I recently wrote a blog post about extended rear-facing (ERF), with an emphasis on the lack of widespread knowledge on this topic in the UK. Indeed, if ERF is a term you’re unfamiliar with, we should probably begin this post with a brief recap. ERF is the term used to describe car seats that are designed for children up to 4 years old to sit facing the rear of the car; i.e. backwards. ERF is a safer alternative to the traditional car seats that everybody is used to which face forwards.
We are all used to the idea that newborns and young babies face backwards in the car, but we’re often so keen to transfer them into their ‘grown up’ forward-facing car seats the second they appear old enough or big enough. In my original post, I outlined the reasons why it is so important for young children (up to 4-years old) to face the rear in cars. In brief, young children have drastically better outcomes in car accidents if they are facing rearwards, as the force exerted on their delicate young spines is significantly reduced in comparison to collisions in which they are forward facing.
In Scandinavia, all children up to 4/5 years old are seated rearward facing, and all of the well-known manufacturers produce ERF car seats for these countries. However, in the UK, although these seats are available if you do a bit of searching, they tend to be significantly more expensive in comparison to traditional forward facing seats. When you couple this with the fact that people are generally unaware of ERF and its benefits, you are met with a situation where people simply choose the most cost-effective seat over the safest.
For me, upon discovering ERF, it was a no-brainer. I had to put my younger son into a rear-facing seat once he had outgrown his stage 0 baby seat. After doing some digging around on Twitter, I was introduced to a fantastic company called Joie Baby who manufacture a range of products from car seats, to prams/pushchairs to high chairs.
I must confess that I had never heard of Joie Baby before this, and upon looking at their products further, I was incredibly keen to work with them. I liked the look of their brand – simple, stylish but most importantly, functional and safe. I wanted to help promote the importance of ERF in the UK, especially as guidelines are changing, recommending that babies up to 15 months old should be rear-facing. Joie Baby very kindly gifted us their i-AnchorSafe™ System for our 17-month old son Fraser to try.
Fraser had just about outgrown his stage 0 car seat, and was beginning to get very angry every time we placed him in it. I kept him rear-facing for as long as possible because he has a very large head, and I felt that it was better supported in the slightly reclined, rearward-facing position. However, he was at the stage where his head was right at the top of his seat, and he needed to change up to the next car seat stage.
We received two boxes; the box for the car seat itself and the isofix base in a separate box. My husband fitted the car seat. He read the instructions indoors, and he said that it all sounded most straightforward. Indeed, he installed it in moments with total ease. I’m not exaggerating. It seemed to be a much easier install than our other forward-facing car seat for our two-year old, Finley. We rationalised that the reason for this was because you do not have to feed the seatbelt through the seat, like we do for our other car seat. Instead, the seat conveniently clicks into the isofix base. You can use the seatbelt in addition to the isofix fixing to secure the base, which we did, as this gives the base that extra bit of security.
The iAnchor is a stage 0+/1 seat, which means that it can be used from birth right up to the age of 4, and can be fitted either rear-facing or forward-facing (babies should always be rear-facing from birth to 15-months minimum!). The seat comes with a newborn insert that will support the teeny body of a brand new baby and can be easily removed when it is no longer required, usually around the 9kg-mark.
Many of the components of the seat have incredibly useful diagrams showing you how to fit the parts, as well as little colour-coded windows which indicate whether you have installed the part correctly or not. This came in handy when Ian was making adjustments to the height of the base. We did begin to make a video of Ian fitting the seat, but after perusing Youtube, I found this very well-polished video made by Joie Baby themselves. In fact, if you have a phobia of instructions manuals (I do), I highly recommend consulting Youtube for professional instructional videos on most things, especially fitting your car seat. A visual can often be far more informative than text. Take a look for yourselves at just how easy this seat is to install…
Now, we received this seat a few weeks ago, and I have been meaning to publish this review since that time. It has been delayed for a number of reasons, but actually I’m glad, because we’ve had a chance to really put the seat to the test and assess how well it works.
Firstly, the moment we put Fraser into the seat, we were met with no resistance from him. He had been complaining every time we placed him in his old stage 0 seat. However, he was positively excited at being sat in his new seat. He had a more upright position, could see perfectly out of the window (just the same as his forward-facing brother) and seemed to find the seat comfortable. It is beautifully padded and feels lovely and squishy to touch. Indeed, several weeks of daily use of his seat, and the novelty hasn’t worn off for him. He seems so incredibly happy in it.
I was concerned that his head may be more likely to loll forwards when he falls asleep, especially with the force of the car pulling forwards, but I always find him asleep with his head resting nicely on the side supports. Check the picture below of him sleeping soundly in his Joie seat.
The iAnchor has 7 recline positions, and Fraser is currently at the first recline setting, as far forward as it can be, meaning that it is as near to the backrest of the back seats as possible. He has plenty of leg room in the current position, and the recline position is incredibly easy to adjust even with Fraser in the seat.
One of the reactions I have had about ERF is ‘where will his legs go?’ There are many photos on Rear Facing which show older children in ERF car seats, sitting happily and comfortably with their legs bent and resting on the seat. I’ve also since read that children who are forward-facing and have dangling legs have got no support if their legs are flung forward in a crash. And actually, I think about how I sit when I am a passenger in the car – frequently with a leg curled under me, or with my legs on the dashboard. My 6’4 husband is the same. Neither of us naturally sit with our legs dangling down for a prolonged period, unless we’re at the dining table. You can also see in the pictures that Fraser look perfectly comfortable, with adequate leg room at the first recline setting.
One of my worries was that my 6’4 husband would not be able to drive our car, a moderately-sized Seat Altea, with the iAnchor behind him as he needs the driver’s seat adjusted as far back as possible. However, it looks as though Ian will be able to put the driver’s seat all the way back with the iAnchor reclined all the way back. It will be a squeeze, but all in all this is great news that I will not be condemned to doing all of the driving on any long journeys we need to make.
I find that the loosening the straps on the iAnchor is easier than our Britax, hence making removing Fraser from the car easier than Finley. The metal buckles feel better quality than the plastic buckles on our Britax, and fit together easier when fastening the buckle. For some reason, I have been finding that the seatbelts on the iAnchor have a tendency to become twisted. This hasn’t affected the ability of the belt to be adequately tightened, it is just a little annoying.
As with most car seats, the covers can be removed for the purpose of washing. However, although my other car seat is filthy, and my new Joie car seat is destined to become filthy, I am highly unlikely to remove them. I drive the kids somewhere every single day, and removing the seats for washing just wouldn’t fit in with our lifestyle. It would be great if manufacturers could supply an extra seat cover to replace the one that is in the wash. As an additional note, although I allow forward-facing Finley to eat in the car, I am unlikely to let Fraser do so, as I cannot monitor whether or not he is choking. For the purposes of health and safety, I would recommend that other parents do not allow their children to eat in the car unless they can be monitored.
I have racked my brain to look for any real criticism of this seat, and I genuinely do not have any. It feels like a really quality piece of kit to place my younger son in. The build-quality is excellent, with all of the parts fitting well and easily. This seat is simply a must-have for all families having baby. As I said before, it is suitable from birth and will last until 4-years old, which means it will be the only car seat you will need to think about until your child goes to school.
We tried our 2-year old (soon to be 3) in the iAnchor, and he fit perfectly well. He did complain that he couldn’t see me, which I can understand, as he has been accustomed to seeing me. However, I will go so far as to say that I did not feel that he had an issue with facing the rear, it was merely the inability to see me. This could easily be resolved with a mirror.
For me, the main and most important part of this seat is the fact that it will take my son travelling rear-facing until he is 4. The peace of mind this gives me is enormous, and there is absolutely nothing that can argue with that. All of the other great features of this seat are a bonus. If you are having a baby, or have a baby and are looking to move him or her up from their stage 0 seat, I urge you to kit yourself out with an iAnchor, and bring ERF to the masses.
Thank you to Joie Baby for working with me on this post, and for more information on Joie Baby, see their website for details on specifications and stockists.
Disclaimer: This review post was written by myself (Fiona @ Free Range Chick). All opinions are my own, and I was not paid for this post.