When the temperatures drop, we start to bundle our kiddos up against the cold weather. Snow bibs and suits, heavy or puffy coats, and hats and mittens become part of the regular rotation. It's important to keep them nice and warm, but with all those extra layers, a lot of parents tend to forget about car seat safety. Around this time of year, we start to see one major car seat error happen, and it can have disastrous consequences.
The walk from the house to the car may be short, but in a lot of areas, it's way too cold to make that short trip without some warm layers! However, kids should never be buckled into their car seats while wearing heavy layers or puffy outerwear.
It's a very common mistake that a lot of parents make, but luckily, it's a very easy fix!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that bulky or puffy coats and clothing items not be worn under a car seat harness. The problem is, these items create space between the harness and the child. In the event of a collision, the force will flatten out the items, and a child can slip through or be thrown from a now-loose harness. As a general rule for testing harness tightness, you should not be able to pinch the strap fabric between your fingers at the child's collarbone (your fingers should slide off the strap).
Here are some tips for keeping your kiddos safe AND warm in their car seats this winter:
- Keep infant seats inside the house when not in use. This keeps the seat warm when not in use.
- Dress your baby in thin layers for the ride. Tights, leggings, and long-sleeved body suits work great. You can layer long-sleeve shirts and pants over those, and place a thin fleece jacket over that. Babies usually need one more layer than adults.
- Don't forget hats, mittens, and socks or booties. These can be great at keeping body heat in!
- Check the straps, and tighten the straps of the car seat harness if necessary. Remember, 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.
- Place a coat or blanket over the straps. Keep a warm blanket in the car to tuck in around your child once they're strapped in. This can actually be a better option, since you can always remove the blanket once they warm up, instead of having to stop and remove some of their layers.
- Use a car seat cover ONLY if it does not have a layer under the baby. There are lots of car seat covers on the market, but just because you can buy it, doesn't mean it's safe! Make sure the cover you choose does not have a layer under the baby's body, only over it.