Simple Parenting’s Doona rear facing only car seat/stroller made quite a splash when it was announced. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on one to see if it was worth the hype! First, a kind parent allowed us to take a close look at their baby’s Doona during a seat check; then we were able to look even closer (and admire the variety of pretty colors that are available!) during the ABC Kids Expo.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Weight range: 4-35 lbs
- Height range: 32″ or less
- Lowest harness position: 7″ with insert
- Highest harness position: 12.75″ without insert
- Weight (car seat/stroller only): 15.5 lbs
- Expiration: 6 years
- Handle position: must be closest to the car’s seat back when installed
- Infant insert for smaller infants
- Push button lower anchor connectors
- Stroller included as part of the car seat
- Baseless installations require Euro routing
- Adjustable recline foot on base
- Seat belt lockoff on base
- Width at widest point: 17.5″
- Seat pan depth 8.5″
- Seat pan width 10.25″
- Harness slots with padding: 7″, 9″, 11″
- Harness slots without padding: 8.75″, 10.75″, 12.75″
- Shell Height: 21″
With the Base
American versions of the Doona include a fully-featured base; versions sold elsewhere in the world offer the base for purchase separately. Instructions for installing the seat with the base are included with the base itself, but not in the main manual. This requires caregivers to keep track of both manuals. We’ve spoken with Doona about this; hopefully future versions of the manual will include instructions for both the seat and base.
The base features clear instructions and labels — something that always pleases us. Premium lower anchor connectors, built-in shoulder belt lockoffs, a knob recline angle adjuster, and an easy-to-read recline indicator are all part of the base.
Installing the seat using the base was pretty straightforward. The car used during this particular seat check had a bit of a slope to the seat so we had to fully extend the recline angle adjuster to get the recline to the proper angle.
Premium lower anchor connectors made the parent I was helping an expert at installing this seat in a very short time. The built-in lockoffs for the lap/shoulder belt were also fairly easy to use. Flip down the smallest tab to release the lockoff, then open the longer flap and thread the lap and shoulder portions of the belt through. Remove the slack from the lap portion by pulling at the retractor, then flip the pieces of the lockoff back into place. You must then lock the belt as specified in the manual. We wish this instruction were more prominent, as this is not typical for lockoffs on a base.
Without the Base
One important note: initial versions of the manual and the installation videos do NOT include any mention of locking the seat belt during installation. While this is standard in European installations, American car seats are typically installed with a locked seat belt.
Updated versions of the manual include instructions for locking the seat belt; please download the latest version of the manual to ensure that the instructions include the phrase “engage the locking mechanism.”
In most cases, the length of seat belt required to complete the Euro routing will cause the seat belt to lock automatically. We’re pleased to see that both the manual and the installation video now instruct caregivers to engage the seat belt retractor when installing the seat without the base.
This seat includes two methods of installation instructions for seat belts: lap only belts and Euro routing with a lap/shoulder seat belt. The manual indicates that the lap/shoulder method is preferred. The manual also mentions that some seat belts may not be long enough to route properly around the Doona.
A baseless rear facing only car seat installation method without Euro routing involves threading the lap belt through the belt guides by the child’s hip, securing the seat, then tucking the shoulder portion of the locked seat belt against the vehicle seat back.
The Doona doesn’t mention that style of installation in the manual — it mentions lap belt only installation and the longer, Euro routing, where the lap belt is threaded through the belt guides by the child’s hips, then the shoulder portion is routed behind the seat through a large clip. The Doona features a clip on the back of the seat to route the shoulder belt behind the seat for the Euro routing.
To install the seat using a lap/shoulder belt, set the seat on the car’s seat, then flip the handle to position C. That position is closest to the vehicle’s seat back. The belt guides at the child’s hips are built into the handle of the stroller. While this looks sort of odd when the seat is in stroller mode, once the seat is folded up and the stroller handle is facing the back of the car’s seat, the guides make perfect sense.
Installing the Doona without the base was fairly painless. The hardest part was making sure that the seat belt wasn’t pulled out so far that it engages the locking mode before you’re ready. If your vehicle seat belt isn’t long enough to route properly around the seat, we’d suggest installing the Doona with the base instead.
A level line on the car seat itself indicates the correct angle. Ensure that the line is parallel to the ground.
In this case, the handle doubles as the handle for the stroller. Before securing the seat in the car, the handle needs to be in the position closest to the car’s back seat. At that point, the stroller handle has become an anti-rebound bar that helps prevent the Doona from flipping back toward the rear of the car in a crash. This feature is kind of ingenious!
Fit to Child
Our preemie model is 4 lbs and 17 inches long. The lowest shoulder slot appeared to come out just above her shoulders but once we reached through the padding, we saw that the harness sat just at her shoulder. This made for a decent fit for her.
Our newborn model weighs 7 lbs and is 17 inches long. With the harness on the lowest setting, the harness fits the model well. This indicates that the Doona would fit most average-sized newborns well.
The Doona’s top harness height is 12.75 inches. We’d assert that the Doona should fit an average-sized child until about 10-11 months of age.
The Doona’s harness adjusts manually — when the child grows, the harness must be disconnected, the shoulder straps moved up to the next harness slot, then reconnected to the splitter plate at the back of the seat.
There’s a thin metal bar at the back of the seat with a label indicating not to route the harness over the bar — it needs to go under the bar.
Our contact at Doona explained that this is a simpler method of adjustment, one that they hoped most caregivers would find easy to use. However, at the Doona’s price point, I would expect a no-rethread harness.
Creature Comforts: A Closer Look
The Doona features a very plush bamboo fabric with an equally plush infant insert. The insert needs to be removed when the child weighs 11 pounds but the head padding can remain in the seat for as long as the child uses the seat.
A critical piece of rear facing only car seats, the Doona’s sunshade features good coverage. It extends out far enough to cover most of the child’s body.
Converting the Doona from car seat mode to stroller mode wasn’t the most intuitive thing I’ve ever done but once I got the hang of pressing the safety button at the back of the seat to release the wheels, it was pretty simple.
At first, I was expecting that the safety button would release the seat from the base since that’s how many traditional rear facing only seats work. The Doona is a little different — the release mechanism is on the back of the base.When in stroller mode, the car seat portion of the Doona sits pretty low to the ground and the handle extends up to meet the parent. The handle may not be tall enough to reach taller parents.
To engage the stroller, just step on the green foot pedal on the left wheel. To engage the brake, just step on the red pedal on the right wheel. The stroller is designed for urban use — the manual clearly prohibits using the Doona as a jogging stroller or on rough terrain. On the smooth parking lot and later, on the showroom floor where we were working, it rolled around quite nicely.
Because we’re focused on the car seat portion of the program, this review will mainly address the car seat itself. I will mention, however, that there are a good number of accessories available for the Doona. Some, but not all of these accessories can be used when the seat is installed in the car — this is clearly stated on each item’s label.
In 2 different sections of the manual, there are 2 slightly different guidelines around replacement after a crash. First, the manual says to replace after any crash. Later, the manual states: “In a crash or collision, the Doona Car Seat could suffer damage that is not necessarily visible. Simple Parenting recommends using NHTSA’s re-use after crash guidelines.”
If your Doona is involved in a crash, we’d suggest contacting the manufacturer for replacement guidelines.
Important Information: Where to Find
The FAA approval sticker is found on the bottom of the Doona itself and on page 11 of the manual.
Because the base is not approved for use in aircraft, the FAA approval sticker is only on the seat itself, not on the base. If you’re traveling with the Doona, we’d suggest bringing the base in your carry on luggage and storing it in the overhead bin on the way. Install the seat on the plane using the lap belt installation instructions in the manual.
The Date of Manufacture sticker is located above the FAA Approval sticker on the bottom of the seat. The manual doesn’t list an expiration but this sticker tells us that it’s 6 years. We’d love to see this information included in the manual as well.
See the seat’s manual for instructions on how to clean the Doona’s cover.
The Doona is a well-appointed seat with a great many well thought out comfort features: the bamboo cover, extended sunshade, and of course the stroller feature. We’ve been extremely impressed with Simple Parenting’s willingness to seek out opinions from the CPST community, then correct anything and everything that has needed correction. That gives us a high level of confidence in this seat!
While the high price point ($499 MSRP) makes the Doona an option for a limited number of families, it will no doubt be a very functional seat for caregivers who need instant stroller access. Doona did not provide the seat and provided no compensation for this review — all the observations about this seat are our own.
Our friends at Simple Parenting have graciously provided a Doona for one of our lucky readers. Enter below for your chance to win!