Winter Car Seat Safety

How do you keep your child bundled up and warm in the car?  Dr. Jessica Long is here to help!

Safely strapped into her carseat with multiple thin layers for warmth.

Tuck a blanket around your child after she is buckled in to add extra warmth without interfering with the safety straps.

One of my favorite things about being a pediatrician is getting to work with new parents as they embark on this wild, crazy, amazing journey of raising a little human.  They often apologize for having so many questions but how could they not? There’s no all-inclusive manual on parenting and, even if there were, no parent would have the free time to read it.  Thankfully my schedule allows me to spend the time parents need to walk themthrough their questions and concerns,andtoassurethem that even as a pediatrician I had many of the same quandaries when I first became a parent.

This time of year one of the big things we talk about is how to keep kids safe and warm in the car. Multiple times a day a baby adorably bundled up in a snowsuit comes into our office looking like the Stay PuftMarshmallowMan. She’s clearly warm and toasty buckled in her car seat, but she’s not safe.  The parents are unaware that there is a better way to keep their baby snug and safe this time of year.

Due to the fluffiness of snowsuits and puffy jackets, it is impossible to get car seat straps tight enough to appropriately buckle your child.  Even when you have tightened the straps as snug as they can go, there is typically still four (!!!) inches of slack.  Though our muscles cannot squish down that extra air in the puffy clothes, the force of a car crash certainly can,and those four inches of slack can be enough to let your child slip out of the harness all together.

The puffy snow suit may be adorable but it leaves too much slack in the car seat straps.

Yikes! Look how loose the car seat straps were with the puffy layer.

Save the snowsuits and puffy jackets for playtime outside or walks in the stroller. When you are buckling your child into the car, multiple thin layers are the way to go.  A long-sleeved shirt with a tight fitting fleece over it, a snug hat, and fleece leggings with pants on top is plenty warm in the car.  You can always add a blanket tucked in all around your little one.  There are also many products on the market that go around your baby or car seat for additional warmth without additional bulkiness.

What about when you’re putting your child in the car for a trip to go play in the snow? I know it’s a pain, but bring the snowsuit with you and put it on your child when you get there. If you dress your child as just described above, she’ll be warm enough for those few minutes. And the inconvenience is worth it to keep your child safe.

While most of these tips address infants, the same applies to bigger kids as well.  A bulky jacket will hinder the tightness and effectiveness of all car seat straps,so plan ahead with tight layers and add a jacket worn backwards (so that the fluffiness does not interfere with the straps) after your child’s buckled in.