Winter Car Seat Safety Tips for Parents
Winter weather is coming soon, and that means temperatures will start to drop. But many bulky coats and car seats are a dangerous combination! Before you buckle the kids in their car seats, make sure you know these important winter car seat safety tips.
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Why are coats and snowsuits dangerous in car seats?
Regardless of the cold weather outside, thick winter coats or a bulky clothing is a huge safety hazard in the car seat. Puffy coats or fluffy padding should be avoided while strapped in the car seat. (This goes for older children and parents wearing coats too!)
In the event of an accident, the force of impact will cause the buckled harness straps to compress a thick coat. This creates extra slack in the straps of the car seat harness where a baby or kid could be ejected out of their seat.
That doesn’t mean that you or your children have to be cold in the car! Fortunately there are some safe options that will help kids stay warm while traveling during the colder months.
Are Bundle Me car seat covers safe?
The short answer is no.
Unfortunately, popular car seat covers like the Bundle Me (sometimes called a car seat sleeping bag) are not considered safe. These types of products fit between the car seat and baby’s back, which can cause the security of the seat and straps to be unstable.
Similarly, it would not be safe to wrap baby with a thick blanket behind his back. The thick layer of fabric can bunch and become dangerous.
Most car seat manufacturers explicitly state that products like a car seat cover are not to be used for safety reasons, as they are not tested with the car seats. If in doubt, always check with your car seat’s instruction manual – and only use products made and recommended by the car seat manufacturer.
How to make sure car seats are safe
The general guideline to ensure that car seat straps are appropriately tightened is the “two finger” check. If you can fit more than two fingers between the harness and your child’s body, then the straps are not tight enough to keep him or her safe.
This video from The Car Seat Lady demonstrates the Chalk Test to determine if a coat is safe to wear in the car seat.
Safe alternatives to a winter coat in the car seat
There are a few easy and safe options to avoid children wearing bulky winter coats in their car seats:
Put the child’s coat on backwards
If your child needs to wear a coat to get to the car, take it off once you arrive and let them wear it backwards in the car seat.
Buckle your child up as usual into their car seat. Then place their arms inside the sleeves of their coat, and have them wear their coat backwards over their straps. This keeps their arms warm, and the back of the coat acts as a blanket over their upper body.
Use a blanket
Extra blankets are good to keep in the car for many reasons, and they are especially handy in winter. Just tuck in a light blanket around your little one’s waist and legs after buckling them in.
A thin fleece or flannel blanket takes up very little room but is very effective at keeping in warmth.
Try a car seat poncho
Basically a wearable blanket, a car seat poncho is easy for kids to wear over their buckled straps. For even more convenience, kids can wear their poncho to and from the car as well.
For infants, a similar option is the car seat “shower cap” style cover. It fits over the car seat itself – just as a shower cap fits on your head – and doesn’t go behind the baby’s back. This keeps your child’s body temperature warm without much bulk.
Wear thin layers of clothing or fleece
A onesie or thin T-shirt covered with a thin hoodie, plus a blanket over the child is perfect. Remember, your car will eventually warm up and you don’t want them to overheat.
Make sure the children aren’t wearing too many layers, especially if you will have the heat on. Dress them as you would dress yourself.
A thin fleece jacket or fleece pajamas are another good option. Long underwear or long-sleeved bodysuits are usually pretty thin but are actually really warm!
As long as fleece jackets are thin and fitted, they are a safe option to wear in the car seat. They are also a safe option for mom and dad as well!
Use rear facing car seats as long as possible
Make sure you check your local car seat laws to make sure you are in compliance with state guidelines. Many states recently increased the age of rear facing to two years old, although most car seat safety experts and pediatricians recommend rear facing even longer – until the child outgrows the height and weight limits for rear facing.
Depending on your child’s size, that could be a while! Young children may have to bend their knees or cross their legs, but will be perfectly comfortable and much safer than if they were forward facing.
I’ve found The Car Seat Lady to be a great online resource for all things car seat related. There is also a helpful group on Facebook called Car Seats for the Littles that aims to help educate parents on proper car seat safety.
Choose the right car seat
Finding the right seat for your child and your vehicle can be an exhausting and overwhelming process. But it doesn’t have to be! I have two great recommendations for both an infant seat and a convertible car seat.
When my youngest child was born, we got a Britax B-Safe Ultra infant seat to try out. It is a little heavier than other infant seats I’ve tried, but that is due to the steel frame that will keep my baby safe in the event of a crash!
It is super easy to use, with one simple click to attach the seat to the base. It’s also very easy to adjust the straps, which comes in handy for a fast-growing babe!
Related: The Best Narrow Car Seats for Small Cars
Because I loved this seat so much, I decided to buy a Britax convertible car seat with a 5-point harness for my toddler as well.
The Britax Boulevard Click Tight was so easy to install use. One of my main complaints about her previous car seat was how easy it was for her to get out of the straps. The straps on the Britax Boulevard are designed in a way that she can’t easily push her chest clip to an unsafe position.
The straps are easily adjusted to the perfect tension as well – and a click lets you know when you’re in range for the right fit! The structure and sturdiness of the seat is beyond any I’ve seen in other brands we’ve tried.
And I can relax knowing my littles are having the safest ride possible in the back seat while I drive.
MEET THE AUTHOR
As a mom of 4 kids (and the oldest of 4 kids herself), Amanda has over 30 years of parenting experience. A former special education teacher, Amanda has a Master’s degree in Special Education and a second M. Ed. in Educational Leadership.
When she’s not working, Amanda enjoys DIY projects, exercising, photography, and long walks through Target.
You can find Amanda on all social media at @parentingnestblog and @amandaseghetti