If you’re reading this you probably saw or heard of this “amazing car seat that converts into a stroller”. I get it, Doona is incredibly trendy in the US at the moment.
Many celebrities are using it (which the company is promoting heavily) so people easily get talked into having one as well. They’re also great with their marketing campaigns, so influencers are also loving the Doona.
If you read my other reviews you know by now that they’re unfiltered, non-sponsored and more than whether I like the product or not so I will go into different aspects of the trendy Doona here as well (probably way too much you might need to know) 😉
However, as another trendy brand Uppababy has proved to us before – trendy doesn’t always mean good, even despite a hefty price tag. Or safe, like in case of a popular item Dock-a-Tot, which is heavily promoted on every American registry but it’s unsafe for sleeping and this is why it’s actually banned in Canada.
Before anyone asks, Doona is actually banned in Canada as well because the angle of the car seat is not adjustable and hence considered unsafe according to Canadian standards. Don’t even try to sneak it through the border – it’s subject to a ton of fines and voided insurance.
Doona is also not a non-toxic car seat, which I actually found out later and it adds to its cons – I explain more in the article under cons.
Is Doona Stroller Worth It?
I’ll be real. It didn’t cross my mind to get the Doona with the first baby because I automatically disregarded it due to the price and the fact it’s a car seat and the baby shouldn’t be in it for long periods of time.
A year and a half later many friends tried to talk me into getting a Doona, because it’s convenient. I think quite often it’s worth paying for the convenience, if your time and patience are limited, especially with two kids, I began researching the Doona more and more.
The more I researched, the more I realized that Doona is a product that got designed with a good idea of not having to carry your car seat around, but consumers often misinterpreted it.
Lots of you are asking if Doona is a good stroller for NYC and the answer is: absolutely not.
While it is convenient and hence why so many people think it’s worth it, Doona is not a stroller and shouldn’t be used as a stroller for walks. The more I talked to actual doctors and people who know what they’re talking about (not just random consumers), the more I realized that Doona surely isn’t a must-have and whether you want it or not depends on your lifestyle.
For some it might be worth it, for others, it might not be. However, you should know all the facts before making your decision.
Can Doona Be Your Only Stroller for the First Year?
I think whether you should get Doona or not depends on where do you live for sure, but also there are several things to consider for the sake of your baby’s health.
Most importantly, Doona should NOT be your only stroller for your baby because it’s NOT a stroller. It’s meant to be used as a car seat, in and out of the car for quick trips, but you shouldn’t be rolling around your baby in Doona for walks or in the city.
I found so many reviews saying “we just use it to roll the baby around the house because it’s convenient” – every sane pediatrician would cringe at this. It’s very unhealthy for the infant under 4 months who should have limited time in the car seat. The official recommendation is 2 hours in the 24-hour cycle, but the less the better and newborns under 4 weeks newborns should spend 30 minutes a day at a maximum in a car seat).
It’s all due to the angle of the car seat that can cause cardiorespiratory issues in infants below 6 months if they’re in car seats for extended periods of time, so here’s one of many studies done by people much more knowledgeable than me. However, it also can cause issues with older children as well, particularly when the car seat is used not in the car.
I am aware that in the US it’s pretty common for infants to roll around in their car seats everywhere, but it doesn’t mean that it’s safe or good for babies. Many people naively disregard it as gossips but babies die every year due to extended periods of time in their car seats. It can not only block their airways but it’s also very bad for their spines in a long term, so please keep this in mind. (It also applies to sleeping in baby swings).
It increases the risk of SIDS due to the fact that oxygen saturation levels (the amount of oxygen in your blood) are lower when children are in child car seats, many parents claim “my child slept in a car seat and is fine” – sure, deaths are rare, but reduced oxygen can lead to other issues in the future.
In Europe it’s pretty common knowledge not to stuff your babies in car seats and bassinets are a way to go – hence why Doonas are approved but not very popular at all, because it’s just a car seat (and quite frankly, car seat choice are way better and much more lightweight in Europe).
In fact, when I did a poll on my own social channels about which car seat I should get I received a ton of messages from people telling me why Doona is not a good idea at all. It’s something people just know. (Ironically, I know a similar thing happened to a pretty popular European influencer/photographer who said he’s never seen so many people advocating against a product – with the product being Doona and he ended up getting a Babyzen Yoyo instead.)
I know some friends who took their Doonas to the supermarket in the UK and were asked by strangers why are they destroying their infants’ health and putting them at risk. Rolling babies around in a car seat, whether it’s a Doona or anything clipped to your stroller is considered insanity.
What brings me to the next point: is Doona safe?
Is Doona Car Seat Safe?
There’s no denying that Doona is safe if used as a car seat and exclusively as a car seat and not a stroller. If you plan on rolling with it all day then no, unfortunately, it’s not safe (explained above).
It’s an approved car seat, so if you buy it directly from their website or approved retailer (eg. Magic Beans or BuyBuyBaby) you can be sure that your baby will be safe in it.
Why am I insisting on an approved retailer? Simply because there have been fake Doona 4-1 car seats on Amazon just last year and these car seats were not safe. They had nothing to do with the original Doona car seat. Sadly, as a former Amazon seller I know too well how easily regulations can be bypassed for Amazon so it doesn’t surprise me that the fake Doonas sneaked into Amazon.
Is Doona the safest car seat on the market? Sadly, it’s not. In case you didn’t know, to meet federal safety standards, a car seat is strapped to the center of a bench seat, which is then projected rearward to simulate a frontal crash of 30 mph (and let’s be real – that’s pretty slow). For more detailed rankings, you can look to independent crash test reports from trusted sources, including Consumer Reports.
Doona actually performs WAY below average in terms of head injuries (which makes sense for small babies because the head can get wobbly with little side cushioning), and it doesn’t get to the top 10 car seats on the US market in terms of safety. It has terrible ratings actually comparing to other car seats on the market.
Pros of Doona Stroller
The biggest advantage of the Doona is that you don’t have to carry it out of the car. You just pop the wheels and seconds and boom – you can roll with it.
Once you know what you’re doing it’s easy to use. It naturally also has a break so the whole thing won’t roll away from you.
The stroller has a push and pull-on mode, but I honestly don’t know when would you ever need to pull your infant behind you in a car seat.
Doona has fantastic washable cushions and a water-repellant canopy that offers UPF 50+ sun protection. The fact that it’s all washable is great because it’s not the case with all car seats.
However, I must say that lots of more experience people mention that despite the extra cushioning the car seat offers less side protection. As I naturally have no resources to perform reliable crash tests I simply cannot comment on it, but will link some here in case anyone wants to see the results.
The included head support is also washable which is great for spit-ups, but I feel like it gets too snug for older babies and offers not enough protection for newborns.
There’s also a removable infant insert for babies up to 11 pounds.
Cons of Doona
This one is quite obvious – for $599 with the base but without any accessories, Doona is not cheap.
Add a bag (either $40, 60 or $90 depending on size), sun protection ($45), rain cover ($40) and travel bag ($100) if needed and you come down to over $800 for possibly less than a year of usage. Absolute insanity.
Disclosure not to sound like a hypocrite – admittedly, I did pay $399 for Cybex Cloud Q Carseat for my second child, but unlike Doona I think it’s worth it in some circumstances like mine (I described it in my Cloud Q review). In the case of Doona stroller, I think it’s not worth the price considering all its cons.
The problem with expensive infant car seats in general is that if you happen to have a big baby they might not last you very long. Doona says the maximum height is 32″ or 31lbs, which is pretty standard for all infant car seats. I honestly say that while it says maximum it doesn’t also mean it’s comfortable until 32″. I think passed 25″ it’s pretty tight and pushing it.
Some parents claim to use Doona up until 15 months, but in case of my firstborn we switched him to a convertible car seat by 8 months because he was already 30″ height and looked painfully uncomfortable even a month earlier. In a Doona baby’s feet are dangling without support passed 28″ so I’ll say you really shouldn’t stretch it to the max.
I know some people whose babies were not only tall like mine, but also chubbier so they only got about 6 months’ worth of Doona usage. It’s sort of like a Snoo baby bassinet – some parents swear by its worth (it’s $1000 and can only be used up to 4 months), others think it’s absolute insanity, but hey – if you can afford it it’s your money.
A majority of children’s car seats in the United States are filled with toxic chemical flame retardants due to an outdated 1972 federal flammability regulation. So is Doona, unfortunately.
The fabric used on the Doona is sprayed with a flame retardant. This is not used on the infant height adjustment pillow or head support.
Chemical flame retardants do not bind well to the products that they are used on. That means that they are released into our environment as air particles, dust, and direct transfer. As children spent plenty of time rubbing in their car seats, it’s an important factor.
Those flame retardants are toxic and linked to various diseases and there’s no proven benefit of it.
There’s no denying that Doona is heavy – 16.5 lbs. While it seems like you never need to carry it because it has wheels it’s not the case. You still might have to carry it up the stairs, or simply get it out of the car and lift it back up.
The base is also 10 lbs. You’ll never carry the base unless you want to gate-check it if you’re flying with a baby.
Speaking of flying with a baby, if you decide to bring your Doona on the plane you will usually have to carry it through the aisle so assuming your baby is a standard size and 50th percentile you will carry 16.5 lbs of the car seat & in case of a 4-month-old as an example, about 16 lbs of a baby on top of it. It’s a mission.
While technically Doona or cabin-approved strollers fit through the aisle, only once I was able to roll anything airline-approved down to my seat (probably because I was flying alone with a baby while having a cold and looked very desperate, haha!).
Other million times I flew I was told to fold everything before entering the plane and carry it on, because flight attendants insisted it’s not legally allowed to roll a baby in a stroller or car seat through the aisle due to other passengers’ safety.
There’s no option for storage because it’s not a stroller – it’s a car seat. This means you need to carry your diaper bag and other extras yourself instead of just putting them under the stroller.
You can get a mini storage compartment but it’s tiny – you’ll fit a bottle and a diaper there, and you still have to remove it before putting it in the car. It is a pain in the butt.
Then again, it’s really not designed to work as a stroller so the lack of storage isn’t surprising, but might be important for people to consider.
Even if you just use it for short trips out of the car to Target it makes things difficult, because then you need to roll your Doona and the cart which is pretty inconvenient. I know some people put car seats inside the cart (which again, is not considered safe because of the angle) but you cannot even do it with Doona as because of the wheels it takes lots of space in the cart not leaving you much room for shopping.
Wheels are small because they have to be small – otherwise, the car seat wouldn’t fit. While the wheels are an advantage, keep in mind that when it’s muddy or snowy outside you’re putting all this dirty inside your car, not in a trunk.
The Doona also has no dampening system, so it is a rough ride over any uneven surfaces.
Your car will get filthy quickly including the inside of your car door. They do have a car protector but it makes the base slide a bit so some people aren’t comfortable with it. They also sell wheel covers, but who has time for that really?
The handlebar is painfully low. Unless you’re 5’5 the handlebar is going to feel low and uncomfortable, because again – it’s a car seat and not a stroller so it cannot be extendable for safety.
If you’re taller it really makes you slouch and feels weird – some parents laugh that for tall husbands it looks like you’re pushing a toy stroller and frankly, I must agree. On uneven terrain it’s a pain in the butt to push a stroller with a handlebar that’s too low.
Seat Only Parent Facing and No Recline
As it’s an infant car seat the seat can only be facing the parent when rolling around in a stroller mode. the seat orientation is not ideal for young babies. Once older though, curious babies can be frustrated they cannot see what’s going on when strolling (I know mine was after 6 months) so it’s frustrating.
Doona is also angled at a car seat level (45 degrees), so the child cannot sit upright. It will frustrate the crap out of most curious babies and toddlers for sure. Unless your child is a unicorn one and is fine sitting and staring at the sky then it’s not the most fun experience.
No Option for a Double
If you’re planning more kids you might think that Doona might be worth it because you will reuse it. Sure, however, Doona is a single option – no boards, no extra seats.
If your kids are less than 2.5 years apart your toddler might not walk to walk (or will walk but not where you want him to walk) so it gets tricky.
Other Things to Consider About Doona
Few things that might not be cons or pros, but might be important to think about and decide whether it’s a con or just something that you might be willing to oversee.
Installation Without a Base
Especially if you live in NYC or other cities where you don’t need a car, you might consider Doona so you can easily and safely get around with it by taxis. Yes and no.
Doona is a piece of cake to put in a car with a base, but naturally, you won’t be dragging a 15lbs of a base with you around the city, so will have to install it “European style” with a seatbelt. Which isn’t just one click and it takes a few minutes.
I was laughing at Doona’s marketing video from NYC of “how easy it is to put it in a taxi” – sure thing it’s easy if you just put the car seat in the car without strapping it, as the video ends before the lady actually installs it in the car #MarketingTricks.
Is Doona a Good Travel Car Seat Then?
I think once again, it depends on your preferences and where you’re going to travel.
If you’re traveling around the US or Mexico then it could be. It’s easy to roll through the airport, if you purchase a seat for your infant it’s FAA approved to take on board, and so on.
However, if you’re traveling to Canada or Europe then unfortunately it’s not a good option as it’s simply not approved for usage there, so you’re subject to fines and voided insurance in case of a crash.
It’s also important to note that non-US airlines do not always allow car seats on planes (and often they must be pre-booked) and in most cases only front-facing car seats as allowed after take-off and landing because infant rear-facing car seats limit the recline of the person in front of you.
In all honestly, I’ve taken thousands of flights around the world and never saw a single person using a car seat on a plane outside of the US. It’s just not a common thing to do.
I’ll also be brutally honest – unfortunately, if you live in a US city and don’t own a car things get tricky with infants. If you need to run around all day with a baby and want to take Ubers/Lyfts you need to have a car seat but it’s also bad to keep babies in car seats all day. Basically, you’re screwed either way if you want to keep your bub as safe as possible.
For older toddlers and kids there are foldable booster seats or foldable car seats such as WayB Pico that is easily portable, but it doesn’t exist for infants. The closest to it is Cosco Scenera Next (if you’re getting one get the convertible version because quite frankly it’s more of a bucket seat without it with no head support), but it’s still not a small portable seat.
Most places in the US require by law to have a child in a car seat when in a car or taxi (NYC does not require it, but you naturally want to keep your little one safe). In cities where public transportation is available, you can just use a bassinet and take public transportation.
I never took a car seat with me on my solo European escapades and was able to move around with metro, trams and public buses without issues and never had to use cars with the baby – just like everyone else around me. But, in the US it can be tricky as quite often there’s no other way of getting somewhere other than a taxi.
Issues in the Winter
This is something I never considered with my kids as my first was born in the spring and my second was born in the winter but Mexican winter, so I never had to deal with newborns surrounded by snowy or cold weather.
As a parent, you want to keep your kids comfy, especially when they’re tiny during the first few months. If you’re expecting a winter baby it’s only natural to think about a snowsuit or outdoor sleep bag to keep an infant warm and cozy.
Sadly, neither of those work with a car seat. Winter attire adds to space between car seat straps so it’s advised to undress the baby before strapping them to a car seat.
It’s not a problem if you’re just in and out of the car – you can cover your little bubs with a blanket, but if you thought of wondering around NYC with it then you’d either have to have a child covered with a blanket without winter attire (that’s a ton of fun if you have a kicker baby :P) or not strapped and undress him before hopping into a taxi. Not an ideal solution.
Issues in the Summer
Car seats run hotter than strollers.
My firstborn spent his first year in Europe, so temperatures were moderate but I still felt like my son was always sweaty when in the car seat.
However, now that we live in Utah from May to September temperatures range between 90 to 105 degrees. Even in the car with AC on the baby is melting in an infant car seat. I absolutely cannot imagine keeping a baby in the car seat when it’s over 80 outside.
P.S. Throwing a cover on top of the car seat actually increases the temperature inside it.
While Doona can be a good car seat solution for some people, it shouldn’t be your only travel system for the first year of the baby.
If you can afford Doona, a standard stroller, and then the next car seat after a year then it might be worth a purchase if you think you’ll use it enough.
If you want the safest car seat available, then Doona is not the answer as while it passes it performs badly in crash tests.
If you typically will have your baby in your own car, I would go with a more typical travel system or actually skip an infant car seat altogether and get a convertible car seat that will last you years.
However, if you’re looking for a stroller for NYC, have a smaller car (like an electric vehicle or compact car), it’s your second child, or planning on having another fairly soon, then I think you’ll be better off spending money on something else.