Being asked to do a Graco Milestone review really took me back a few years. Waaay back when I began this parenting malarky almost 18 years ago (EIGHTEEN YEARS! *cries*) car seats were honestly a baffling thing. Of course, the Big News on the Parenting Street back then was the totes awesome ‘travel system’ idea – utterly groundbreaking, the car seat that could sit in the pram chassis so you didn’t have to disturb baby every time you got in or out of the car.
Genius, I tell you.
But even so, after four kids there’s one thing that was always on my parental wishlist: To not have to figure out how heavy my baby/toddler/pre-schooler was, how tall they were, and then what that translated to in terms of stage of car seat… Ugh. And then you’re working out two children.. and then three… and the third needs to move into the next car seat before no.2 has moved out of it, so you have to buy another, but then No.2 has a growth spurt and he’s out of it and in need of the next stage, but you have to store the one he’s grown out of for the next sibling coming along behind… Nightmare.
Why can’t someone just make a seat that works all the way through?
Buy it when you have a new baby, and hey presto, no more car seat thinkings to be thought.
I know, impossible dreamings.
But look – Graco listened to my grumpy thinkings, and they really have made one! :)
In the UK, the law states that children must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm tall, whichever comes first (my rather tall 9yr old currently measures 135cm on the nose). The Graco Milestone is designed to be the only car seat you have to have to think about, starting as a rear-facing seat suitable from birth to 13kg, and extending and adapting through an intermediate forward-facing 5-point harness seat (9-18kg) into a high-back booster (15-36kg) which will take them all the way into an adult seat belt.
I was so excited about the idea – and yet I admit I was totally dubious that a seat designed to keep a new baby safe could in any way be suitable for a hefty 10yr old. I expected it either to be way too roomy at one end, or way too snug and impractical at the either. So I said I’d try it out to see…
I must just mention the aesthetic design of the Milestone; now I know we don’t buy a car seat because of the way it looks, but I have personally been very put off buying a car seat thanks to its hideous floral fluorescent pink cover. A big selling point for me is that the Milestone is so unisex and ordinary-looking; exactly what you’d expect from an actual seat in your car.
So how’s the Graco Milestone in action?
As I said, my baby days are a bit behind me now, and to try out the Milestone I’ve only got a leggy 9yr old who’s at the top end of the age and height range, so I borrowed a baby (thank you Lucy and Stan!) to try out the baby stage first.
Before installing any car seat you must check it fits your car – this is utterly essential for any car seat, not just the Milestone. Don’t buy before you’ve checked!
You can download the Graco Milestone Car fitting List here – I drive an old Toyota Previa which isn’t actually on the list; but the husband has a Landcruiser, which is approved, and we’ve been doing some work with Ford on the KA+ which is also okay. I suspect the Previa will be absolutely fine too, I just need to get my car to a Mothercare or Halfords and get it checked first.
I’ll admit the first fit was a little intimidating as I opened the box; it’s been so long since I had a baby seat that it was like installing my first all over again.
But I needn’t have worried – straight out of the box the installation was a breeze (the Milestone has no ISOFIX but is a Universal fit, which means the chair has to be installed in the car with an adult seat belt. Fine by me – I’ve always fitted mine this way), and it was sitting perfectly secure within our car inside a few minutes (I’m betting actual first-timers would take a little longer; there was plenty of muscle-memory going on after 18 years of car seat handling!).
but the clear instructions tell you all you need to know when you first install the seat; you just need to adjust the seat according to the age of the child going in.
5mth old Stan was happy and snug in the rear-facing version; the headrest was really supportive even in the more upright position (mo more sleepy head-lolling!), and the already-inserted padding is thick and cosy (to be used if the child’s shoulders don’t reach the lowest harness setting when the padding isn’t used), and made me feel like he was properly safe and secure. Which after all is the whole point of a car seat.
A brilliant design point of the Milestone is that though it can be used forward-facing from around 9kg/9mths (under the current ECE R44/04 European safety standard legislation ), it can remain rear-facing until your baby is 13kg – or around 18mths. Being rear-facing is up to five times safer for your baby, so don’t be in any hurry to turn them forwards – do take a look at this Which? article to understand why.
I should just mention the cup holder, which is perfectly placed and reachable; having a secure but accessible spot for that essential drink is a very under-rated feature, and it’s the small stuff like this which makes a HUGE difference over time.
When you get that far, the Milestone is oh-so-easy to move into Highback Booster mode. There’s no annoying and fiddly 5-point harness strap removal – there’s a storage compartment ready and waiting under the cushion to simply tuck them away into. The height adjustment literally could not be more simple – a one-handed squeeze-and-pull movement on the headrest, and you’ve got instant adjustability. The headrest should sit just above your child’s shoulders, so do keep an eye on it; sudden growth spurts will have them squashed up into it before you realise.
It’s a testament to the design of the padding that even at the very top of the height range, Bear found the seat super-comfortable. Surprisingly for a seat that was sized for new babies she felt she had plenty of room, and was supported without feeling restricted. She particularly loved the fact the ‘wings’ around the head meant napping on long journeys would be extra-comfy now! I didn’t like to tell her they were actually brilliant side-impact protection, and simply agreed the nap rests were perfect…
In fact the Milestone, down to the very fact of it’s versatility, is a pretty big car seat. It’s not a light thing to move, but once it is fitted you really won’t lift it out very often (and really, who wants a lightweight car seat when it’s sole task is the protection of your child?). It is a wide seat too – in small cars you wouldn’t get three across a back seat. We have a big people carrier with individual seats throughout, so we could fit five if we needed too, but two in a small car would mean the child in the middle would be pretty squished!
So would I buy it?
I love so much about this seat; in fact what’s not to like?
With the Milestone you genuinely only have one purchase to make – not only is this fab in a one-less-thing-to-worry-about kind of way, but the savings also add up over the years. Say you use it for ten years – at the current price of just under £150, that works out at just £15 a year for total safety on every car trip for your child.
The seat is also brilliantly made, with excellent padding, thoughtful touches which show it was designed by a parent used to placing their child in car seats, and with outstanding safety and support. It rear-faces for longer than most on the market, and the transformation between stages is pain-free and quick. It’s also as comfy for a new baby as it is for a 9yr old, which tells you everything you need to know about the incredible design and engineering that have gone into it.
The Milestone is widely available in all the major baby stores and is currently selling for £149 – check the Graco site to find the best one for you.
We are proud to be Graco Ambassadors this year, but as always, all opinions are my own.