Now that the weather is changing, you might be wondering how to keep your child warm in the car without puffy coats or aftermarket inserts. Here are some winter car seat tips so you can keep everyone safe this season!
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Keep the seat warm
If you have an infant seat, bring it inside the house with you to keep the seat warm. When you put a warm baby into a cold seat, it transfers the baby’s warmth to the seat. If you don’t have an infant seat, you can prestart your vehicle so the seat has time to warm up before you load your child in.
Dress in Layers
Putting multiple layers on is perfect for car seat safety. If you are going out for a snow day, you don’t want to put your baby in the car seat with a snowsuit on. Not only will this get too toasty once the car heats up, but bulky clothing is very dangerous in an accident. Dress them in leggings, long-sleeved onesies, then add pants and a warmer top like a fleece sweater. You can then put the snowsuit on once you get to your destination. Babies typically need one extra layer than adults, so you can dress them in the same amount of clothing and place a warm blanket over them.
Make sure the straps are tight
Once you add more layers to your child’s outfit, the tightness of the straps can be deceiving. A good rule of thumb is to try and pinch the harness. If you can pinch the harness up by baby’s shoulder, the straps are too loose.
Nothing between baby and the seat
Any car-seat inserts, liners, or blankets that come between your child and the car seat are not safe to use. Manufacturers do not have to get any sort of permission to market towards using in the car seat. You should not have to loosen the straps for anything, any blanket or car seat cover should be made to go over the baby after they are strapped into the car seat.
Safe ways to keep your child warm
This is a great alternative to blankets since they can’t be kicked off. Just make sure to adjust the car seat harness under the poncho so it doesn’t interfere.
Put your child in the carseat without the coat on and then just slide the coat on backwards. This allows them to move their arms around or take the jacket off if they get too hot.
This method only works with booster seats and a seat belt. Just unzip the jacket, put the seatbelt on, and then zip the jacket up over the seatbelt. This allows for the seatbelt to be positioned correctly without a puffy jacket getting in the way.
Fleece is a great cold-weather option for when you are getting in and out of the car often. It is thin enough to not have to remove before buckling your child in, but will keep them toasty warm. You can keep a waterproof jacket in the car if it is raining or snowing and just put it on the child before they get out of the car.
Blankets, hats, and gloves
These are always great to have in addition to the above options. I always keep extra blankets, hats, and gloves in the car just in case. It is easy to remove them one at a time if your child starts to get a little toasty and they are perfect for layering.
The Noogle helps transport the hot or cold air from the vent to the back seat. This is perfect for vehicles that do not have ceiling vents throughout the vehicle. If you go out to prestart the car, you can just place the other end near your child’s car seat to help warm it up.
How do you know if a coat is too thick?
If you are concerned about the thickness of a coat, Car Seats for the Littles (CSFTL) has a great suggestions for checking.
- Without a coat on, secure your child in their car seat. Tighten the harness as usual so no webbing can be pinched at the collarbone.
- Remove the child from the car seat without adjusting the harness.
- Put the child’s coat on, then try to buckle them back into the car seat.
Just remember that “properly fitting fleece jackets or sweatshirts do add a bit of bulk to the child’s body and will often require a little harness adjustment. The key here is harness length that remains appropriate to the child’s compressed clothing, compared to ‘dangerous amount of extra slack intro the harness via an uncompressed puffy jacket.’
In many cases, you’ll see that coats introduce a potentially dangerous amount of slack to the harness. The pinch test can determine how much slack is acceptable.”
You can also try putting your child in the car seat with the coat on. Without adjusting the straps, remove your child, take off the coat, and put them back into the car seat. Would you feel safe with them riding in the car seat like this? Coats compress with impact, and it makes it easier for babies to fly out of restraints.
Aftermarket Add-on Items
Car seat liners and weatherproofing
Opt for products that are a “shower cap” style. You want covers that just go on the outside of the car seat and do not interfere with the straps. Anything that goes between your baby and the car seat is not considered safe. Fore more information, you can check out the post by Car Seats for the Littles.
You can see that this insert goes between baby and the car seat:
This model just goes around the outside of the car seat to prevent wind chill, it doesn’t interfere with the harness.
Most aftermarket head supports and infant inserts have not been crash tested and are not rated to go into the car seat. Unfortunately, stores are lined with products like this and there is no regulation on them. Just because you can purchase it, doesn’t make it safe. Instead, try rolling up swaddle blankets and stuffing them into the car seat AFTER baby is latched in.
There are so many different options to keep your family safe and warm this winter. Like most of parenting, what works well for one family may not work for another. Try out different methods and see which way you prefer!
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Healthychildren.org “Winter Car Seat Safety Tips from the AAP”: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Winter-Car-Seat-Safety-Tips.aspx
Car Seats for the Littles “Non-Regulated Products for Car Seats”: https://csftl.org/non-regulated-products/
Car Seats for the Littles “Hello Winter, Goodbye Coats!”: https://csftl.org/hello-winter-good-bye-coats/