The Dangers Surrounding Children In Winter Coats And Car Seats
Winter is on its way, and if you have children, you know that means giving yourself a few extra minutes to bundle up your kids before heading out the door. You want to protect their little bodies from cold temperatures, and this generally means dressing them in hats, mitts, and puffy winter coats. But if your child is still of car seat age, you might want to rethink that last piece of outerwear before loading them into your vehicle.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bulky clothing (including winter coats and snowsuits) creates a gap in between the child and the car seat harness. In the event of a car accident, the fluffy padding of the coat immediately flattens out from the force, creating extra space between the child and the harness. The child can actually slip through the straps and be thrown from the car seat in this instance.
So, if you’re not dressing your child in a winter jacket before strapping them in their car seat, how can you keep them both warm and safe? Here are some tips to remember.
1. Store the carrier portion of infant seats inside the house when not in use.
Keeping the seat at room temperature will reduce the loss of the child’s body heat in the car.
2. Get an early start.
If you’re planning to head out the door with your baby in tow on winter mornings, you need an early start. You have a lot to assemble, and your baby may not be the most cooperative. Plus, driving in wintry conditions will require you to slow down and be extra cautious.
3. Dress your child in thin layers.
Start with close-fitting layers on the bottom, like tights, leggings, and long-sleeved bodysuits. Then add pants and a warmer top, like a sweater or thermal-knit shirt. Your child can wear a thin fleece jacket over the top. In very cold weather, long underwear is also a warm and safe layering option. As a general rule of thumb, infants should wear one more layer than adults. If you have a hat and a coat on, your infant will probably need a hat, coat, and blanket.
4. Don’t forget hats, mittens, and socks or booties.
These help keep kids warm without interfering with car seat straps. If your child is a thumb sucker, consider half-gloves with open fingers or keep an extra pair or two of mittens handy — once they get wet they’ll make your child colder rather than warmer.
5. Tighten the straps of the car seat harness.
Even if your child looks snuggly bundled up in the car seat, multiple layers may make it difficult to tighten the harness enough. If you can pinch the straps of the car seat harness, then it needs to be tightened to fit snugly against your child’s chest.
6. Use a coat or blanket over the straps.
You can add a blanket over the top of the harness straps or put your child’s winter coat on backwards (over the buckled harness straps) after he or she is buckled up. Some parents prefer products such as poncho-style coats or jackets that zip down the sides so the back can flip forward over the harness. Keep in mind that the top layer should be removable so your baby doesn’t get too hot after the car warms up.
7. Use a car seat cover ONLY if it does not have a layer under the baby.
Nothing should ever go underneath your child’s body or between her body and the harness straps. Be sure to leave baby’s face uncovered to avoid trapped air and re-breathing. Many retailers carry car seat bundling products that are not safe to use in a car seat. Just because it’s on the shelf at the store does not mean it is safe!
8. Remember, if the item did not come with the car seat, it has not been crash tested and may interfere with the protection provided in a crash.
Never use sleeping bag inserts or other stroller accessories in the car seat.
9. Pack an emergency bag for your car.
Keep extra blankets, dry clothing, hats and gloves, and non-perishable snacks in your car in case of an on-road emergency or your child gets wet on a winter outing.