Britax Decathlon Baby Car Seat

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When your baby starts to sit up without much support (around 6 months), you should consider switching to a group 1/2 baby car seat. Picking one may prove a more complicated task, as I found out.

Most baby car seats of this group usually feature adjustable harnesses, special impact foams and a variety of other safety features. I finally opted for the Britax Decathlon model (which is very similar to their top of the range, Boulevard), which is available in the US (but is shipped to Europe on order). Having used it for over 14 months now, I totally recommend it for the following reasons:

Pros:

  • Durability into time/Value for money: This being a dual-facing seat (which basically means that you can install it with the baby either facing towards the back of the seat, or forward), this means that you have 2 car-seats in one: remember that babies under 12 months old must be put in their seat facing backwards, because their neck and back muscles are not yet so developed so as to withstand a sharp break or, worst even, an accident where the car will come suddenly to a complete halt (so, when the baby faces backwards, its head upon a sudden stop will fall back to the pillow of its seat, where, if it was facing forward, its head would freely fall forward towards its chest). This basically means that you don't have to buy any other car seat for your child until it was become old enough to sit in a child booster seat (around 4-5 years of age or 85 pounds). Being suitable for babies from 5 pounds and with (standard and removable) newborn-specific padding, this is the only baby car seat you will have to buy.
  • Comfortable seating: The seat features, apart from the patented Britax Impact Foam into its padding, an additional (removable) set of padding (they call it "HUGS System") which supports the baby's body and head in a truly safe and comfortable way (and, when the baby gets older, you can remove this entirely). And all the padding is removable and washable, of course.
  • Five-Point Harness: Unlike cheaper seats (which feature three-point harnesses) this one has a 5-point harness, with a safety rubber buckle that secures the harness ontop of the baby's chest.
  • Adjustability: The harness can be adjusted very easily, at the toush of a button (you just press the button and the safety catch releases the harness for adjustment with one pull). The seat's recline can also be slightly adjusted (but mind you, the seat does not recline to a "sleep" position).
  • Isofix system: Although the seat can be fixed onto the car using the car's seat belts, this one also features the "LATCH" (for US) or Isofix (for Europe) system. Installing the seat on the isofix latches is a matter of seconds, with two safety latches that clip on to the isofix rings with a system similar to a seatbelt safety buckle.
  • Air travel approved (FAA): which means you can reserve a regular seat in the airplane for your child, install this seat on it and have your baby fly securely with you instead of having it attached unto you (but check with your airline first before reserving a seat for your baby).

Cons:

  • The seat has the base built it (the base is attached permanently to the seat) which means that you sacrifice portability, as you have to unlatch the whole thing from the car to carry it around with you. On the other hand though, who would be willing to carry on hand about a 10-kilo baby in a 2-kilo seat, and for what reason? (personally, I haven't come across any case or event when something of the sort would be necessary - you just take the baby out of the seat and put it in its stroller or carrier).
  • It does not recline to a full "sleep" (almost flat) position: This is indeed a con, however most of the models of the competition do not have that feture either, as this relates to baby safety (the "g" acceleration when a car comes to sudden full stop is handled more effectively by the baby's spine, when baby is in a sitting position, than just by the baby's neck, when baby's is in a lying position).

The Verdict:

You will buy it and stick with it until your child fits into a booster seat. It is, in my opinion, the perfect complement to an isofix featured car. Britax is one of the most respected (dedicated) baby-seat manufacturers in the world, and has crached-tested its products over and over; without disregard to other baby seat manufacturers, I sincerely believe that its one thing to manufacture car-seats for babies only, and another to produce car seats, car strollers, baby bottles and all sorts of things and be good at all of them. It may be (just a tad) on the pricey scale, however its' safety features are unparalelled, its' comfort for your baby matches only hi-end models of its competition, and your investment is paid off by its endurance in time and the high quality of the product.

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