It’s been a long time coming but we have finally just bought a high backed booster seat for Florence. I’d heard about the Britax #BinTheBooster seat campaign and knew that we were going to avoid a simple booster cushion at all costs and go for a high backed one as I know they are safer. I just didn’t know which one, where from or how much money I was going to spend?
Florence is five and a half now so quite old to be going into this stage car seat I suppose but she has literally ONLY just hit 15kg and her head has, until now, been below the top of her second stage car seat. While she was the right weight and height for the old seat I wanted to keep her in it for as long as possible because they are safer if a child is smaller. Before that I’d kept her in her infant seat until she just turned two because again, she hadn’t met the size or weight requirements to move her out of it. It seemed far more sensible to keep her rear facing for longer – apparently it is now going to be law that all babies remain rear facing until they are at least 15 months old which is so good, I know lots of people who moved them out at around 9 or 10 months just because they thought their child was bored and wanted to face forwards.
Even at under two Florence used to moan because she wanted a big girl’s car seat like all her friends but I just wasn’t going to buy one before she was absolutely ready; she had to put up with it just as she has had to put up with waiting for her booster now. This time she had far more specific ideas about what sort of seat she wanted and having seen her friends in booster cushions and high backed seats without a 5 point harness she knew exactly what she would choose herself but I was ready for the upset. Usually, when it comes to things for her I do like to let Florence choose for herself or at least have a say but when it came to this decision, I’m afraid she hasn’t got what she had hoped for at all!
Florence wanted, ideally, just a booster seat. Well, after reading all the information from the Bin the Booster campaign (I stumbled across this article in the Guardian) I wasn’t going to allow that. Next up on her list of ideals was that she no longer had a five point harness which I wasn’t sure about but prepared to look into. She says, and I know that it’s true, many of her friends no longer have the five point harness and instead their boosters and high backed boosters which secure them with the strap only. It didn’t sound right to me but I wanted to find out about it.
I looked on line, on all the different car seat manufacturers websites and I couldn’t find definitive advice about the five point harness, just information that they had them or didn’t. I wanted to know answers to lots of questions like what’s the benefit or disadvantage to having or not having a five point harness? I also wanted to know if there is a difference between using a cheap seat and an expensive one? Some are £30 and some are £250. Would my child be any safer in a pricey number and if so why do they make the cheap ones? Again, information on line seemed very limited and I was disappointed.
I decided I had to hit the shops and ask for help but staff in shops (more than one) which sell the seats seemed very vague with their answers being almost guessed. ‘Is it worth buying a cheap chair or is it a false economy do you think?’ I asked one and the answer given was ‘Um, I THINK they’re all the same?’ I pressed her, she was only about 18 but she told me she’d had ‘the training’ so why didn’t she know? I asked ‘Why would I buy a more expensive seat if it’s the same quality as a cheap one?’ Again her answer was seemingly plucked from thin air and she said ‘Maybe because on expensive ones you get cup holders and things?’
Blimey… This was NOT helpful. NOT helpful at all…
When it came to the five point harness a few of them had no idea at all. Some seemed to think it was personal preference while others didn’t know why some had them and some didn’t. One of them said ‘she expected they were safer‘? At this I asked ‘Why would I buy one without if they’re not as safe‘? and she said ‘Oh everything has passed safety regulations, it’s just some people like to be even more safe‘! Urm, forgive me if I’m wrong but who doesn’t want to be as safe as humanly possible when it comes to their children?
Eventually, in Mothercare, after having spoken to two girls who couldn’t answer my questions fully, they said they would go and ‘get Kerry’… I guessed Kerry was the guru at Norwich City Centre Mothercare as she seemed in high demand, not someone who was offered up lightly and when she came, almost with a shining light around her and a choir singing, I knew she would know!
She did. FINALLY! Good old Mothercare!
So apparently it IS safer to have the five point harness and they can be used until about 25kg before you need to then remove them. They all have removable harnesses and they also usually will turn into just a booster seat should you so need (we don’t but it’s good to know). When it came to the cheaper options Kerry told me that while they ARE safe and have passed safety standards they are often not as well padded. She did know the answer to all my questions and I trusted her. She knew the answers to ALL the questions on other products too and was frequently called upon to give help to other staff members on other topics while she was with me – poor Kerry, she was run off her feet!
So… I asked Kerry which one she would choose and she showed me a Britax which was well over a hundred pounds but it had lots of padding and that five point safety harness I was now adamant we were having. She showed me how to fit it on their dummy chair and told me to put my knee in to make it really tight. It was effortless for her and I wanted her to come and put it into my car for me so that I knew it was perfect but unfortunately they couldn’t as they don’t have a car park. The store in Norwich is moving soon though and she said when it’s in the retail park they will absolutely be able to come and fit it into the car.
Luckily, the seat I chose was in stock in the colour black and even though it was originally more expensive that the red one (which would have to have been ordered), Kerry found on the computer that it was in fact, on an offer which hadn’t been displayed on the shelf. When she rang it through the till more money still was deducted due to it being an old colour. Fab news for me! It was still more expensive than the cheapy ones but I felt pleased to have one Kerry had told me is safest and why.
Buying this seat has not been easy and it would have been great to have had more information on line and have more shop assistants working on car seat departments with wider knowledge. I think I got there in the end but the whole process shouldn’t have been that hard! Even now I’ve read up about my seat (the Britax Evolva) on the Mothercare website and it seems to give differing information about weights than Kerry did in store which is confusing. And then, even with further digging, on the car seat manufacturer websites I have not found much detailed information about why we should buy certain seats and why we shouldn’t. On the Britax website for instance (the people who launched the #BinTheBooster campaign) they don’t seem to have any information about the campaign on their front page; This is their main topic at the moment as far as I can see so if they don’t detail that what else aren’t they detailing?! There is also no mention as to why you would or wouldn’t need a five point harness on a seat like the Evolva and I wonder if this is because they know it’s safer, but because they do make seats without the harness they don’t want to say that? Also, when it comes to the information about the different car seats they sell, it’s a mine field. Great long jargon-ish sounding names like ‘Advansafix’, ‘Adventure’ and ‘First Class Plus’?! Whatever do you choose? One which sounds fun like ‘Adventure’ or one which sounds like it should be better because it has a name like ‘First Class Plus’? I mean ‘Advansafix’ is clearly trying to encourage you to think it’s advantaged, but is it?
Also, Under the FAQs on the Britax website I found their ‘fit finder’. I thought I would just check if the car seat I bought is definitely compatible with my car. Kerry said it was when I asked her but I just wanted to be sure. I have a Vauxhall but my car make doesn’t appear in the Britax list of cars – surely this is an error?! Or does this mean NONE of their seats work with Vauxhall cars and have I just dangerously been driving my child about. I’m very confused yet again…
I‘m so unimpressed with this whole situation and although I appreciate that Britax are doing much to encourage people to use a high backed booster because they’re safer, I’m left confused as to whether they are being wholly honest when it comes to everything else. Staff in shops need more training of course and we just need someone to say, definitively, XYZ is the safest option for your particular car. If Britax really and truly had the safety of children at their forefront then they would make their website much easier to navigate and be much more transparent when it comes to which seat is best. If it’s more expensive but safer, even if the cheaper ones have passed safety checks, then say it. Say ‘Ok, car seat ‘A’ is cheaper and it has passed all the checks but… car seat ‘B’ is even safer and it has a price tag to match. Up to you’… I know, as a parent that it wouldn’t matter what it cost, if I had to spend double the amount for safety then I would. If, however, I am presented with a cheap option and an expensive one and the shop assistant says she doesn’t THINK there’s any difference then why would I go for anything else?
Sort it out car seat manufacturers – Give us the information we need and want!
So, eventually we have the Britax Evolva in black despite after purchase not being able to find any mention of Britax car seats being suitable for Vauxhall cars. I now have to find out quickly if this is true… See, MINE FIELD!
I was not asked to write this post.