Monthly Archives: September 2012

Car Seats

Car seats… Another area of interest that I have completely over-researched and over-analyzed.  What type?  What brand?  For how long?

I wasn’t always this way.  Before I had my son, I simply counted on Amazon reviews to select a good infant car seat.  Well, that and the reviews listed in Baby Bargains (a wonderful guide, by the way, that I was gifted by a parent already in-the-know).

I ended up with a good infant car seat.  The Graco SnugRide 30.  And two bases, one for each vehicle.  No complaints.

But now I look back and am shocked that I took such a casual attitude.  Trusting that all infant car seats were “basically the same,” I paid surprisingly little attention to additional safety and convenience features.  Don’t get me wrong, the Graco SnugRide 30 was a good seat and served its purpose, but going forward I committed to myself that I would put more heart into my decision.

So once my son grew out of his infant car seat (at nowhere near the 30 lb. weight limit but rather the height limit, as is usually the case), I went on a mission to find the absolute best next step in convertible car seats.  Armed with knowledge from Consumer Reports, car seat safety groups, and parents, I narrowed it down to two.

  1. Diono Radian RXTThree things about this seat really stand out to me.  First, it safely seats children up to 45 pounds.  Most, if not all, other car seats go up to a maximum of 40 pounds; and it is widely known and documented that rear-facing is by far the safest position to seat a child.  Secondly, it’s built with a steel alloy frame.  Given the choice between a plastic or aluminum frame and steel alloy, which would you choose for safety??  ‘Nuff said.  And finally, it is crash-tested up to 35 mph.  U.S manufacturers are only required to test up to 30 mph.  Even though that 5 mph difference doesn’t sound like a lot, it is significant in terms of additional force and impact upon a crash at that speed.  This convertible car seat seemed like an easy choice.
  2. Britax Advocate 70 GSI had the opportunity to check this seat out at a local store, and was immediately impressed by a few things.  First, it is large.  Not good, perhaps, for a small hatchback, but it just LOOKS sturdy and substantial; much larger than its competitors.  Secondly, the seating bucket is deep.  The child sits within the seat and is surrounded by protection.  And finally, the additional side impact protection in the form of external energy-absorbing cushions is said to decrease side impact crash energy by 45%.  45%!  That’s huge.  So another solid choice.

So what did I end up choosing?  Well, BOTH.  Allow me to explain why.

After a lot of back-and-forth, I initially ordered the Diono Radian XRT.  I received it and it was SOLID (and heavy).  I was very pleased with my decision.  But then we went to install (in the center rear-facing position).  And ran into some hiccups.

The Diono Radian XRT is not overly easy to install.  In fact, it took my husband and I quite some time reading and re-reading parts of the manual to ensure that we were doing it right.  Ultimately, we were able to get it in with the help of some instructional videos on You Tube.  It was indeed narrow, as advertised, and for those with three children, you could definitely fit three in the back seat.

But we couldn’t drive!  Both the driver and passenger seat had to be pushed so far forward that it would be difficult to drive any more than a few miles in that position (the car we installed into was a 2012 Hyundai Sonata).  Fortunately, Diono recognizes this issue and has a solution in the form of a $10 Angle Adjuster (basically a wedge that sits under the seat to make it more upright).  Unfortunately, that adjuster cannot be used until the child is at least 12 months old.  For the record, we did take a few short trips with baby in tow to try out the comfort level… I made it 2.3 miles without complaining.

Then we strapped our son in.  Again: the Diono Radian XRT is not too user-friendly in this regard.  Once we got him in and had to tighten the straps, we were instructed to pull DOWN on the slack and in short motions (tug tug tug vs. the long smooth pull that is required for the Graco and other car seats).  Perhaps this would be easier in the forward-facing position, but when the seat is rear-facing, it’s almost impossible to properly pull down in a tug-tug motion to tighten the straps.  It can be done, of course – but with some effort.

Once he was in, he was happy enough.  I think he appreciated being able to look out the windows.  And since the Diono Radian XRT has a low profile, I imagine that it would be easy for him to climb in and out on his own once a bit older.  But, to me, he appeared to be too exposed.  In other words, almost his entire head and body protruded from the seat vs. being cupped within the seat, like he was sitting on TOP of it vs. WITHIN it (how an adult sits).  Perhaps this is more my perception of safety than anything else, but I would prefer that he remain more cupped by the seat at this age.

Based on these reasons – and primarily the fact that we knew it would be unrealistic to drive long distances with the Diono Radian XRT sans Angle Adjuster in the back seat – we decided to also purchase the Britax Advocate 70 GS (we do have two cars, after all).

Upon receipt of the Britax Advocate 70 GS, I was able to compare the two seats side by side.  The Britax was definitely cushion-ier than the Diono.  It just looked more comfortable.  It was lighter (although it has integrated steel bars, the entire frame is not steel like the Diono’s is).  And the seat bucket was deeper.  We decided to install it.

Installation of the Britax Advocate 70 GS in the center rear-facing position was a BREEZE after our experience with the Diono Radian XRT.  It was intuitive, the instructions were easy to follow, and we had it firmly installed in no time.  One tiny feature of the seat that I think is very thoughtful is a pocket in the back specifically to store the instruction manual (since I am a person who frequently loses instruction manuals, I very much appreciate that the Britax’s will always be exactly where I need it).

Even better, it fit perfectly behind the driver and passenger seats in the same 2012 Hyundai Sonata.  No need to move either seat up!  And with a bit of space to spare (and yes, this was in the fully reclined position, as instructed by the manual).  We can drive in comfort!

That said, the side-to-side spacing was not so generous.  Those external side-impact cushions really do take up a lot of space.  You definitely could NOT fit three Britax Advocate 70 GS seats in the backseat of a car.  You couldn’t even fit two side-by-side.  It’s either one in the center, or one on each end.

Now we buckled our son in.  It was more difficult to get him into the seat because it sits up higher (be mindful of bumping your child’s head on the car ceiling while attempting to get them in).  I imagine this would also make it more difficult for him to climb into the seat once he is older.

But buckling him in was so much easier than it had been with the Diono Radian XRT.  Instead of a near-impossible downward tug-tug-tug motion, we were able to simply pull the strap smoothly in any direction and listen for the clicks as it got tighter and tighter.  It definitely resulted in fewer tears for him and less frustration for us.

And then once he was in, he was CUPPED by the seat – exactly what I wanted!  The downside is he can’t as easily look out the windows (he would have to lean forward), but the upside is that he is completely enveloped/protected by this seat.  I was a happy camper.

So which do I ultimately prefer?

Both.  That’s right, both.

The plan is this: for now, while our son is a bit smaller, we are going to use the Britax Advocate 70 GS.  Then, once he outgrows it in the rear-facing position, we are going to switch to the Diono Radian XRT to continue to 45 pounds rear facing.  Then will continue to use the Diono Radian XRT in the forward-facing position until he outgrows the seat/booster completely.

I realize that this is not the most cost-effective option (these seats ain’t cheap!) but it’s the one I am most comfortable with.  And that’s priceless, right?

Top 8 Favorite Baby Products (6-9 Months)

Welcome to the third edition of My Favorite Baby Products!  My little one keeps growing, and we keep buying (I suppose this is what they meant when they said that kids ain’t cheap).   Following are my personal favorites for the 6-9 month age range.

  • Tommee Tippee Explora Li’l Sippee Trainer Cup:  We have tried every sippy cup on the planet.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  But not by much.  They are all wrong for oh so many reasons.  The ones with the hard plastic or silicone nipples don’t work.  They are not comfortable for the baby (a pretty rough transition from a soft bottle or breast nipple), and they encourage chewing chewing chewing of the nipple.  Others with softer nipples are TOO spill-proof.  Meaning, they are so airtight that it’s nearly impossible to suck that water out.  I can barely do it – and only after an inordinate amount of effort.  The other types with the soft nipples are easier for baby… But a MESS for mommy.  So I finally realized I needed a sippy cup with a soft nipple, easy flow, and some sort of anti-spill mechanism.  Tommee Tippee fits the bill!  Plus it has a nice shape and handles that are easy for my son to grasp.  Highly recommend.
  • Step2 Push Around BuggyI don’t know what it is about this toy that makes it so much more exciting than a regular stroller, but my son is absolutely thrilled to ride this.  As soon as he gets on it, he grabs onto the steering wheel and quickly begins rocking his little body back and forth in an attempt to make it go.  When I push him, he screams in delights, waves his arms, and reaches for everything we pass.  A smile is plastered all over his face literally every minute he’s on this thing.  Each time we are out with it, a passerby will stop and laugh and comment on our happy baby.  Needless to say, this a huge hit, and I would have purchased it sooner had I realized.
  • LeapFrog Learn & Groove Musical Table:  This is more than just a toy, as it’s teaching him how to stand and balance.  He’s also learning cause and effect:  pull this to hear that, or open this to hear something else.  He is really intrigued with this and I love watching him trying to stand and balance himself on it while reaching for the different buttons and pulleys.  Nicely, the music and words it plays don’t seem nearly as annoying as some other toys we have.
  • BubblesOkay, I know not really a single product, but I had to add it to the list.  My son is crazy for bubbles!  I only found out by seeing him absolutely mesmerized at Gymboree every time the bubbles come out.  He just can’t get enough.  He reaches for them, holds them, pats them, and claps and squeals every time he sees them.  In fact, he is much more enamored with the $3 bubbles I bought than the fancy-shmancy talking music player.  I suppose it’s the little things.
  • North States Superyard PlayardI know what you’re thinking.  I had the same thought too.  Put my kid in a pen??  Like a dog??  No way, not gonna happen, not in my house.  Yet… We broke down and got the pen, er, playard.  And am I ever glad we did.  Our house, you see, is open concept; great for entertaining, horrible for kids.  On the main living floor of our house, there is literally no way to gate off separate rooms or areas!  So we were setting the baby into the high chair or the bouncer just for a few minutes to get things done.  Poor little guy.  We figured it was time to give him some more space.  This pen is wonderful.  We bought a $19 thick rug at Big Lots to line it, put in his toys, and he is as happy as can be to roll, crawl, and play.  It’s a pretty sizeable pen, and I appreciate the fact that there is a muted color option (our house is already beginning to resemble a circus as it is).  There is room for the entire family to spread out and play in it, including the dog!  I imagine as he hits the pre-toddler stage, we will need to buy some more extensions to make it a bit more bigger, but for now it’s great and allows my husband to continue procrastinating on the baby-proofing.
  • Contours Lite StrollerWho knew that strollers were such a booming business??  There are strollers for every style, budget, and personality.  It’s mind boggling!  Even we have no fewer than 4 strollers for a single 9-month-old baby.  And which one is our everyday favorite?  This one.  It is light light light (can easily throw into car trunks), folds quickly, and is a mere $65 vs. the several-hundred-dollar models.  Rides smoothly, steers easily with one hand, includes a large umbrella cover, and has a HUGE lower basket which is perfect for baby bags, groceries, and a little dog.  Also reclines easily and includes a removable 5-point-harness, which was especially important to me when he was younger.  A great buy and wonderful stroller!
  • Tuffo Water-Resistant Outdoor Blanket with Carrying CaseI have to give credit to our nanny for this great recommendation.  I guess she was tired of having to line up several tiny baby blankets to sit on at the park, then washing them over and over to get rid of the grass stains.   Now with this blanket, there is plenty of room for the entire family to sit, it is water-resistant, and cleaning is a breeze.  Add to the mix the convenient carrying case (to clip onto the Mommy Hook on your stroller), and this is the perfect blanket for a picnic or day at the park.
  • Infantino Cart CoverI’m already a germaphobe (think: knuckles on elevator buttons and paper towels to open public doors).  So when I had my son, my germaphobia went through the roof.  I heard the horror stories.  My baby caught mono from a shopping cart!  Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease from a restuarant tabletop!   And I wanted no part of it for my son.  I admit that I have shied away from even putting him into a shopping cart or restaurant high chair for the sheer fear that he may touch an uncleansed surface and contract some horrifying disease.  That’s why these cart covers are so ingenious!  Now I can safely sit him into a shopping cart and a restaurant high chair with no fear that he is going to touch something he shouldn’t.  It even has a little belt and loops upon which to hook his favorite toys.  Fluffy and soft too.  Baby likes it and so do I.

So there you have it.  Now time for me to start thinking through the 9-12 month list (really??  Already almost 12 months??)