Baby It's Cold Outside ... How to Keep Them Safe & Warm in the Car Seat

Well, winter came in with a butt-kicking, didn’t it? Anyone else have to dig the box of gloves and hats out of the back of the closet this week? Time to put away those fall jackets and get out the big guns: winter coats! Kids’ winter coats look so cozy and warm, and they are great for playing in the snow, going for walks, and school recess. But they can also be a huge danger if parents and caregivers ignore the one winter coat rule: No puffy coats in the car seat! Why not?


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PHOTO COURTESY OF  CARSEATBLOG.COM

PHOTO COURTESY OF CARSEATBLOG.COM

Why they can't wear puffy winter coats in the car

When a child is wearing a thick coat, it may feel like they are strapped snugly into a car seat when the straps are actually dangerously loose. At an official crash test lab in Michigan, a child dummy that appeared to be securely strapped into a car seat came hurtling out of it in a simulated 30-mph crash. That's run-around-town-doing-errands speeds. Don’t want to take my word for it? Check out this story on The TODAY Show that highlights the danger of kids in puffy winter coats in their car seats.

It's a hassle to take off their coats once you get to the car especially if you just zipped, snapped, and buttoned them in to get out of the house, but it's simply not safe parenting to leave them on.

But how do I get them to the car without getting cold?

  • Drape a thick blanket over the infant car seat as you carry it from outside to protect it from the cold air.

  • Run for it (make it a game!)

  • Put on their coat unzipped

  • Make sure they have a warm hat and gloves

  • Keep the car in the garage during the winter

  • Make them the king or queen of layers! (sweater over long sleeves over short sleeves)

  • Wrap them in an infinity scarf

Puffy swaddle applied on top of the straps and tucked around body. Carseat shown is Chicco Keyfit 30 with infant insert.

Puffy swaddle applied on top of the straps and tucked around body. Carseat shown is Chicco Keyfit 30 with infant insert.

But how will they stay warm once we’re in the car?

  • Start the car 5 minutes before you leave so it can warm up

  • Crank up the heat!

  • Put their coat on backwards once they are strapped in.

  • Keep warm blankets in the car to drape over the seat.

  • Try a Road Coat!

What’s a Road Coat?

The Car Seat Lady has an entire post on this. In short, the Road Coat Snow Suit is a specially designed onesie that is puffy in all the right places and thin where it needs to be in order for car seat straps to tighten properly. It retails for $110 and features a hood, foldover hand and foot openings for extra warmth, a fleece lining, and zipper covers so baby’s chin won’t get scratched. How does it work? The coat has a double zipper. One thin layer you put the car seat straps over, and one thick layer that goes on over the tightened car seat straps. It’s been crash tested, so unlike most aftermarket car seat items, this one is actually approved for use.

WW…BGC…D?

We’ve never used a road coat. We find a little early engine starting and a thin blanket can go a long way. And like most safety measures, it’s a pain to take coats on and off, but it’s the only way to make sure they are safe. Decide on a game plan for keeping them warm on the way to and inside the car, and then doublecheck that grandma, grandpa, and all other caretakers are on board. This includes the school pickup line. We’ve seen kids get strapped into cars by teachers in gigantic coats! Make sure your teachers know the safety protocol. And while I have your attention:

PHOTO COURTESY OF  BASKETSFORBABIES.ORG

PHOTO COURTESY OF BASKETSFORBABIES.ORG

Why you need to make sure chest clips are high and tight

43 percent of children who died from car crashes were improperly restrained. The biggest offense I see around the internet is parents posting photos where their child’s chest clip is loose or way too low.

Car Seats For the Littles breaks it down for us by explaining that chest clips alone don't provide protection in an accident (that's why some other countries don't even use them), but they DO keep the harness properly spaced. If you don't tighten them enough, their body could slip through the straps in an accident. Harness buckles should sit between the armpits and nipples. Don't be afraid to pull them tight! The straps should be unpinchable at the shoulders. Check out this article about chest clip myths. 

PHOTO COURTESY OF  REARFACINGTODDLERS.COM

PHOTO COURTESY OF REARFACINGTODDLERS.COM

Why they should rear face until they reach the max height and weight for their car seat

A baby's head accounts for 25% of its body weight, while an adult's head is only 6% of their total body weight. The bones in the neck of a small child are not developed enough to protect the spinal cord, so when they are involved in a car crash in a forward-facing car seat, the weight of the head combined with the immature skeleton can cause the spinal cord to stretch up to two inches. If it stretches just half an inch it will snap. This is known as internal decapitation and causes paralysis or death. The development of the skeleton happens at roughly the same rate in all children, no matter how big they are, so a bigger baby is no safer in a forward-facing seat than a small one of the same age. 

Using a rear-facing car seat reduces the risk of serious injury or death from 40% to just 8% compared to a forward-facing seat. (Awesome facts courtesy of RearFacingToddlers.com.) The AAP has changed their recommendation, dropping their previous Age 4 milestone. Not they recommend all kids rear face until they reach the maximum height and/or weight for their rear-facing car seat. For most car seats that’s 40 lbs, and not all 4 year olds are that heavy.

Once kids forward face, they shouldn’t move to a booster seat until they have reached the maximum height and/or weight for their forward-facing seat, which for most seats is 60 pounds.

Give yourself a gold star (or an extra lap at the Starbucks drivethrough) if you practice all three of these safety musts. See someone's kid strapped in incorrectly? Share this article on your social accounts. (Make me the bad guy!)

That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to check out our exclusive list of every children's library program in WestchesterIt's been updated for Fall 2018, so everything you need to know is in one easy list.

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See you next time!

Andrea