I don’t want to tar all Dads with the same brush, but if there’s something that we all have in common, it’s our love for gadgetry, technology and Sci-Fi / Action / Superhero films.
So imagine my excitement when I was sent a real life Transformer for review. No, it wasn’t Optimus Prime or Bumblebee, but the lesser known robot in disguise called the CuddleCo Doona.
If you’ve not heard of it, the Doona is a next-generation infant car seat. It comes with integrated wheels, which allows you to transform it from a car seat into a stroller / pushchair (and back again) in seconds and with just a click of a button. This means that you have everything you need in one bit of kit – no need to take a car seat and pushchair or attach the car seat to a travel system because you have your car seat and pushchair all in one.
I’d recently seen the Doona in action at The Baby Show, so was pretty excited about trying it for myself. We are a family that always seem to be on the go and hopping in and out of the car, so the Doona sounded ideal for our lives. Also, space is at a premium as we have a 3-door car, so I was looking forward to reclaiming a bit of boot space as a separate cot, push chair or travel system would not be required.
I’ve written up a detailed review of the CuddleCo Doona here, however I thought it would also be useful to show the Doona in action as part of a normal day to best demonstrate how it can be used. I therefore invite you to join the missus, Baby L, the Doona and myself on a day trip to the shops.
We’re going through a bit of a home renovation stage at the moment. Nothing major, but trying to figure out how to make the kitchen look a bit nicer and how to create more storage since the arrival of the little one. We therefore thought we’d take a trip to Northampton and Milton Keynes to take in the wonders of stores such as Home Sense and Ikea. As we were going to a number of stores and hoping to buy a few things, we needed to make sure we had enough room in the car and we could manage as simply as possible. Supposedly it’s frowned upon to leave a 12-week old baby home alone or in the car, so we had to bring her with us, which obviously took up a large part of the back seats and makes getting around more difficult.
We had an ace up our sleeve though – the CuddleCo Doona. The Doona takes up no boot space whatsoever as it is essentially a car seat on wheels, so we had plenty of room in the car. In addition, the Doona requires no assembly or no separate parts, so we could pop in and out of the car quickly and easily.
Like most car seats, the Doona can be securely fastened to the car with the seatbelt or with an ISOfix base. The missus and I are big fans of ISOfix, mainly because it is safer, more convenient, quicker and more reassuring than using a seatbelt. I was therefore chuffed to be sent the ISOfix base with the car seat to allow me to secure the Doona in the car. I found the ISOfix base relatively easy to attach to the car – it is simply a case of opening the base leg so that it rests on the car floor, locating the ISOfix brackets in-between the back car seat cushions, then extending the attachments from the ISOfix base to the ISOfix brackets. You then just need to check that it is securely fastened by looking to see if the red bits on the ISOfix base have turned green. It took a little bit of wriggling to attach, but I found the process simpler than that of our Maxi-Cosi which we normally use.
The next step was to put the Doona into the car. We put Baby L into the car seat in the house and again found this to be a pretty straightforward process, albeit the arms straps took a bit of untwisting and the pressed studs on the shoulder pads came off once or twice. When in the car seat, Baby L looked safe and secure in her new home for the next few hours. We wheeled the Doona outside and applied the breaks to ensure that they stopped the car seat rolling down our drive. They did!
Next comes the magic part. You can turn the Doona from a pushchair into a car seat in a matter of seconds. First, you retract the handlebars by pushing the button on the centre of them. You then press the two buttons at the bottom of the handlebars which allows you to move it from a pushchair position to that of a handle. Whilst depressing the button at the back of the Doona, you pull a little handle and tilt the Doona forward which allows the wheels to fold under the pushchair to create the car seat. You can then pick up the Doona using the handle and slot straight onto the ISOfix base, which makes a clicking noise and confirms it is safely fitted as a green mark displays. Simple.
At this point, I’ll mention that we have a 3-door car, which is anything but ideal for life with a newborn. Whereas a 5-door car allows you to easily place a car seat onto the back seat through the rear door, a 3-door car means you have to fold down and fight with the front seat whilst attempting to fit a big object through a small space. A bit like birth really. The Doona is heavier, bigger and a slightly more awkward shape than our Maxi-Cosi so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get it into the car through the front door. It does fit, but requires a fair bit of wriggling and force to get it through the small space. Obviously this isn’t great, but the truth is that this is a design flaw of our 3-door car and not of the Doona. If we had a 5-door car, I’d have no hesitation that you could fit it in the car in an effortless and straightforward manner.
We were now ready to begin our epic quest for household goods. This started with an hour drive to Northampton, in which Baby L slept the entire of the way, therefore suggesting that the Doona is a pretty comfy place to have a snooze. We parked up in the Parent and Child spot so I had plenty of room to get the car seat out. To release the Doona from the ISOfix base, there is a button you press and push forwards. Again, it was a bit difficult to get the Doona out of the front door of the car because the front seat doesn’t move forwards that much. This meant that Baby L came out of the car in a somewhat vertical position, which not surprisingly, woke her from her slumber. Again, I can’t blame the Doona at this point, only the fact that we have a 3-door car.
To turn the Doona from a car seat back to a pram, simply push the button on the back and lift the handle to release the wheels. You can then bring the handlebars forward and extend them to allow you to push the Doona around. From a simplicity and ease perspective, it doesn’t get much better than this. No transferring the baby from the car seat to a separate cot / pushchair or no folding out a travel system to attach the car seat to it. Simply out of the car, wheels down, move the handlebars and ready to go.
We had a wander around a couple of the shops in the retail park – Home Sense, BHS Home and Next Home if you’re interested, as well as a stop in Mothercare for a quick feed and change. The Doona was really easy to manoeuvre around the aisles in the shops and we had no issues going in and out of lifts. Baby L was asleep for most of our wandering, but did open her eyes and take in the scenery. However, we did notice that the Doona occasionally stopped dead when you attempted to push it from one surface to another – by this, I mean that the wheels on the front would not tackle the transition from concrete to shop floor as easily as our iCandy for instance. This might be because the wheels are smaller and less chunky, therefore are not as suited to uneven terrains compared to purpose built travel systems. Still, this wasn’t the worst thing in the world and we learnt to slightly tilt the Doona when approaching ramps etc.
We then headed back to the car and I transformed the pushchair back into a car seat. Like a snooker player studying the angles on his next pot, I decided to turn the Doona around and went in wheels first. This made the car seat a lot easier to get through the front door and onto the ISOfix base. We ate a quick sarnie and then headed over to Milton Keynes for a bit of TK Maxx and Ikea. Again, the little one slept for most of the journey. On arrival, I got the car seat out of the front door with a big of wiggling and changed it to the pushchair. It appeared that I was becoming somewhat of a master at getting big objects in and out of small spaces (just ask the missus!).
When in TK Maxx, rather than find a lift, I decided to see what it’d be like to carry the Doona up the stairs. The answer – very easy! I kept the Doona in its pushchair position and just moved the handlebar to the upright position. This allowed me to carry the Doona up the stairs using just one hand with no need to find a friendly stranger to give me a hand. Once done at TK Maxx, we got back into the car and drove to Ikea. Again, the Doona did really well despite the 25 mile trek it takes to get around Ikea. With my new found confidence of carrying the Doona, I again decided to carry it up the escalator. This was even though a sign told me that no pushchairs were allowed on the escalator – however, at this point in time, it was a car seat with wheels, not a pushchair. Take that Mr Security Man!
On returning to the car, we didn’t need to figure out how to fit everything into the back of the car as normal because we just had the Doona car seat. Without a pushchair or travel system in tow, it was easy to put our purchases into the boot without the need for a real-life game of Tetris. On the way home, Baby L began to cry so we stopped at the side of the road to give her a quick feed. As the car seat is rear facing, it was a bit difficult to get the baby out of the car seat whilst still in the ISOfix base, so we had to take the car seat out of the base and spin it round in order to get access. Again, not a major issue, but it would be something alleviated with a 5-door car.
On returning home, I asked the missus to take a video of me taking the Doona out of the car and turning it from the car seat to the pushchair. As you can see and as I’ve explained, it is a little fiddly to get out of a 3-door car, but this isn’t the Doona’s fault! On reflection, the Doona made our lives so much easier on our trips to the shops. The fact that it takes up no boot space, is easy to put in and out of the car, can be carried upstairs and requires no assembly are major positives of the Doona. It doesn’t work in every situation, but it is an invaluable product when you and the family are on the go.
For a more detailed review, check out my subsequent Doona review after we’d had it for a few months.
N.B. This review was written by me (Dave) and represents my honest opinion of the product. CuddleCo Doona was sent to me by CuddleCo with the purpose of writing an honest product review in exchange for the product.