Bulky winter wear and car seat safety don't mix
2/18/2020 by Dr. David Soma and Tammy Schmit, RN
When winter winds blow, we bundle babies and kids in snuggly coats and snowsuits. While they keep children warm, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns they can also interfere with car seat safety. That’s because bulky clothing can compress in a crash and leave the straps too loose to restrain your child, leading to increased risk of injury.
Ideally, dress your baby in thinner layers and wrap a coat or blanket around them over the buckled harness straps. Oh, and dressing in thinner layers, with a coat at hand, applies to parents, too.
Follow these tips from the AAP to keep your little ones warm, as well as safely buckled in their car seats:
Store the carrier portion of infant seats inside the house. A room-temperature car seat will help reduce the loss of your child's body heat once they’re in the cold car.
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. In general, infants should wear one more layer than adults. If you have on a hat and a coat, your infant will probably need a hat, coat and blanket.
Pull on hats, mittens and socks or booties. 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 dry mittens handy, since wet mittens are cold mittens.
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, it needs to be tightened to fit snugly against your child's chest.
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.
Remember, if an item, such as a seat cover, didn’t come with the car seat, it hasn’t been tested and may interfere with car-seat safety. Never use sleeping bag inserts or other stroller accessories in the car seat.
Read more tips from the AAP for keeping your child warm and safe in the car.
Dr. David Soma is a pediatrician in Primary Care in Rochester/Kasson’s Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine
Tammy Schmit, RN is the ambulatory nurse manager in Primary Care in Rochester/Kasson’s Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM).