Simple Parenting Doona Car Seat Stroller Review by Best Buggy
We are going to start this review of the Simple Parenting Doona car seat stroller, by saying that this has been a very difficult review to write. The Doona is an absolutely brilliant concept – a 0+ infant car seat with easy to drop down wheels – which in theory would make the Doona an extremely useful piece of baby equipment for those parents who need a quick way to move a young baby a short distance from A to B e.g. to do a school run or to nip quickly into a shop. We were very excited to be trying it out.
However, as our testing period progressed, for several reasons, we became extremely concerned over the safety of the children using the Doona.
The Doona meets the necessary safety standards for use as a 0+ category infant car seat (ECE R44/04). The Doona also has safety certification as pushchair which is suitable for use from birth, when using the newborn insert which is included (EN1888:2012). However, although the Doona is certified for use as a ‘from birth’ stroller, this does not mean that the Doona is the equivalent of a pram, carrycot or lie flat pushchair. As we understand it, a seat on wheels which has already passed the ECE R44/04 (car seat) testing is automatically deemed suitable for use for a newborn – it does not have to be lie flat.
However, we have seen retailers suggesting to their customers, that the angle of the recline is the same as a lie flat pushchair seat. This concerns us. We have spent a long time looking at the Doona, trying children in the seat, and consulting with various experts. It is our opinion that the Doona has a similar seating position to most other 0+ infant carriers on the market. Therefore, our recommendation would be that the use of a Doona, should be inline with current guidelines on the use of infant 0+ car seats – whether the Doona is used in car seat or pushchair mode.
The current guidelines are that a 0+ car seat should be used for no longer than 30 mins for a newborn, or more than 2 hours for an older baby.
Having a baby in a car seat brings with it increased risks of Plagiocephaly; adverse cardiorespiratory effects; increased reflux; bradycardia; oxygen desaturation; positional asphyxiation and SIDS.
There are very real risks of leaving a child in a car seat for any length of time, therefore a Doona should not be the sole mode of transportation for a child. A baby should be transferred to a lie flat pram or pushchair for longer outings. Master BB wore a breathing monitor as a baby, and the only time the alarm ever went off, was when he was fast asleep in his car seat.
The newborn insert, which fits inside the Doona seat, needs to be used for a minimum of 6 months for the Doona to be suitable for use with a young baby. If you do use a Doona, please do not remove the newborn insert too early i.e. before at least 6 months of age. To remove the insert early may endanger the health, or limit the optimum growth, of your baby, especially their spine and internal organs.
The Doona website states:
“…medical professionals agree that a baby should not be restrained for long periods of time. Therefore, Simple Parenting recommends not to keep your baby restrained in the Doona™ for longer than required.”
Doona do not intend their ‘integral mobility system’ to be used for prolonged, unsupervised, sleep periods; however we do not feel that their literature goes far enough to emphasise the importance and reasons for this. Nor do Doona highlight what current guidance for use of a 0+ car seat is. We feel given the unique nature of this product, that being more explicit with guidance would have been appropriate, and would have been in accordance with a recent article which states:
“Manufacturers should be engaged in prevention efforts, either through engineering and design improvements, or by pursuing strategies to educate parents on the risks.” [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3496352/]
Our first impressions of the Doona were excellent. The packaging was good, and the chassis looked stylish and smart.
As we lifted the Doona out of the box, it was surprisingly light for a car seat with wheels. The Doona weighs 6.5kgs which is only 2.3kgs more than the Maxi Cosi Pebble. We all expected it to feel heavier.
Bearing in mind that the weight of the car seat will increase as the baby grows, the Doona certainly is not a bad weight to start with, but it has to be expected that as the child grows, the Doona will quickly get heavy.
Of course, we first wanted to play with releasing the wheels! At the rear of the seat is a large white button. Simply slide that button outwards (not squeeze in!) with one hand towards the top of the seat, and the wheels descend from the chassis down to the floor. The Doona advertising suggests that this is slow, but in reality the wheels drop down fairly quickly. When we released the wheels with an 11 week old on board, she jumped a mile. Her mum felt that this would have definitely woken the baby up.
Folding the Doona is simple. Squeeze the large white button again, put a foot behind the rear wheels, and the Doona slowly can be lowered down to the floor. Care MUST be taken to keep the seat horizontal when lowering it, because it is very easy to tip the seat towards the floor when lowering the seat down. Bear this point in mind as you read further on in our review, because loose harnesses on children made this tipping a serious concern.
With the wheels autolocking into the seat, the Doona handle can then be moved, and the seat can be lifted up, and into the car or carried, using the handle.
The Doona is a whizzy little thing! Great to push and control one handed! We love that it is so narrow and fits through tight spaces easily. It feels sturdy. It is even possible to pull the Doona along beside you.
The handle has two positions and two height positions in stroller mode – up or down ! When the handle is up, it is 99cms tall, which doesn’t feel too bad for a pushchair. It is on the low side for me (5ft 6ins), but the benefits for easy transfer benefits outweigh the perfect handle height.
Child Comfort and Safety
However amazing the concept is, the Doona fails to deliver when it comes to child comfort, and we have concerns over safety.
Before we continue: As our review period unfolded, and our concerns grew, we tried as many children as we could find to try the Doona out, to ensure we got consistent results. Doona UK had implied the age of the child made a difference to our early findings. Thus the Doona has been tested by children as young as 6 weeks old, and the oldest weighed just over 12kgs. We also took the Doona to a day nursery where we tried out a large number of babies and children in the seat – we have had over 30 babies and young toddlers in the Doona in total. Our findings were consistent across all the children we tried in the Doona, even with a variety of adults fitting the children into the seat.
The Doona seat is a generous size – it is 4cms taller and slightly wider than the Maxi Cosi Pebble. This larger size is intentional because as the new i-Size, European wide standard car seat regulations roll in, the Doona will be i-Size compliant; although the stickers on our Doona say that it is not currently certified as i-Size. The Doona is certified for use from newborn up to 13kgs and is rear facing only.
i-Size regulations say that a child must travel rear-ward facing until a minimum of 15 months old. i-Size also brings with it better safety for the child – including better support for the child’s head and neck; increased protection in the event of a frontal or side impact accident; and a 5 point harness to ensure the child stays in the seat in the event of the car rolling.
The Doona materials used are free of any hazardous chemicals. They are also tested for durability to ensure that they do not degrade across time. The Doona fabrics are made from bamboo charcoal to maintain the temperature of the child. These are also hypoallergenic.
There is a newborn insert which comprises a covered support cushion to keep a small baby flatter in the seat; and a detachable head hugger. The Doona newborn insert apparently has been shaped to make the car seat completely lie flat. The Doona apparently has orthopaedic approval. The newborn insert is claimed to mould to the body of a newborn, and also to lift the child’s body up. If the cushion is squeezed in the middle, i.e. with the weight of a child on top, the foam apparently reshapes to maintain the lie flat position. However, in reality we were surprised how shallow the newborn insert was (approx 5cms deep at maximum) compared with other car seat newborn supports which tend to be deeper and wedge shaped. The flat part of the newborn insert measures approx 27 cms which is shorter than the head, neck and back of most newborn babies – the parts which we feel need to be kept in line.
The headhugger detaches from the wedge. The headhugger can then be reattached using press studs, around the harness straps, to continue to offer head support for an older baby.
It was noted that the Doona seat is not terribly well padded for the child. However, all our children have been happy to be simply sat in the seat when no harness was on.
However, it was when the Best Buggy team started to put children into the Doona seat, that the problems began…
The first sign of an issue was when our 6 and a half month old tester (8.6kgs, 70cms), after just a few minutes in the Doona, had red strap marks on his legs from the Doona’s 5 point harness. When we came to put him in the car, we realised that the adult seat belt guides were too low thus the adult seat belt was cutting into the tops of his legs. When we removed him from the seat, he had additional strap marks across his leg from the adult seat belt! Over a few days of use, these strap marks got sore, and our team member stopped using the Doona with him.
We were unable to adjust the harness on the Doona to properly secure ANY of the children to ’2 finger’ tightness. On all of the children we could fit a whole hand behind the harness (see photos above). Across a few weeks, we spent hours trying different children in the seat. We took great care to try to position the child correctly in the seat, and if the harness was not fastening correctly, then we would remove the child and start again. After many children, we realised that we could not all be doing it wrong.
There were several safety concerns:
First of all, the harness is a five point harness which plugs into a buckle. The buckle is very low down on the seat. As a result, the side straps cut in across the children’s legs much too low down. The side straps needed to be higher up on the child’s hips, not on their thighs. Our photos above should show this clearly. The harness positioning was leading to red marks on the children’s thighs. We all felt that the buckle needed to be about an inch or so higher up in the seat. It was quite difficult to click the harness into the buckle because there was little room to get a finger or thumb in below, to click it shut. When we did manage to position the side straps higher up on the hips on our 7 month old, the side straps still left marks. However of more concern was that when the straps were moved up onto the hips, this then caused the shoulder harness to gape open above the child’s waist.
Our main safety concern was that the shoulder harness could not be tightened up successfully. Tightening the harness led to the side straps getting tighter rather than the shoulder straps. Doona advised us to place a hand behind the buckle to tension it, but this made no difference. We tried using the wedge in the seat, and removing the wedge. However it made little difference. Even on the youngest baby, who was using the newborn insert, we could still fit a hand easily behind the straps.
We tried our 7 month (half way down the photos in the red t-shirt) in the Doona seat, with (first photos), and without the wedge (last 4 photos). He was laid flatter with the wedge, but his head was being pushed down to his chest. The gap above his waist was worse when he was flatter. Doona recommend that the insert is used at least until 6 months, so it was reasonable on this basis that a just turned 7 month old could use the insert. We also experimented with the buckle positioning (see above).
The gap between the harness and the waist of any of the children, got larger, the older the child was. The biggest gaps were on the oldest children.
We all had issues with doing up the adult car seat belt to secure the Doona into the car. The seat belt guide clips on each side of the Doona are set too low down. Even on our youngest babies, the car seat belt was touching their legs, and leaving red marks on them. On our older babies, the red marks were more prominent. With the older children and toddlers, it became impossible to put the car seat belt across them, because the children’s legs needed to be bent up or crossed, so that they could fit in the car (no leg room). Bent knees and legs meant that there was no room to get the adult seat belt across their laps, and plugged into the socket. The height of the children’s legs in relation to the low level of the side guide clips can be clearly seen on some of the photos above. Having an isofix base would have resolved this at a cost of £99.99. However one of the attractions of the Doona is likely to be for people who use taxi’s or who get lifts in friends’ cars, (no chassis and an inbuilt car seat,) thus an isofix base would be not realistically be an option.
The final issue came when the children were between harness height holes i.e. too small for the lower height setting, but too small for the higher setting. On these children, the strap dug into the neck, or the shoulders, which caused more red marks. Our 11 week old newborn screamed almost instantly as she was strapped into the Doona seat. A graze mark on her shoulder was clear when she was removed from the seat. There was no room between the baby’s chin and the side of the car seat for the shoulder pads to lie properly.
An older child kept pulling the harness pads down, or even off, thus rendering their protection as useless, and making the marking on his neck worse. The harness pads are only held on using two plastic press studs which kept popping open. We all got fed up of fixing these harness pads back into place. However, without the harness pads in place, the integrity of the seat is compromised, as the seat will not be in the state it was when it was safety tested. Everyone felt that these harness pads should be secured better at the top of the harness to ensure the correct positioning. Similar comments were made about the head hugger, which could be better secured at the top of the shoulder straps. The shoulder harness straps could easily be misrouted around the baby insert too.
We tried very hard to achieve a flat position, using the insert pad, for the youngest babies. It was felt overall that it was impossible to have the babies bodies in alignment with their head / necks. This was especially true when using the head hugger which actually pushes their heads forwards onto their chest, which is potentially dangerous.
It was also noted on several occasions that if care was not taken when folding the Doona, that the child could be tipped forwards out of the seat. Given the issue with the gaping harnesses, this is a real concern.
It has also been noted that the harness twists very easily – both at the rear of the pushchair, and also within the parts of the harness buckle. Twisted harnesses alter the integrity of the car seat and could compromise the safety of the child.
Our overall concern was, that if the Best Buggy team, and the parents and professionals who tried the Doona out, were ALL unable to get any child correctly fitted into the Doona seat, then we felt that the Doona was not clearly obvious, or intuitive enough for anyone to use (even after having read the instructions).
If you have any doubts as to our findings, there are plenty of examples from a range of other Doona reviewers online, which support our findings i.e. the gap between the buckle and the shoulder pads; the shoulder pads sliding and falling off; easily twisting straps; and misrouting of the harness.
With the issues affecting child comfort, and with our safety concerns, we stopped using the Doona.
Since this time we have sought advice from two car seat experts. Both of them have concerns about the dynamics of the Doona, given the extra weight and wheels, in the event of a car crash. We have asked Doona for crash test results, but they have not been forthcoming. However we have been told that the Doona has been crash tested more than 50 times in Europe, and each time the Doona passed with flying colours. The anti-rebound handle on the Doona apparently absorbs the impact of a collision, minimises the rebound forces and prevents seat from rotating or the head of the baby from hitting the vehicles car seat.
Our experts agreed with us that the Doona raises questions about the strap positioning. They agreed with our concerns over the positioning of a newborn child, and the possible risks of oxygen deprivation etc. associated with this.
The Doona handle only goes into certain positions at certain times to avoid any misuse of the pushchair or car seat. This prevents against the Doona handle being suddenly extended when being carried; or unintentional folding of the Doona. For example in pushchair mode, the handle can not be rotated round when it is extended. In car seat mode, it is not possible to extend the handle. It is important to note, that the handle MUST be moved back to a position above the baby’s feet when in the car to give the anti-rebound protection.
The Advantages of the Doona
The obvious advantage to the Doona is having the wheels attached to the car seat, ready to easily flick out. Believe me, there is nothing stops us nipping into a shop more than the thought of either lugging a heavy car seat with baby into a shop; or the thought of putting up a chassis, adding on car seat adaptors, and then manoeuvering the heavy car seat on top of adaptors several feet in the air. With the Doona, you simply take it out of the car, squeeze the handle and the wheels drop down, ready to go! The car seat never touches the floor; and there is no pushchair chassis filling up your car boot.
Lowering the wheels can easily be done as the car seat is lifted from a car. There should be no need to turn or twist like you have to in order to drop an infant carrier onto a pushchair chassis. The handle can then be extended for pushing. The Doona can then be spun around on the spot to be ready to go! For this, the Doona is very good.
We used to struggle to carry a baby in a car seat from the car into a shop or into the doctor’s surgery. The drop down wheels of the Doona would have been bliss rather than bumping the seat along our thigh with every step. The furthest the Doona ever needs to be lifted is from the ground into the car, with the wheels folded.
However, our findings were that by the time a baby reaches the age of 10 months, the Doona was really too heavy to lift. This age is usually before a child is able to walk, which means that at the point where a parent would most benefit from not carrying a heavier baby, the Doona would not be suitable. We did try to lift our 12kgs child in the Doona. We did manage to fold the wheels under, and she was lifted into the car still in the Doona. However we did not think this was realistically practical or sensible to do. The child would have walked at this stage.
A pushchair chassis would have outlasted the Doona as a travel system, and thus although the Doona may appear to be a money saver, long term, it may be necessary to buy another car seat and a chassis to last until the end of the car seat user life.
The Doona could transform the lives of the frequent traveller as the Doona can be taken onto a plane for use during the flight. Upon arrival, the wheels can be released and the Doona can be pushed from the cabin into the airport; before being transformed again back to a car seat for use in a taxi to the hotel. The integrated car seat with wheels could be very helpful for parents who rely on taxi’s or lifts in other people’s cars on a regular basis. However bear in mind that in these instances, the car seat belt strap, rather than an isofix base would need to be used.
One huge advantage of the Doona, is that there is no need to bend down to put the baby in the car seat – the baby can be put in the seat on the wheels. There is then no need to carry the baby in the car seat to the car – instead simply push the Doona out to the car, fold the wheels, and put the seat in the car. Having had two C-Sections, this would have been bliss in the early days.
Being able to keep the Doona on its wheels beside you when sat on a sofa, or in a cafe is much nicer, than having a car seat on the floor and leaning over to talk to the baby in the seat. We believe the Doona could stop the highly unsafe practice of putting the car seat onto a work surface to do the harness up, or chat to the baby. Having the Doona seat higher also keeps the baby out of reach of an inquisitive toddler.
Some doctor’s surgeries, playgroups and Children’s Centres insist on pushchairs being left outside. We never liked having to leave a pushchair outside where it could get wet, stolen or damaged. The Doona was bliss to fold up at the entrance to these places, and then to simply carry the seat inside. It also saved us having to carry the car seat across some distance across the car park to get to the door.
Hood, Raincover, Seat Protector and other Accessories
We LOVE that Doona have thought through the practicalities of having a baby, and of using the Doona in real life. There is no shopping basket included with the Doona which was noted by our testers. Babies need ‘stuff’ – nappies, wipes, milk, toys etc. Parents have ‘stuff’ too – phones, purses, wallets etc. Therefore Doona have made three different storage bags for all this ‘stuff’ There is a large All-Day bag which holds up to 3kgs and fits around the back of the Doona seat. There is a smaller Essentials bag which fits onto the handlebar and holds up to 1.5kgs. There are also Snap on storage bags which fit round the back of the Doona seat. However, storage for the Doona is going to run up additional cost on top of the initial purchase of the car seat / stroller. At £299 the Doona is not cheap to start with.
Doona thoughtfully provide a free protective cover for your car upholstery inside the Doona box. The wheels do not actually touch the seat of the car unless you get the angle wrong lifting it into the car, however, we did get a lot of grit and dirt falling off the wheels into the car. Doona do make wheel covers. We have not used these, but our assumption is that they would collect the dirt for easy emptying later. It is worth adding that no other seat covering or blanket should be used to protect the seat. To do so would alter how the Doona would react in an impact.
Doona also do a sunshade extension, insect net and a travel bag. The Doona raincover is one of the best we have seen for a car seat. There is a huge opening flap at the front which works brilliantly when the sun comes out between showers! However, the raincover will not work for older children, whose legs hang over the edge of the seat.
The Doona currently comes in 5 UK colours – Storm (grey), Sky (turquoise), Dune (beige), Love (red) and Night (black). The hood and seat are colour coded to match. There are other colours – Fresh green and Sweet pink – which we assume will arrive in the UK at some point.
As with all car seats, it is vital that you try the seat in your car before buying. The Doona is bigger than many infant carriers.
There is absolutely no question that the mechanics and concept of the Doona is amazing. The designers have designed an amazing travel system which could be very practical for modern life; especially for travelling, or for smaller cars. They have also considered that babies need ‘stuff’ and have given, not just one, or two but THREE storage options which all clip neatly onto the Doona to carry baby essentials. However this storage is additional cost on the price of a Doona.
HOWEVER, we have serious doubts over the safety of the Doona especially the harness. We are concerned, that even with our combined expertise, that the whole team were unable to get any child’s harness tight enough so we felt the child was safe to travel, without it causing distress or red markings to the child’s skin.
It is absolutely imperative that anyone buying a Doona reads up about the safety implications and recommendations of car seat use with a young baby. However, for parents with a school run to do, or parents who are usually forced to leave a pushchair outside a doctors surgery, or who need to nip in and out of shops, the Doona could make life easier for short outings
Overall though, we feel that the Doona is expensive for what it is. At a starting price of £299, plus accessories, we would suggest that a good quality car seat, combined with a travel system compatible pram / lie flat pushchair, with a basket, would be a more cost effective solution across time; and unlike the Doona, would last until the end of your car seat using days.
We had all been excited to try out the Doona. We all loved the innovative concept of integrated wheels on a car seat, because we we could all appreciate the value of such an object. We all still do like this idea. However the safety aspects concern us and we feel that some elements of the actual car seat and harness need a redesign. The seat and harness need to be looked at critically using a range of babies and young children. We would very much like to see a proper lie flat bed being used on a car seat which is also marketed as a ‘from birth’ stroller.
As it stands, we would love to give the Doona 5 stars for innovation, however we can not award this because of our safety concerns.
*EDIT* June 2015: The Doona has been rated as “Inadequate” by the independent safety testing house ADAC for being high in PAH pollutants which apparently can have a potentially adverse affect on health. Read more here.
Links to research into the risks involved in using infant car seats:
Please note that there are risks for a baby in ANY infant carrier, these articles are not specific to the Doona:
BLISS – Tips to avoid car seat cot death: https://www.dbh.nhs.uk/Car_seat_awareness.aspx
Car Seats, Infant Carriers, and swings: Their Role in Deformational Plagiocephaly: https://www.oandp.org/jpo/library/2003_03_102.asp
Arguments Against Letting Babies Sleep in Car Seats: https://www.livestrong.com/article/1000464-arguments-against-letting-babies-sleep-car-seats/#page=1
Infant Car Seats Lower Oxygen Levels in Blood During Sleep: https://news.health.com/2009/08/24/infant-car-seats/
Assessment of babies for car seat safety before hospital discharge: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2810665/
A Comparison of Respiratory Patterns in Healthy Term Infants Placed in Car Safety Seats and Beds: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/124/3/e396.abstract
Randomized Controlled Trial of a Car Safety Seat Insert to Reduce Hypoxia in Term Infants: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/132/2/326.abstract
Please note that Best Buggy do not have the facilities to safety test this product. This review has been written based on our observations (see photos above). We have however contacted Which? and other car seat testers, and we have asked them to consider adding the Doona to their test lists.
Other Car Seats and Infant Carriers Reviews: