This is an article I always put out as we approach the cooler weather. I look back and see the mistakes I made while trying to keep my winter babies warm, I’m hoping that anyone who isn’t sure about winter car seat safety will enjoy this read.
When I had my winter baby, she was born in February, my biggest concern was how I would keep her warm running to and from errands. I searched for the warmest car seat products and spent way too much money on what I thought was the coziest car seat cover. Now, 11 years later I know what I chose was not the safest choice for baby. Luckily we didn’t get into an accident and she was safe, but I can’t help but think of what could’ve happened, simply because I just didn’t know the difference.
It’s very frustrating being bombarded with what we think are safe options to use with our children. This doesn’t just apply to car seat safety but really everything we see we think “it must be safe if it’s that expensive and it’s advertised here or there”, unfortunately though this is not always true.
In the case of winterizing baby’s car seat, there are some very important factors to consider. Please read on to familiarize yourself with the best ways to keep baby safe and warm this winter as well as ideas of what to avoid. Side note - with my last baby I did know the proper way to keep baby safe in the car and I often got comments about him not being warm enough with blankets, don’t worry you will most likely get these comments also, just rest assured that if baby is bundled over their straps they are warm AND safe.
Strap then wrap! Remember this slogan and live by it this winter. Although it’s cold out, there are ways to keep your child warm without bulking them up under the straps of their seat, safety is most important.
- Keep the bucket seat in the house when not in use to keep it warm, start your car a few minutes before getting in with your child.
- Give yourself extra time to get out of the house. Warm up the car, get the kids in the seats and then bundle them up. You also have to account for putting coats back on when you get to your destination (if baby is coming out of the bucket seat). Providing yourself with extra time will take away some of the stress of rushing to make timelines.
- Layering. Start with tight layers on the bottom like long underwear and tights and long-sleeved body suits, add then pants and long sleeve and you can also add a light fleece coat under the car seat straps. Because these layers are thin and tight to their body, this isn’t too bulky and does allow for the straps to tighten properly. If it’s very cold you can cover them up with a receiving blanket and then fleece blanket, or use their coat by placing it over them backwards, but only after you’ve strapped and tightened them in their seat.
- Don’t forget boots, mitts and hats. These extras will help to keep their extremities warm and will not interfere with the car seat strap.
- 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. The best way to make sure your child’s harness is adjusted correctly year-round is the pinch test. First, remove bulky clothing and blankets. Make sure the harness straps are adjusted to the correct height — they should be at or below the child’s shoulders when the child rides rear-facing, and at or above the child’s shoulders when facing forward. Buckle and tighten the harness straps, and place the chest clip at armpit level. Now pinch the strap at your child’s shoulder. If you are unable to pinch any excess webbing, the straps are snug and you can be on your way.
- If you are unsure if a sweater is too bulky try this test. Put them in their seat with their bulky winter coat/sweater and tighten them in properly. Then remove them, put them back in their car seat, and if you can’t pinch any strap this is the right sweater to wear in the car seat. If you can pinch any excess strap you will see how easily they can ride up in the seat in the event of a crash.
- Car seat covers: “Use a car seat cover ONLY if it does not have a layer under the baby.” The research I have found shows that there shouldn’t be a layer of material between child and the car seat as this extra material doesn’t allow for your child to be properly tightened in their seat. Search all the options before choosing a car seat cover if this is something you really want to use with your baby.
- A lot of these tips are still true for children in five point harness car seats and booster seats. You still want your child to be wearing light layers so that they are secure and tight in their car seat.
- If you have bought a car seat cover that is too bulky once you check with the pinch test, you can still use it with strollers on walks. I found this a comfort after having already spent the money.
There are videos you can watch to give yourself an idea of how easily children can actually slip out of the car seat if they are wearing bulky clothing. This visual is what has really made me passionate about spreading the word about winter car seat safety. Let’s keep our kids safe and warm this winter!
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