Are you planning to practice extended rear-facing (that is rear-facing beyond age 2) with your child? The Clek Foonf may be the convertible car seat for you. This car seat boasts impressive rear-facing height and weight limits so your child can rear face until age 4.
I've partnered with Clek for this review of the Clek Foonf
Now that my little guy is turning two, we've got a choice to make. To turn or not to turn... that is the question. I'm talking about his convertible car seat of course. In 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their recommendations for children traveling in car seats to state, "All infants and toddlers should ride in a Rear-Facing Car Seat until they are at least 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat's manufacturer" (source HealthyChildren.org). See, the key words there are "at least" and "or until". Most of my friends turned their children around at age one, and even my family members asked me why my little guy was still rear-facing after his first birthday, but after reading this article by Car Seats For The Littles (jam packed with actual facts) and viewing this video and seeing the difference in impact between rear-facing and forward facing seats, I knew that I wanted to keep the Wubba rear facing for as long as humanly possible. That's why I wanted a seat that could accommodate a growing child rear facing for longer than your typical convertible car seat.
Cue the Clek Foonf
I received a Foonf at no cost to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.
The Clek Foonf is a convertible car seat, meaning it can covert from rear-facing to forward-facing, that was launched in 2012. Since that time, it's won a number of awards for safety and innovation. As soon as I received the Foonf I knew it was different. Maybe that was because I anticipated being able to pick the box up once I saw it had arrived on my doorstep. Foolish me. This baby is HEAVY, in the absolute best way possible. It just feels solid and safe. At 38 pounds when rear-facing (and 33 pounds when forward-facing), I can certainly understand why the Foonf is "the mother of all car seats". You can see this even more once you unbox it. It's sleek, sophisticated, and oh so safe.
I don't normally talk about price right off the bat, but at a suggested retail price starting at $399.99 (with certain prints at $549.99, and leather editions at $799.99), some people might not consider that price point within reason when you can pick up a cheap car seat for as little as $80. Sure, all car seats must pass the same Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to be sold in the United States, and there are cheaper seats on the market, but there's that old saying "You get what you pay for" and that couldn't be more true of the Clek Foonf. Let's take a look at what makes the Foonf one of the best and safest seats (in my humble opinion) for rear-facing.
The Foonf was specifically designed to accommodate children in a rear-facing positioning until their 4th birthday. Yes, you read that right - their FOURTH birthday, as long as they're less than 50 pounds! You'll notice in the photos above that the Foonf doesn't come with any infant inserts or body pillows, and that's because it's designed to be used once infants can sit upright unassisted, which is typically around 6 months or so. However, it does come with a few things that make it's rear-facing installation better than any other seat I've used.
First, the Foonf comes with a rigid sub-structure that's made of steel and magnesium (which accounts for the extra 5 pounds of weight for the Foonf in rear-facing mode). This wedge shaped detachable base gives the Foonf a small footprint so it doesn't hang over the front of seat during installation. It's super easy to snap the rear-facing base into place, and subsequently remove once you're ready for forward-facing.
The next unique feature of the Foonf for rear-facing installation is the anti-rebound bar. Once you have your rigid sub-structure in place (as shown above), you'll then add the anti-rebound bar. It's designed to improve stability by limiting rotation of the child seat, helping protect your child’s head from impact in the case of a collision. You'll simply pop the seat off of the Foonf and slide the anti-rebound bar into the designated holes and secure it with the included locking pin clips (shown below). Clek has an amazingly helpful video manual for the Foonf, and this part of rear-facing installation can be seen HERE.
Once you've got your rear-facing base and anti-rebound bar in place, you'll be all set for rear-facing installation. Before we get there though, allow me to show you a few of the other features of the Clek Foonf.
The Foonf features a 5 point safety harness with chest clip and it comes with matching shoulder harness covers, which is lovely for protecting that tender neck skin. To ensure that you have an optimal fit for your little one's safety, there are 5 shoulder harness strap slots and 2 crotch strap slots. You may notice that the fabric on the Foonf is unlike any you've seen before. It's tailored and integrated into the seat and does not come off like a standard car seat cover. It's made from Crypton® Super Fabrics which are GREENGUARD Select Certified and provide permanent protection against stains, moisture and odor-causing bacteria. I have to admit, this makes me a little nervous for when we begin potty training, but I trust Clek and I'm ready to roll with it. We've also had a few spills and they've just rolled right off of the fabric - it's almost like magic, seriously. What you can't see are the energy-absorbing foam layers built into the frame. There are foam layers on both the inside and outside of the frame protect your child by absorbing energy in a side-impact collision, resulting in less force directly upon your child.
To adjust the shoulder straps, you'll access the shoulder harness access panel on the back of the seat (simply flop the teether hook forward) and rethread the straps to the appropriate level (remember, for rear-facing the shoulder straps should be at or BELOW shoulder level, and for forward-facing they should be at or ABOVE shoulder level). I was a bit disappointed that the shoulder harness isn't a no-rethread system, but I know that's a trade off you make. A lot of times the no-rethread system makes the headrest sit back further so the seat ends up taking a lot more room and you have to sacrifice some leg room in the front of the car because of it. Either way, threading the harness straps is certainly not a deal breaker for me, and the access panel makes it very, very easy to do.
The Foonf has a structural headrest with deep side wings to keep your child safe in case of a collision. It's lined with energy-absorbing foam and it's connected to the frame of the seat with steel rods to provide maximum head protection. With just the push of a button you can adjust the headrest up or down, and there are several levels to choose from. Be sure for rear-facing children that the child's head is at least 1 inch below the top of the car seat's headrest. For forward-facing children, the tops of the child's ears must be below the top of the car seat's headrest. You'll notice that the Foonf's headrest has deep side wings to protect your child in case of collision.
I know I'm advocating extended rear-facing with the Foonf, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing safety features of the Foonf in forward facing mode. Extended-rear facing will keep your child safer and they can rear-face in the Foonf until they're 50 pounds (as long as they're less than 43 inches tall), but there will come a time when they'll need to transition to forward facing. Clek wanted to make this seat as safe as possible, so they built in features to reduce the forces on older children when they're forward facing. The REACT Safety System is integrated into every Foonf and acts similar to crumple zones in the cars we drive (see image below). REACT stands for: Rapid Energy Absorbing Crumple Technology.
image courtesy of Clek
Here is a description from Clek regarding the REACT Safety System:
In a collision, the vehicle comes to an abrupt stop, but the child continues to move at the same speed. The less time that it takes for the child to come to a complete stop, the higher the forces exerted on the child. The REACT Safety System allows that sudden change in momentum to happen over a longer period of time through a series of controlled events. Foonf is designed to ride down the collision crumpling the aluminum honeycomb and absorbing energy from the collision resulting in less force transferred to the child.
Basically, Clek has taken crumple zone technology and has shrunk it, putting it right into your child's car seat. I've also got to mention the Rigid LATCH. I've never used a car seat with a Rigid LATCH before (and I've never used a car seat in forward-facing mode) so the concept was new to me. Since over 80% of the car seats in North America are not used properly (that number is ABSURDLY high), some manufacturers are including a Rigid LATCH on their seats, Clek being one of them. The Rigid LATCH makes installation extremely easy and takes all of the guess work out of it. Instead of the flexible seat belt fabric with LATCH anchors that you may be used to, the Rigid LATCH used anchors are made of metal and are "rigidly" attached to the frame of the seat. This eliminates almost all side to side movement of the seat, making for a super tight and safe installation. Children can forward face in the Foonf until they reach 65 pounds (as long as they are less than 49 inches tall).
Now that you know that my little guy is going to remain rear-facing for as long as possible, let's talk about rear-facing installation. As I discussed in my post "5 Car Seat Safety Tips Every Parent Should Read", the middle of the back seat is the safest place for car seat installation so that's where I always install our seats. With the new LATCH requirements (you cannot use the LATCH for installation if the combined weight of the car seat and your child is greater than 65 pounds, although this differs a bit if you're using a Foonf in forward-facing mode), the seat belt is how we must install our Foonf (38 pounds with rigid sub-structure in place + 30 pound Wubba = 68 pounds). Besides that fact, my compact SUV doesn't allow for LATCH use in the middle of the back seat (anchors are too far apart) which is why it's imperative that you read your car's manual AND your car seat's manual before installation. It can make all the difference.
I think the hardest part about installing the Foonf was lifting it into my SUV. I like to do the installation myself, rather than have my husband do it, because I think it's an important task to be able to complete at will. Once I got the Foonf in place, installation using the safety belt was a breeze! The rear-facing belt path with lock-off is easy to access with the seat pad popped off, and I was able to get a SUPER tight installation thanks to the base and anti-rebound bar. Sometimes I feel like I'm not strong enough to get a great installation, but I didn't have any problems with the Foonf. The anti-rebound bar makes such a huge difference and I swear our seat doesn't move even a tenth of an inch. I also love that the Foonf doesn't hang over the seat at all. It really fits perfectly.
Something my little guy seems to really enjoy about the Foonf is how high he's sitting up now. We were using a Graco SmartSeat prior to the Foonf, and it's a very sturdy seat, but it's almost like an infant seat in terms of how far they recline - he laid back so far that the SmartSeat used to hit our front seats unless they were pushed forward pretty far. It's like a whole new world for him with the Foonf. He can see his surroundings and he seems happy and comfortable!
Overall, I really, really love the Foonf. The safety features are absolutely amazing and the seat is so well-made. Every bit of it screams "QUALITY!". I know the price tag may be a bit hard to bear, but when it comes to your child's safety, this is not the place to skimp. I'd highly recommend a Clek Foonf.
Disclosure: I received this Foonf at no cost in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own and may differ from yours. Amazon links are affiliate links.