I wish I had known what I now know about car seats when purchasing and registering for our first seats. Like many new moms, I was lost in all of the propaganda surrounding which seat is best for baby, and became overwhelmed. I should have done more of my own research and considered what I would need over the long term, not just right away. Even now, as a mother of two, I constantly second guess whether or not I am doing the right thing for my children, the difference is now I have the tools, resources, and experience to ask good questions and truly determine what I want and need in a good carseat for my boys.
The typical buying process (that I have lived myself and seen through friends), is to register for an infant seat, with a base for each car that it will be used in, and then worry about a convertible seat later. In my case, “later” came when my little one had outgrown the infant seat weight wise (and had increased my bicep size from all of the lugging around!) I was faced with a limited time frame to do the research needed to find the right “fit” for our family, and the safety of our first son.
So to be quite honest, I went with what my other friends who I trusted had and recommended.
This time around, I don’t like lugging the infant carrier around. I also have a two year old to wrangle, and holding one squirmy two year old’s hand plus carrying the infant seat leaves little to be desired. I prefer to wear my youngest and either hold my two year old’s hand or put him in the seat of the shopping cart.
This time around, I knew I wanted… no correction, I NEEDED a Diono.
The first requirement for a new seat for us was safety. Part of safety for us is the ability to comfortably keep our kids rear facing as long as possible. The Rainier allows you to rear face your child from 5-50 lbs.
Why rear face so long you ask? Well first and foremost, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated their recommendations on rear facing toddlers until age 2, or until they reach the maximum height or weight for rear facing of their particular car seat model. The MINIMUM standard is 1 year or 20 lbs. (I don’t know about you, but when it comes to safety, I typically do not do the bare minimum for my children, I try to do everything in my power to be sure that they are safe.) The Diono Rainier just extended my toddler’s safety by 10 more lbs than our previous seat, which gives me one less thing to worry about (for now!)
According to the AAP, “A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body” – See more from the AAP here.
There are also a lot of myths and misconceptions about whether or not a child is comfortable in a car seat rear facing as they grow. I always get asked, “Where do his legs go?” and “Isn’t that uncomfortable?” Listen, if I thought for a MINUTE my child was not comfortable, I would consider the consequences of switching to forward facing. However, does this toddler look uncomfortable at all to you? Even in our previous seat, he would rest his feet on the seat, hang them over the edges on the sides, or bend his knees until he was comfortable. And he would always fall asleep in the seat while I was driving, so I doubt he would have been able to do that if he were not comfortable.
**Just a side note, when I first tested the toddler out in the seat, I noticed that the straps were too high for rear facing, and went in and adjusted them to the next slot down before we actually drove anywhere.**
A couple of other key points regarding the safety of the Diono Rainier, are the full steel frame and aluminum reinforced sides, and the ability to tether rear facing (most models we considered only allow tether on the forward facing install.) The Rainier is also NCAP crash tested, which is the industry benchmark for testing car seat performance in severe crashes.
On to the next requirement in our car seat search. I wanted something that would grow with us. I mentioned in the safety overview the rear facing capacity of the seat. In addition, the forward facing is compatible for 20-90 lbs (up to 57″ in height), all in a five point harness. (Our previous seat only allows rear facing to 40 lbs and forward facing to 70 lbs). The seat doesn’t stop there either, as it then converts to a booster from 50-120lbs (again up to 57″ in height). This is important for us in that we will not have to purchase another seat again for each child. It will grow with our boys as they “graduate” into each phase of carseat safety.
Lower on our list of concerns, but still important to us, was ease of installation, fit in our car, and the ability for our now independent toddler to climb in and out of the seat on his own.
So let me walk you through our installation process. I am one of those people who always reads the instruction manual, and I am pretty bright, but I often need not only a photo, but a description of what I should be doing in case I get lost when faced with something new. Car seat installation may seem simple, but when you are concerned with your child’s safety, you don’t want to take any short cuts or “think” you installed a seat properly. You want to be sure that you can read and understand the directions and feel confident that you are installing the seat properly.
So here’s my experience with installation. When I opened the box, I noticed that the entire seat was literally “folded” into a nice, neat package. I also noticed immediately that the seat is FAA certified for aircraft use (which will come in handy when we vacation this winter, now that our 2 year old requires an in flight carseat). The instruction manual inside was also VERY easy to read and follow along.
Here is everything that came inside the box:
The installation was relatively simple. First, I had to unhook the red carry strap so that I could unfold the seat, until it clicked into place.
Next, tighten the straps by pulling the buckle out to make sure that the strap moves freely.
Since we are still rear facing, we had to install the rear facing base, which was very simple. The base lines up with the holes on the bottom of the seat, clicks into place, and you simply close the lock lever before setting on your backseat.
Once I lined the seat up, I was ready to use the LATCH install (since my child is under 35 lbs). The LATCH must be used for children less than 1 year and less than 20 lbs. My toddler is over 20, but under 35, so I opted for the LATCH rather than the belt install.
Here is where I had the most trouble with the installation of this seat. Maybe it was lack of caffeine, maybe it was because my 5 month old had me up every hour the night before, but it took me a good five minutes to find the LATCH belt. In hindsight, the instruction manual was very detailed as to where to find the belt, but for some reason I was focused on the base of the seat, and it took me a while to find the belt securely stored in the back of the seat. (I must have been so used to finding the LATCH in our infant seat base that I couldn’t focus on looking elsewhere. And if this was the most trouble I had with the install, ANYONE can install this seat easily!
Once I found the latch belt, slid it through the rear-facing belt path, made sure it laid flat, and clicked both LATCHes into the LATCH anchors in the seat, all I had to do was apply pressure to the seat and tighten the belt until the base where attached did not move and was tightly anchored into place.
At this point, you can tether to your vehicle’s anchor points. You can also adjust the side impact head support, and make any adjustments to the harness height. As I mentioned earlier, when I first put my toddler in the seat, the shoulder straps were above his shoulder, which would have been fine for forward facing, but since we are still rear facing, I simply adjusted the straps down to the next slot.
Tightening and loosening the harness is a breeze with the Diono Rainier. Past seats we have used were always a struggle, especially loosening the straps. I was shocked at how much easier it was to tighten and loosen.
Also worth noting, the manual specifically outlines where your chest clip should be, strap height, etc. All of those small details that I constantly see being overlooked when it comes to car seat safety. Until I had a child, I didn’t know that the chest clip was supposed to be so high on the child, or where the straps should be above or below the shoulder. By outlining these details, Diono makes keeping our babies safe, simple.
The pros of the Rainier are many, and the cons are few. If I am completely honest, I am happy with every single feature of the seat, including the space saving design across the back seat. However, as I had heard from others, the seat does restrict the front passenger seat because of the recline in the rear facing position. I am lucky that most of the time when driving my car with the kids, there is no one in the front passenger seat, so this isn’t too much of an issue. And when there is someone in the front passenger seat, it is usually me… and I would compromise leg room for the safety of my child any day.
I have been told that the angle adjuster (sold separately) can add up to 4″ more space, however 1) the angle adjuster does not come with the seat, and 2) everywhere I look, it is backordered 1-3 months.
The other downside that some may say is the list price of $359.99. However, in my opinion, consider that you will only need ONE seat from infant to booster. A typical infant seat will range from $89-$189 (not including if you need to purchase a second base for a second vehicle), a convertible can range from $70-upwards of $300, and a booster adds another $20 and up. This is only looking at price, not safety ratings. If you want the safest seat for your child at each stage, you are going to blow that $359.99 list price away by purchasing multiple seats over the years.
Currently, we only have two children in carseats, but if you have three, this seat is one that will fit three across in most backseats. I will be going back to get a second seat for our other little boy, and recommend this seat highly to not only new moms, but those looking into the convertible seat now.
You can view the Diono Rainier, along with the other seats in the Diono family here.
Shop for Diono at any of the online retailers on their site, including Diapers.com
Disclosure: All opinions seen in this publication are those of the writer and may differ from your own. MomtoBedby8.com may have receive product or payment as a condition of this publication. For questions or to have your product featured on Mom to Bed by 8, email Teri at [email protected].