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Joie i-level good for newborn recline?

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MariaDingbat Wed 26-Aug-20 09:45:05

We're looking for a car seat that has a lie flat newborn recline as we'll be doing long car trips from when they're 3 weeks old. Anyone have experience with a Joie i-level or can recommend a car seat with a good newborn recline?

OP’s posts: |
BertieBotts Sun 30-Aug-20 11:43:48

The recline of the car seat will to some extent depend on the slope of the seats in your car. So I'd recommend trying some out in your car if you can.

Current advice/recommendation for newborns (up to 4 weeks) is to keep them in the car seat no longer than 30 minutes at a time. There's no adjustment to this for any reclined seats unless they are truly flat, carrycot style such as Maxi Cosi Jade or the Jane Matrix type seats. The trade off with those is that the accident performance of them isn't really proven - you have crash test results but these don't always give you the full picture, and the number of real world crashes involving car bed/carrycot type seats is very low. Historically as well the real world results of carrycot type seats have been very poor. So you would need to decide whether you feel the breathing position for the baby is a higher risk, or the chance of a car accident.

WRT breathing position - although there is no adjustment in advice for lie flat seats you could use your own judgement. None of the "lie flat" seats are truly flat, but there are more options than you may be considering.

It helps to understand a bit about the risk you're hoping to avoid with a lie-flat car seat. Young babies because of their heavy heads and underdeveloped neck control are very vulnerable to something called positional asphyxiation. This is where they get into a position that obstructs their airway and they can't move out of that position by themselves. If you put your own chin on your chest, you will feel that it is hard to breathe like that. Over time breathing in this position reduces oxygen saturation levels, which is dangerous because if they fall too low you start not having enough oxygen attending the brain and other organs. They don't immediately fall to a dangerous level, but they will reduce over time. This is why it's considered OK to keep newborns in a potentially compromised position for up to 30 minutes at a time, and older babies up to 2 hours. Within those time limits, their oxygen saturation won't drop to a level where it is dangerous. Once they come out of the seat their oxygen saturation returns to normal so in essence the clock "starts again" when you put them back in.

A recent case in the USA related to positional asphyxiation was the Fisher Price Rock n Play Sleeper product. This allowed babies to sleep at an angle of 30 degrees, which is enough to cause positional asphyxiation over a long period of time. The USA now has a law stating no sleeping product may have a recline any steeper than 10 degrees.

Infant car seats generally position the baby at an angle of 40-45 degrees when the seat is installed in the car, and about 30 degrees when placed on the floor. The previous 2 hour advice limit is based on the 30 degree angle with the babies being tested with the car seat static. The newer research used a car seat held at a 40 degree angle on a vibrating plate to simulate the movement of the car, and found that babies get into a compromising position faster and a more problematic position than was found in the previous tests.

Now, if you look at the pictures of the research - as a car seat person, there are a lot of things about the way they used the seat which don't translate to modern car seats. First of all they have used an older design of seat, whether the newborn padding never existed or was lost or deliberately omitted, I don't know. Most modern seats have inserts and padding and head supports designed to keep smaller babies secure in the seat, and/or to smooth out the curve and angle of the seat. Secondly, the straps in the experiment on the baby were much too loose. It is important for crash safety, but also for proper positioning, that you tighten the safety harness around the baby so that it is in contact with the child's body, not hanging loosely around them like clothing. Think swimsuit, not summer dress! Many of the babies in the test were also low birth weight and/or premature, so too small to safely fit a standard harness correctly.

I am not saying that you should disregard the research, because it is certainly true that in real life, babies can and do get into breathing difficulty (and some have died) due to spending too long in improper positions, and the position required of a car seat in order to brace against a potential impact is not an ideal position for a newborn. It's important to be aware of this, take it seriously and let it factor into your decision both in which car seat to choose but also in how you use it and also how long you decide to allow your newborn to spend in the seat in one go.

So back to the angles - the Joie i-Level has an angle of 157 degrees, not 180. To take the comparable angle, we're talking 23 degrees from flat. That's certainly flatter than the usual 30, but not as low as 10. Most rear car seats have an angle of between 5-15 degrees which helps keep passengers situated correctly in their seatbelts. This is in the wrong direction for recline rear facing, so you have to add that 5-15 degrees to the angle of the car seat, which is why a car seat is 30 degrees on the ground but 40-45 in the car. It starts to look not that different from a standard car seat. So while the marketing is nice, and it does offer a nice position for babies, it's definitely not your only option, and plus the biggest factor will be the angle of the seats in your car.

Therefore, I would recommend finding a baby store near you (independents are generally better than chains) which will let you try a succession of car seats in your own vehicle - I would look at both the carry type infant seats which you take in and out, and the ones which stay in the car, have a look at them with all infant inserts in and see what the angle is once installed and rear facing. Newborns also have pointy heads at the back, so any with a recession or dip where the head would go also help with keeping the airway open.

Joie i-Level is worth a look. But I'd also look at the following:

Nuna Arra - same parent company as Joie, similar concept of seat.

Britax Babysafe 2 i-size with flex base, Joie i-Gemm (or i-Gemm 2) with advance base - these have a choice of angles to install the isofix base which helps counteract sloped back seats. The Britax has an inner recline, too.

Maxi Cosi Pebble - has a great newborn support/inlay.

Whichever seat you get, make sure you are positioning any infant supports correctly and get the straps nice and tight - dress your baby in minimal layers of clothing and tuck blankets over them if you need more warmth. If you are concerned about their oxygen levels, you could consider using one of those oxygen monitors (like Owlet) while in the car, but I think it might be a bit much. Maybe if you were considering buying one anyway.

Sorry that was really long, but hope it was helpful smile

thismeansnothing Wed 09-Sep-20 13:55:59

Hiya. We are just moving DD out of the iLevel now. We bought it cos we knew we had a couple of long journeys coming up and liked the recline function on it.

It doesn't lie entirely flat. Not 180° flat but very darn close. When it's in the car flat it does take up more room so be aware that if you aren't in the biggest of cars your going to have to compromise space in the front passenger as the seat will have to be moved forward to accommodate. It's also very heavy as a car seat too.

Also you can't install it with a seatbelt so you have to have the isofix base that it does come with. But worth seeing if you can get a cheap second hand base too. The amount of times DH drove off to work with the base in his car and me wanting to go out in the car and realising I couldn't 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️ bit annoying.

But DD was fine in it and with it having a bigger weight range it lasted alot longer. She's 18 month now and only just moving out of it. Compared to my eldest who was in the maxi Cosi cabriofix for only 8/9 month.

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