Small but mighty!
The Evenflo NurtureMax rear-facing only (RFO) infant car seat is new to the Evenflo line-up and should not to be confused with a completely different seat, now retired, called the Nurture.
The NurtureMax wins the prize for being the most economical rear-facing only infant seat on the market, an impressive feat considering how many features it has!
- Economical price tag of $130 at Walmart, Babies R Us, Amazon, Best Buy
- For children who weigh between 4-22 lb (1.8 – 10 kg) and who are between 17-29″ (43-73 cm) tall
- Swivel handle only needs one hand to operate
- Harness adjusts from the front (versus a rear-adjust system on the now-retired Nurture)
- Anti-rebound bar on the stay-in-car base
- Fits teeny tiny babies well
- Lightweight carrier
- 4 crotch buckle positions
- 4 harness height positions (~4.5″, 6.5″, 8.75″, 11.25″)
- 2 hip width positions
- Expires 6 years from date of manufacture
Features and how-tos
The NurtureMax carry handle has a unique adjustment mechanism that makes it doable with one hand. Push down and then rotate.
While driving, make sure to have the handle in the up/carry position, or, rotated back to the head of the seat (although this makes it take up more space front-to-back).
The foot end of the NurtureMax carrier nestles under a little notch on the base. When docking the carrier you will need to lead with this edge to tuck it under the notch before locking the rest of the carrier onto the base.
Removal of the carrier from the base is like most other rear-facing only (RFO) car seats. Find the handle on the back/top of the carrier and squeeze. Due to the way the foot end of the carrier docks to the base (see above) a slight tilt up from the head end of the seat is needed to lift the carrier off the base. You will quickly get the hang of the slightly angled movement to dock and release the carrier, but if you are accustomed to the straight up-and-down movement of most other car seats this might feel a bit awkward the first few times.
When properly docked and locked onto the base these light grey side plungers will be visible. In fact, when you squeeze the handle to release the carrier, as above, you’ll see them move.
In addition to doing a quick lifting up check to make sure the carrier is securely docked to the base, it’s also a good idea to glance at these windows and make sure the plungers are fully engaged. If something gets caught in there (your toddler’s goldfish crackers perhaps?) clean it out and try again.
When doing a baseless install – give it a try, it’s not hard and can be quite convenient at times! – you will need to lift the side of the cover up and out of the way to reveal the belt guides for the seat belt. If you never install the seat this way you’d never know there were belt guides there, but it’s simple to do if needed.
This kind of crotch buckle is called a ‘puzzle buckle’ – overlap the two pieces of crotch buckle tongues before plugging them into the crotch buckle itself.
The NurtureMax is highly adjustable and is an ideal choice for preemies, or for caregivers with an unexpectedly small baby who doesn’t yet fit the car seat they purchased.
With 4 harness height positions and a shell height that is on par with other comparable rear-facing only car seats, it can be expected that the NurtureMax will be outgrown around the weight limit of 22 lb (10 kg) or 29″ (73 cm) – which is around 11-12 months for babies of average height and weight.
The NurtureMax is a super option for preemies – it is inexpensive, and it adjusts down very small for a safe fit for the tiniest riders.
This doll is one of our standard test dolls and is approximately the size of a 7lb newborn. The NurtureMax would easily fit a smaller baby and adjusts at the shoulder, the hips, and the crotch.
The option to shorten the crotch buckle is a really nice feature to have.
We don’t want to see an awkward gap like on the left in this photo; the harness isn’t adjusted properly like this, and baby could slouch or slump down into that space, potentially causing breathing issues if their airway is compromised.
Clear instructions for crotch buckle adjustment are on pages 39-41 in the NurtureMax manual.
Installation tips and vehicle fit
Unique among rear-facing only car seats at this price point, the NurtureMax base comes with an anti-rebound bar (ARB). That’s the vertical plastic piece that compresses against the vehicle upholstery and prevents excessive rebound towards the rear of the vehicle after a crash. While all rear-facing car seats in Canada must have some mechanism of rebound management (a bar like this one, a structural component like integrated cup holders that serve this purpose, a rear-facing tether, a carry handle on an RFO seat in a forward or up position, something else…) the ARB on this seat is integrated into the base, not removable, and requires no active steps to use correctly, all of which mean it’s properly in position at all times.
Find the UAS hooks stored on the underside of the base.
If you aren’t using them to install make sure to hook them here. This keeps them out of the way, and prevents damage to the hooks or other vehicle occupants.
Watch this short video for tips on how to attach and detach this type of J-hook UAS connector.
Not just for this seat – here’s a body position we like to teach! Use your in-car knee to push the base BACK while using your hand to also push DOWN. Tighten the UAS strap or seat belt with your other hand.
We also like to get right into the car facing the rear, and use both knees to push back, but that’s not always doable for all people in all vehicles. We like options.
This is what a lap/shoulder seat belt installation looks like.
Make sure that both pieces of seat belt webbing are tucked under the little plastic notches. They will keep the belt from slipping out of position.
If you find that the base is tilting you may use a locking clip to install the seat (find instructions in the manual or check out this video).
If you are installing the NurtureMax in an outboard position (on one of the sides) make sure to leave 1.5″ of space between the car seat and the vehicle seat in front of it. This will ensure adequate space for the car seat to move as designed in a crash.
If you are installing the car seat in the middle this does not apply unless there is also a vehicle seat there (in a 3-row vehicle, for example).
This is in a 2012 Honda Odyssey captain’s seat – tons of room.
When you install the NurtureMax base, whether it’s with UAS or the seat belt, make sure the recline line is level to the ground. Eyeballing this is sufficient, and it’s best to do when you are parked on flat ground.
Properly levelling the car seat is important. We didn’t find it necessary in any of our test vehicles, but if necessary add a tightly rolled towel under the foot end of the base to make it more reclined, or push DOWN at that same spot when installing to make it more upright. This post is an oldie but a goodie, and explains all of that in detail.
The Evenflo NurtureMax is an inexpensive seat that will fit small babies very well. It is straightforward to install, and has a lot of adjustability and features not typically found on less-expensive seats.
It’s not the most compact rear-facing only car seat out there, nor will it last the longest – but it’s not trying to be. It will fit reliably in most vehicles, tends to fit well in the middle of small vehicles, and in especially small cars there is always the option to install baseless. It’s a well-thought out value seat that is easy to use.
It might be the perfect seat for you if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a seat you won’t use for long, or if you unexpectedly have a small baby and need something to safely transport them while they grow into another seat. Despite the low price tag you will be quite pleased with the ease-of-use, light weight, and adjustability of this little gem.
Thank you to Evenflo for providing the seat used in this review – as always, comments are our own.