2017 Graco Contender 65 Convertible Carseat Review: Contend with This

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Graco Contender 65 Convertible Review

Updated May 2017

Contender PiedmontThe Graco Contender has been on the market now for a while and has proved to be a solid, easy-to-use convertible worthy of a look by parents considering that next-step carseat. It has great rear-facing capabilities, turns into a forward-facing carseat that will take most kids to booster age, easily installs, and has that ubiquitous cup holder. The Contender’s lower price point than its cousins, the Size4Me/My Size/Head Wise (aka “Clones”) puts it in that desirable position of being nice enough to be a main carseat yet inexpensive enough to be a backup seat.

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below red adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., 49″ or less, at least 1 year old*

*We recommend following the American Academy of Pediatrics minimum guidelines of rear-facing to at least age 2 before turning your child forward-facing. It’s safest to rear-face past the minimum of age 2.

Contender Overview:

  • 8-position headrest with no re-thread harness
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • Color-coded recline flip-foot takes guesswork out of reclining carseat
  • FAA approved for use on aircraft
  • 7 yr lifespan before seat expires
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2017 Graco MySize 65 / Size4Me 65 / Fit4Me 65 Convertible Carseat Review

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The Graco MySize 65, Graco Size4Me 65 & Graco Fit4Me 65 are convertibles seats that all share the same platform. For this reason they are often referred to as the “Graco Clones”. The various models are available at different retailers but they are all very similar. The covers and inserts vary from model to model but the structure and features are the same.

Graco MySize 65 Specs:

  • Rear-facing 4-40 lbs.
  • Forward Facing 22-65 lbs., less than 49” tall

 

Graco MySize 65 Features:

  • No re-thread harness with 8 height positions
  • 2 buckle positions
  • 3-position base (1 for RF, 2 for FF)
  • Premium push-on LATCH connectors (LATCH weight limit is 45 lbs.)
  • EPS foam
  • Infant insert
  • Integrated cup holder
  • Some models have “Rapid Remove Cover” for easy cleaning
  • 7 year expiration

2017 Fashions:

  

   

  • Fit4Me Drexel (Walmart)
  • Fit4Me Plus (Walmart)
  • Fit4Me Matrix (Amazon)
  • Fit4Me Finch (Walmart, Amazon)
  • Fit4Me Lacey (Walmart)
  • Fit4Me Flip (Walmart)

 

Measurements: 

  • Lowest harness height (with infant insert): approximately 7″
  • Lowest harness height (without insert): 8″
  • Highest harness height: 17.5″
  • Crotch buckle positions: 4.5″, 6″
  • Internal rear-facing height: 27.5” (1” below the headrest adjustment lever of 28.5” )
  • Widest point: 19″ across
  • Weight: 19 lbs.

 

Fit-to-Child Comments:

  • Rear-Facing: The MySize/Size4Me/Fit4Me will fit many average-sized newborns, so you have the option to skip the infant seat if you want to go that route. However, these models don’t always provide an ideal fit on preemies or small newborns even though they are rated down to 4 lbs.  They are an excellent option for extended rear-facing for kids under 40 lbs. – these models are so tall that it’s impossible to outgrow them by height before reaching the 40 lbs. weight limit.

  

  • Forward-Facing: Tall top harness slots and generous weight limits mean most kids will be able to fit in this seat until 6-7 years old when they are old enough and large enough to safely transition to a booster seat. Almost all kids will outgrow these convertibles by height before reaching the 65 lbs. weight limit.

 

Advantages:

  • Good for extended rear-facing; won’t be outgrown by height before child reaches 40 pounds
  • Better than average rear-facing legroom
  • Tall max harness height for forward-facing
  • Enough shoulder room for older kids to fit comfortably
  • 8-postion no-rethread harness is easy to use
  • Easy-to-read ball indicator for recline level
  • EPS foam-lined head wings
  • Integrated cupholder
  • 7 year lifespan before expiration
  • Good value for the price

Disadvantages:

  • Lacks a built-in lockoff for seatbelt installations
  • Padding is minimal once infant insert is removed
  • Only 1 recline position on base for rear-facing. Recline angle may be increased, if necessary, by using a pool noodle or tightly rolled towel under base
  • Made in China

Summary:

These convertible seats are easy to install in most vehicles but discontinue installation with lower LATCH connectors and use seatbelt plus tether to install if child weighs more than 45 lbs. Since these seats lack a lockoff for seatbelt installations you must read your vehicle owner’s manual to determine how your seatbelts lock in order to properly install these car seats with a seatbelt. All of these models should fit average-sized full term newborns well but may not be a good fit for smaller newborns or preemies. Excellent choice for extended rear-facing; almost all kids will be able to rear-face in the MySize / Size4Me / Fit4Me until they reach 40 lbs. because the seats are so tall. The 7 year lifespan before expiration will get the average child from birth to booster-ready age. The MySize, Size4Me, and Fit4Me are all FAA approved for air travel. There is a sticker label on the back of the seat with the FAA certification language printed in red letters.

IMMI Go Combination Carseat Review – Safe & Portable

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The IMMI Go is a unique seat that provides a solution to some of the most common carseat difficulties. It is portable, easy-to-install and works well in some tight spaces. The same features that make it so great, however, also come with some limitations that make it not the best seat for every child or every vehicle. We hope that this review provides you with all the details you need to determine whether this fantastic seat will be the right seat for you!

The IMMI Go is a combination seat, which means that it combines the features of a forward-facing harnessed seat with the features of a booster. It is important to note that, while most combination seats convert from a forward-facing harnessed seat to a highback booster and then, in some cases, to a backless booster, the IMMI Go converts straight from a harnessed seat to a backless booster, with no available highback booster mode. It is generally recommended that children who are first learning to ride in a booster use a highback booster before switching to a backless booster. A highback booster often provides a better fit for a younger child and helps remind the child to stay in position better than a backless booster. Therefore, while the IMMI Go combines two stages very nicely, those two stages are not necessarily consecutive and so the seat might not be used in the same way as other combination seats. For example, instead of converting the outgrown harnessed seat to a booster and continuing to use it for the same child, a parent might choose to transition the child to a different highback booster and pass the Go down to a younger sibiling.

I bought the seat to use when my daughter turned four and began forward-facing in my in-laws’ car. I wanted something convenient to install and remove, while also being easy to use. I am very happy to say that the Go is fulfilling all those needs for my in-laws and we are even considering buying a second Go for our own car.

Without further ado, let’s get this review started!

IMMI Go Specs:

Forward-Facing with Harness: For use with children between 22-65 lbs (no more than 55 lbs when installed with LATCH) in weight and 31-52″ in height. Harness adjusters must be at or above the child’s shoulders and the top of the child’s ears must be below the vehicle’s seat back or headrest. (Note that while the IMMI Go has an adjustable headrest of its own in harnessed mode, this seat requires vehicular head support in the form of the seat back or headrest.) 

An additional requirement is that the child must also be at least one year old, however it is not the most appropriate seat for a one year-old. The American Academy of Pediatrics, National Highway Transportation Safety Association and other organizations strongly recommended that all children under two years old continue to ride rear-facing until they have outgrown the rear-facing height or weight limitations of their convertible carseat. For more information on why rear-facing is safest for young children, see Why Rear-Facing is Better: Your RF Link Guide.

Backless Booster: For use with children at least four years old and between 40-100 lbs in weight and 43-57″ in height. The top of the child’s ears must be below the vehicle’s seat back or head restraint.

IMMI Go Features:

  • Five-point harness system is attached to a flexible back which can fold up — this means that the use of the top tether is required in order to install the seat in harnessed mode
  • No-rethread harness
  • Energy-absorbing foam in the adjustable headrest
  • 3 crotch buckle positions
  • Premium push-on lower anchor connectors which can also be used in backless booster mode
  • Lightweight and compact — can fit in the overhead bin of an airline
  • 55 lb child weight limit for using the lower anchors in harnessed seat mode
  • 6-year lifespan before expiration
  • Integrated carrying case with padded handle
  • NOT FAA certified for use on an aircraft (because it requires the use of a tether anchor for the harness and a lap-shoulder belt for the booster and airplane seats do not have either of these features)
  • MSRP $199

The IMMI Go folds into its own attached carrying case, complete with a padded carrying handle.

The headrest is lined with energy-absorbing foam measuring about 1 inch in thickness.

Comfort foam lines the seating area to provide supportive cushioning for the tush and thighs.

 

IMMI Go Measurements:

Carseats and Torticollis

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When I’m not carseating, I work as a physical therapist in a pediatric setting. As you can imagine, there tends to be a lot of overlap with carseats and my “real” job, but you might be surprised to hear that the most common intersection of the two has to do with babies who are born with a tight neck muscle.

Torticollis is a condition where a muscle in one side of the neck gets tight, usually because of the position of the baby in utero. Torticollis tends to cause babies to have a strong preference for rotating the neck in one direction and tilting the head in the other direction. It’s most common in first babies, twins and babies of petite mothers (all because of space constraints in utero). One of the biggest issues that results from torticollis is that babies can end up with an asymmetrically flat head, known as plagiocephaly. For some kids this is mild and it improves on its own; for others, they may require a specially made and adjusted helmet to help the head round out.

In virtually every evaluation for a baby with torticollis and plagiocephaly, parents (understandably) express concern about what, if anything, they can do in the carseat to keep their baby’s head from tilting or rotating. And sometimes they’ve already tried things- usually aftermarket inserts, sometimes wash cloths, when the secret is, you probably don’t need to add anything.

As we know, adding anything to a carseat that didn’t come with the seat (or was not expressly crash tested with the seat and approved by the carseat manufacturer), is generally not a good idea. It will void the carseat warranty, it goes against every manual (which, in most states makes it illegal) and it may potentially result in injury in a crash. So, basically what I’m saying is, even if you’re worried about your baby’s head shape, please don’t put aftermarket products in the carseat. They won’t help much and they may put your child at increased risk.

Truthfully, unless your baby spends hours, like, literal sustained hours each day in a carseat, the seat isn’t really what is causing the flatness to develop. So fear not, the carseat is just fine the way it is. I know that at times seeing baby’s head tilted or rotated in the car can be troubling. But rest assured that a tilt to the side or rotation isn’t unsafe. The only position that is worrisome is if baby’s chin tips down onto its chest, which in small infants can compromise the airway (and is probably a sign that your child’s carseat isn’t reclined enough- find a CPST in your area to have it checked out!).

blanketsIf you’re worried about baby’s head falling to the side, you can try rolled up receiving blankets on either side of baby, placed after baby is buckled. I will be honest that I don’t necessarily love this set up because baby could rotate their head and spend a sustained amount of time with their face in a blanket, but it is a parental decision and if you feel strongly that something needs to be done to keep baby’s head in midline, this is your safest option.

If you want to make sure that baby rotates their head to their non-preferred side, you can definitely make that happen in the carseat. If your seat allows it, and several explicitly don’t, so consult your manual, you can hang a soft toy (like, literally made of a material and so soft you would throw it directly at your child’s head and they wouldn’t be injured) from the handle, offset towards the side you want baby to look. I had one creative parent who tied a few ribbons on the non-preferred side of the handle. They presented no risk to baby, but were bright and got baby to rotate his head that way. Other options include, if you have another backseat passenger that baby will like to look at, seat that person on baby’s non-preferred side. Or if baby is not sitting in the middle seat, and you can get a good installation and feel comfortable with baby outboard, place their seat so that they have to look towards their non-preferred side to see out the nearest window.

Most of all, any baby, but especially a baby with torticollis, will benefit from the least possible amount of awake time in any baby device that puts pressure on baby’s head like a swing, bouncy seat, cradle or carseat. Babies need a lot of floor time when they’re awake so they have room to learn to roll and sit and crawl and they especially need time on their tummy to strengthen their necks, which will help correct torticollis.

If you think your baby may have torticollis or plagiocephaly, talk to your pediatrician about it and see if a referral to a physical therapist in your area might be appropriate. And if you’re worried about carseat positioning with a baby with torticollis and/or plagiocephaly, find a CPST near you to check your set up and see if there’s anything else that can be done to keep baby safe and keep baby’s head nice and round.