

Car seat safety has come a very long way. When I was a child I remember the government advertising campaign with the unforgettable slogan: “Clunk Click every trip.” It has been so completely etched on the public conscience. Now, if I don’t put my seat belt on before I drive – even though it cuts my neck – I feel naked. Having lost a school friend through the windscreen of her mother’s car, it seems insane that we were once so lax about using our seat belts. But before that time, as the youngest child in my family, I’d travel just sat on a cushion on the handbrake between my parents in the front seat! The reason was both to prevent my carsickness and the inevitable squabbling that I’d cause with my siblings on the back seat. Anyway, I’m still here to tell the tale.

The day we took our first child home from the hospital, we had to bring in our brand new Britax rocker car seat into the maternity ward to prove to the midwife that we were going to take our parenting responsibly very seriously. She watched us strap our newborn in and escorted us to the car to check we knew how to secure the seat properly. I was nervous if I didn’t pass the test she’d not let us take our precious cargo home. The next 20 minutes dive was the most apprehensive journey of my life. My husband drove cautiously and meanwhile i wanted to scream at all the overtaking cars, “Slow down, we have a baby on board!”

Two years later, Britax bought out a seat that would fit onto a pushchair. I was gutted. This was in effect a travel system. Such a brilliant idea to be able to move baby from car to pram without having to disturb him; however, being strapped for cash we had to make do for baby number 2 with what we’d purchased for ‘numero uno’.

I have to ask a few questions here:

Do mums today buy their first stage infant carrier car seat (group 0/0+) as a single item anymore?

Or do you choose the Travel System because it gives you the whole whole package (pushchair, carry cot, raincover, cosytoes and car seat)  and look to see which Travel System is a Gold winner and just accept whatever car seat that comes with it?

If that’s true, is there any point having a Mother & Baby Award for the group 0/0+ car seats if no one purchases one on its own anymore?

There’s no doubt that every parent takes the subject of getting the right car seat for their car and ensuring that their baby is a safe as it is possible to be, however it doesn’t make the subject any less confusing. I know I’m confused.

My youngest is now nine, nearly ten and since the law changed to say that every child under 1.35m in height or under 12 needs to be in a booster seat, as the little squirt that he is, he really should be in his. However, as a rule, I’m not sure all car seat rules are properly thought through.

You’ve probably seen the crash test videos where they propel a car body down a track at speed and show the effect that the impact of a crash will have. The child car seat breaks loose and the dummy of a child is thrown across the inside of the car. Normally when I see these things my thoughts take this kind of order: “Gosh, how shocking! I wouldn’t want that to happen to one of mine.” I’m scared of what might happen. Then comes my  guilty conscience because the issue of child car seats has become a source of irritation lately. Everytime I fail to get my independently minded and very vocal child to use his rather hard and uncomfortable booster seat. I guess I’m breaking the letter of the law. But trying to both ensure his safety and keep within the law involves a lot of stressful yelling. Possibly if I just give up, let him ditch the booster and leave him to cling on with his teeth, toes and finger nails I’d drive without the distraction and we’d both be a lot safer.

Which? are very vocal about child car seat safety and are seen as an independent body who have the consumer’s interest to heart. They rate car seats based on how well each seat performs in crash tests, how good the level of side impact product the seat gives and so forth. However, I’m a bit confused about how they draw their final conclusions. Part of the test looks at how easy the seat is to fix and what the likelihood is that somebody will fit it wrongly. They are looking for the idiot proof. Surely today’s parents whose super-antennae are sharply tuned to protect our little ones aren’t going to make the mistake of fitting a car seat incorrectly? Doesn’t this explain the growth of the isofix system? We’re absolutely paranoid! And when they show you a child dummy strapped into a car seat flying across the inside of the car and through the front windscreen; is that to show you that the car seat is rubbish or what happens if incorrectly fitted? They normally end with the statement: “Any child car seat is better than none.”

Is it? After what you just showed me Which? it looks like I might have belted my baby to an expensive block of steel and plastic. Is that scare-mongering supposed to reassure me?

Children are not crash test dummies. They do things like undoing their own seat belts and standing on the back seat thrashing their bigger or smaller brothers and sisters;  later on they argue that it’s not cool to sit in a booster or they are uncomfortable dangling their legs. You can bet that you might have the best car seat in the world that won’t shift even if the rest of the car was blown away; but that the crash – let’s hope it never happens – was because you were yelling at little Johnny who has just undone his belt and is now about to open the passenger door while you’re doing 60MPH down the motorway. I can remember moments like this especially when mine were in their ‘impossible to reason with’ phase.

In the end, most parents spend most on the Group 1 car seat; the one that takes your 12mth baby to 4 years. If possible it will be an isofix, it will offer maximum protection, a five point harness, have washable covers and feel cosy and comfortable. You will then possible go out and buy a cheap or reasonably inexpensive high back booster seat and ditch the high back when they get to six or seven. I’ve not seen crash test videos of children on just the booster seat. I’m not convinced they can be safe. Where’s the side impact protection for their body and what’s to stop the plastic block – the seat- which isn’t secured from slipping away?

When the law was changed to have under 12’s on boosters is was to stop strangulation from the seat belt in the event of a crash, but what I’d like to know is if cars now have isofix points, why can’t they have lower points for the shoulder strap of the seat belt? Wouldn’t that be a better way to solve the problem? Surely older children would be better protected and more comfortable on the adult seats than perched on blocks of plastic?

The solution I found has been the Renolux Easy Confort for my short and highly-opinionated last born. High backed and with a really comfortable memory foam seat, he is now happy to sit in it because he finds it incredibly comfortable. Even my big sister squeezed her skinny bottom into it and found it comfortable for her!  At last, the end to protests and arguments and I can drive easy without fretting and paranoia.

I wonder, how do choose your child’s car seat? Do you buy by brand or does knowing what these award winners were influence you? How do you feel about the level of protection that different car seats offer your babies, toddlers and young children?

I’d love to know if you own any from the list below and what you think of them.


Car Seat winners 2009

Best Infant Carrier (group 0/0+)

Gold: RECARO Young Profi Plus

Silver: IZI SLEEP PRO

Bronze: Maxi Cosi CabrioFix with EasyFix IsoFix base

Best Baby / Toddler Car seat (group1)

Gold: Britax King PLUS

Silver: Maxi-Cosi Axiss

Bronze: Britax First Class PLUS

Best Junior Car Seat

Gold: Renolux Quick Confort

Silver: Britax Evolca 1-2-3 plus

Bronze: Graco Logico LX Comfort

Car Seat winners 2008

Best Infant Carrier (group 0/0+)

Gold: Graco Logico S and base

Silver: Mothercare Meteor

Bronze: RECARO Young Profi Plus

Best Baby / Toddler Car seat (group1)

Gold: Storchenmuehle STM Starlight SP

Silver: Maxi-Cosi Tobi

Bronze: Britax King PLUS

Best Junior Car Seat

Gold: Renolux Quick Confort

Silver: Sunshine Kids Monterey

Bronze: Silver Cross Navigator


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26 thoughts on “M&B Awards blog: Baby on board and going car seat crazy.

  1. Car seats are the bain of my life (except housework of course). When you have 3 still in car seats you have to look for the cheapest option especially when they overlap in their stages. I have always had the seperate group 0 one but that is only because I have either been given a car seat or I have bought a pushchair which wasn’t part of a travel system. I may get a full travel system if I started all over again I supppose but I haver no plans to do that.
    The trouble with trying to buy cheap is that you also want to buy the best and yes you cannot put a price on safety, but then why do I want to pay £300 for the something that does the same as a £50 one? I hate buying car seats, we only recently had isofix in both our cars or it may have made the job a lot easier. We own a total of 13 car seats!! We no longer use the baby one but have 3 in our 2 cars and 3 in both the grandparents cars as they both have to ferry the children around. Of course I want the best but I also cannot afford £2500 on car seats!! I do read the which? guide though and try and make a compromise between my guilt and my purse..

  2. I tested seats last year and all my testers had isofix and all loved the recaro and my sister is even purchasing one for her baby in September. We also got to test the isi sleep which we will be using for our next one due later this year.
    When I purchased my maxi cosi I have to admit it was because of it went with my bugaboo bee.
    I don’t even think we thought about what carseat we were going to get because we assumed we would go with the seat that went with the system.
    With our next seat up we went for maxi cosi as it was on sale but knew it was a good seat by looking at the reviews.

  3. I remember when my first born was a baby, travel systems were a new thing then (makes me feel old).

    I do think that some parents don’t understand that you are supposed to use the travel system as a way of popping into shops etc. without waking the baby and not as a easy way to get a rear facing pram. Having a small baby stuck in the car seat position can damage the spine if used for too long; but the seat manufacturers don’t seem to put this across very well.

  4. I have a maxi-cosi tobi, I love it! Easy to fit, not too heavy. Great padding and head rest which is used to adjust the height of the straps. My daughter is comfortable which makes travelling a joy, the tobi is easy to recline when she falls asleep too.

    • I totally agree. I love this car seat. My son has been in it for 16 months now (He is now 2 years 2 months)and loves it too. We have not had any problems with it and Jacob is unable to escape. The only issue with it is….how many shall we buy? I have one, we also bought the childminder one (What’s the point in him driving round in a strangers car with other children in the back screaming whilst sitting in a seat we would not buy ourselves) and now we are currently looking into buying the grandparents one! Good job we are expecting again….

  5. Car seats are definitely a nightmare for me … 3 of my kids need a car seat and these need to fit in the back of the car! believe me finding 3 that will fit side by side is a complete logistical nightmare. Strangely I find that the booster seats are the worst …. one would think that these would be a straight forward choice but because of the slight base variations and arms to them they vary dramatically as to what will fit in.

    I am at the stage at the moment whereby I need to go and look for some updated seats … and i really am dreading it lol!

    Still, always better to be safe…. even if it does take a couple of days/ weeks/ months/ years to find the right combination.

  6. Pingback: Child Car seats - Netmums Coffeehouse

  7. We have a cybex baby carrier and I love it! and for my two and a half year old we have a maxicosi priorifix iso fix seat. I spent more money on his second car seat as I knew he would use it for longer and so I went for an isofix one.
    The are bringing out an isofix base for our infant carrier but my baby will not have long left using this seat so I wont be getting one. I like the idea of a family fix base that maxi cosi do and I would have got a pebble car seat if I hadnt already planned to use my sons isofix seat for my daughter as he can use a booster seat by the time she is ready to swap seats. I do like the fact I can use my car seat on the pram wheels when nipping in the shops but have to agree I feel for those babies that parents use a travel system as a way of having thier baby facing them as they musnt understand the concept.

  8. We bought a group 0 one first as i have never liked travel sytems that much but understand how easy it is to move your baby without disturbing them

    I now have a britax Evolva 123 and find it perfect for my little girl

  9. I have a britax eclipse for one car and a £30.00 Nania car seat for the less used car. Most people have 2 cars these days (or grandparents who help out) so they should sell car seats with reductions if you buy 2 or more! My little girl seems to be just as comfortable in the cheaper seat and the only difference I can see at the moment is that the fabric in the cheaper one makes her little neck a bit sweaty when its hot.

  10. I only wish i could have tested car seats last year! I have had three now an finally i have found ‘the one’. Who knew this was going to be a hard choice! There are sooo many on the market with great safety features, but which one do you choose!?!? We had a maxi cosi tobi and loved everything about it, but we wanted those features on an isofix!! We now have the maxi cosi pearl and it really is a fantastic piece of kit. It cost £300 but it was well worth the money!All the same great features as the tobi too, It is light, comes in gorgeous colours,you can buy extras,its easy to recline,and well padded for comfort….i could go on and on!

  11. I must admit i bought the maxi cosi Group 0 seat as it fit on my pram. I also bought the ISOFIX base too. I loved it and found it very safe.
    Ive just bought the next stage and gone for a Kiddy infinity seat, Quite a new seat i think, that has an impact cushion instead on 5 point harness. So far so good we both love it… It is a minefield choosing seats they vary so much…

  12. We had the pleasure to test infant carriers with our 3rd baby as part of last years testing and have to admit that before that I had always bought the seat that matched my pram choice, obviously we verified it fitted securely in our car, and observed the time she spent in it, but it wasn’t until testing that I realised how different they could be! We didn’t test the gold or silver placed carriers, but I loved the maxi cosi and the isofix made me feel so much more confident it was installed safely (as well as making it so much easier to get the seat into the car especially without getting soaked in the British summer showers!). My little girl will be turning one next week and we will soon have to buy the next stage seats – last years winners, and any other feedback shared here from this years testers will definitely be my main referral point!

  13. I have been through my fair share of car seats and after having my first and reading every internet site dedicated to car seat safety, I sided with Europe. Britain was far to behind and I was sure, that like Sweden, I was going to keep my baby rear facing until he was 4. I had a £300 seat imported and duly fitted it into my car.

    However, by the time he was 15 months and his feet were kicking the back of the seat, much to my previous opinions, I couldn’t resist turning him around just so I could see his little face!

    At first I bought the most expensive Maxi Cosi I could find, £195 at the time, and with guilt, strapped him in forward facing, to a fate of certain neck injury should I have to emergency stop…..

    Then when he turned 2 he caused me the worst problem of all…..he was not only too tall, but also too heavy for a stage 1 seat and the AA and Mothercare advised me, that at just 2 I had to put him into a high back booster and an adult belt!!

    After months of reading that children should be kept in 5 point harnesses until they are at least over 4, I spent many unnerving hours, looking internationally for a seat with a higher weight capacity.

    America had it, but wouldnt import due to British Regulation…..and so the stress and guilt was back….

    During my months of searching and worry, I had no choice but to put my tiny toddler into the recommended seat, and as the months past and nothing so much as reversing into a shopping trolley happened, so I stopped stressing……and buying car seats….

    My youngest is a tiny thing and at 15 months is still in her infant carrier, so no worries there…..fingers crossed….

    With regards to isofix, I wouldnt worry to get one of these myself, as like Jessica points out, there are a manufacturers way of making something idiot proof, but with my obsessive nature, I am certain my seats are strapped in right…..

  14. I think there definantly is a point in testing group 0+ in the Mother & Baby awards. I do think alot of people WILL buy a travel system, as its nice for newborns, but some other people, may have their hearts set on a pram that doesnt come with a car-seat, and others may have had two children close together so kept their first childs pram, but then needed to go on to buy a new carseat, or been given a pushchair but not a car seat? With my first child I got a travel system, but once my son was born I gave that away to a relative, then with my second child, I didnt really fancy a big travel system, plus I knew i’d be pushing a double buggy the majority of the time, with my children being close in age, so I bought a new carseat.

  15. I was a car seat tester last year and loved it! The kids all had a whale of a time trying out all re seats and thought it was great fun telling me what they thought of all the seats – a true childs perspective!

    I have the Britax king that won last year and love it, so easily adjustable, easy to fit and very secure with brilliant side protection and comfortable straps.

    I also have the graco 0/0 infant seat with base. Which we bought as it had been awarded a mother and baby rosette and was part of a travel system. The base has made my life so much easier, I would not be without it.

    I’ve applied to test car seats again this year and am really hoping to get the stage 2 seats as the kids are just about to go into them and I would like to get the best seats for them, pretty please!!

    Lucy Townsend

  16. I have a concord ultimax and have just bought the britax evolva 123 based on the good reviews it gets. I am happy with both choices and even though money is tight, we wanted safe car seats. I do think group 0 carseats need to be reviewed. I for one am not a fan of the travel system because baby doesn’t lie flat. Yes prams are more hassle & baby gets disturbed by the getting in & out but I would rather that than potentially cause them physical problems.

  17. i purchased a travel system with my first child and the car seat was so poorly designed that we had to purchase a separate car seat
    it is so vital that the carseat supports a newborn babys head and is large enough to continue support until old enough for the next size up seat
    i like our jane matrix seat when we went to france our baby could sleep flat safely and i was happy that the babys spine would be properly supported during a long journey but its a pig to put onto and take off the pushchair!!
    important points about car seats for me
    1/ safety and baby support
    2/ easy to put into and take out of car
    3/ easy to fix onto pushchair and remove too!!(vital for mothers back)
    4/ straps adjust and click easily
    5/ easy to clean

  18. I have just had my 3rd baby, my eldest is still in the junior car seat, at weekends we are forever moving car seats around into grandparents cars etc. They are so expensive and all 3 children are in different stages we can’t justify the outlay of 2nd seats for them. We therefore don’t have Isofix seats but have done lots of research into the safety aspects and have relied heavily on Which reports and Mother and Baby awards. With my eldest we were keen to get him front facing in a grown up seat, silly I know now……without properly understanding the dangers of forwards facing when they are too little. For my large middle child we bought the Ultimax, he outgrew his infant carrier at 5months and by then had come across safety videos of forwards facing crashes, the ultimax is fab and he stayed rear facing until he was 14months. At the moment my baby is in a Creatis carrier which is really bucket shaped and I feel is safe, for the moment it is handy to pop this onto a chassis for nipping into shops etc, but soon we will move her into the ultimax and stay rearward facing until around 1. Safety is the most important thing for me and I won’t compromise on this, I will pay any price to keep them safe in the car..

  19. Mother and Baby should definately still test stage 0/0+ car seats. Too many parents settle for the car seat that comes with a travel system and arent aware this may not fit their car.

    I had an old Citroen and brought a graco system. The large retailer assured me it would fit my car….Wrong! A week before baby was due I tested it in my car and it felt unstable so I got a local “Fit safe” approved garage to check it both with and without the car seat base. It was not suitable for my car under any circumstances. I had buckle crunch and short belts. He refered me to my local independant nursery store for a second opinion- which confirmed it was not to be used.

    A battle for a refund with the big name store was finally won and I returned to the independant who tried out several in my car- finally one britax fitted.

    The moral of this story is check the car seat fitting before you buy any system! If the store doesnt want to show you or the assistant doesnt fill you with confidence walk away…get a second opinion.

    We had similar issues with the next stage car seat…..thank god we have now got a different car but I learnt alot that experience.

  20. Well this really is really interesting indeed.Would love to study a little a lot more of this. Great publish. Many thanks for the heads-up. This weblog was really informative and knowledgable.

  21. We went for which car seat was the safest and then which travel system did it fit (if it did). Hence why we have a Britax system (Vigour) and I have to say I love it. OK it isn’t particularly compact and eats up most of the space in the boot of our Golf, but it’s easy to use and now boy is in the big boy seat and no longer in the basket (didn’t have to have, but he was born in January and it definitely meant he was warmer!) he can face me so we can chat or I can reassure him (he’s not great in the city facing forwards, it freaks him out!) or if we’re walking with the family and their dogs he can face out and watch the hounds, which he loves! Basically it ticked my big 3, safe car seat, parent and then forward facing once he’s older, and the chassis’ not too heavy. Plus the big boy seat could have been used from birth so we could have saved (a little) bit of money!!

  22. Does any one know where i can get that disney cars car seat at i love disney cars and would love to have that for my son

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