Beyond the Car Seat Minimums - Alabama

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Car Seat Winter Safety "Baby, it's COLD outside!"

Posted by beyondthecarseatminimums_alabama on December 31, 2014 at 3:40 PM

It's that time of the year! Time to light the fires, pull out the thick quilts, and curl up on the couch to sip your hot chocolate!

 

Most people also think it's time to bundle up the kids and loosen the car seat straps to accommodate their winter clothing. Unfortunately, this is not safe!
We're here to look at the dangers of winter wear in car seats,
and all the SAFE alternatives that parents can do!


What are the Dangers?

 

Most parents believe that as long as they adjust the tightness of the harness straps, their child is safe wearing a thick coat in their restraint.

 

Here we see Johannah wearing a close fitting, thick coat in her car seat. The straps are tightened enough to pass the Pinch Test, and by those standards, are safe and secure.

 

During an accident, crash forces are put on the harness and child. These forces continue to compress the coat, more than any parent can replicate beforehand. Therefore, the straps react as if the coat isn't there at all, and the harness is completely loose on the child.
(Imagine the coat in a space-saver bag. A parent can put the coat in the bag and remove a lot of the bulk with just their hands. It's not until you use the vacuum hose, that you can see the difference in compression, just like the compression that will take place during an accident.)

If we remove Johannah's coat without adjusting the harness straps at all, we can see how loose her straps really were. This is how they would react in an accident, which could lead to ejection and/or serious injury.


This compression can happen with coats, snowsuits, and bundle bags. The rule of thumb is to not use any extra "fluff or puff" in your seat that goes behind the child, or in between the child and harness other than their regular fitting clothing.


What do the Car Seat Manufacturers Say?

Look in your child restraint manual. Somewhere in the warnings section, you'll probably find a note about bulky clothing. Here's the warning that is in the Evenflo Maestro Car Seat Manual.



How Do I Know if my Child's Coat is Safe for Use in Their Seat?

The easiest way to know if a coat or snowsuit is safe for car seat use is to test it out just like we did with Johannah. Put the child in their seat with their coat on, and adjust IT SECURELY. Unbuckle the harness WITHOUT loosening the straps, and re-buckle without the coat on. If the harness is still snug and passes the Pinch Test, then that coat is safe to wear in the seat. If the harness is too loose, skip that coat. (An alternative test is to buckle the child without the coat on, and without adjusting the harness at all, try to re-buckle it with the coat on. If you can still buckle it, you're good to go! If it's too tight and unable to buckle with the coat underneath, that coat is a no-go.)



ALTERNATIVES

There are a lot of ways to keep your children warm AND safe in their seats!
Here are some of our favorites!


Flip it Around

One of the quickest and easiest solutions is to turn the child's coat around backwards once they are buckled in their seat! If your child is older, like the boy in this picture provided by our friends at the Super Car Seat Geek, it's easy for them to learn to take their coat off when they get to the car, get buckled, and then allow you to help them put the coat on again. You don't have to worry about taking anything extra with you, and their coat is right there when they're ready to hop out of the car.



Blankets 

No, really- just blankets! So many people ignore this easy option! It's especially convenient if you're still using an infant car seat. You can buckle the baby securely, and then tuck in the warmth with blankets before you even step outside the house.



Infant Seat Covers

If you're worried that your little bundle will kick off their bundle of blankets, there are a few safe options of covers for your infant carriers. The key is to find one that only goes over the TOP of the carrier, and not a bundle bag that goes behind the baby as well. Something like a "Cozy Cover" is what we refer to as a "shower cap style" cover. The elastic edge pops over the outside of the seat quickly, and doesn't interfere with the harness. It's easy to tuck blankets around the baby first, and know that they won't get kicked off.


There are also some infant covers that attach to the handle of the car seat and drape down like a blanket. These are great for blocking the wind while going to and from the car on those really blustery days!

(Please note that this little baby was just modeling for us, and the child would need to be securely buckled before heading out to the vehicle!)



Snuggies 

To me, the only thing more annoying than SpongeBob is listening to Snuggie commercials. BUT, that doesn't mean I knock the SpongeBob Snuggie sitting in my backseat!
Snuggies are great for bigger kids who want their hands free, while keeping the rest of them warm!


And, YES! The no-coat rule should be followed by kids in boosters, and adults in just seat belts! To properly restrain you, the seat belt needs to sit snugly against your body. If you add extra "fluff and puff" that needs to compress first, your body will move a lot more before the seat belt can stop you!


Fleece 

Fleece is a fabulous little material that is super thin while still being super warm! Most kids can wear a single layer fleece coat over their clothes without having to adjust the tightness of the harness on their seats. Combining it with mittens, hats, and any additional blankets makes for a toasty warm ride! It's also warm enough that it's easy to wear when walking to-and-from the car without getting cold.



Car Seat Poncho

Since fleece is so warm, it makes fabulous ponchos! It's easy to buckle the child securely and have the poncho drape around them like a big cozy blanket! If you're feeling the least bit crafty, there are many tutorials online for making your own poncho. There are even no-sew versions, like this one pictured.


A perk of having the poncho is that it's easy to wear to and from the car, and set the child in the seat without having to take it off. Just move some of the fabric to the side while you buckle the harness, and then lay it flat! The back of the poncho goes up the back of the car seat, so there's no fabric between the child and the seat.


Categories: Proper Use

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45 Comments

Reply kelly frazier
8:33 AM on January 1, 2015 
hope I win this for my son he will be 3 in feb he wont keep a hat on and I don't like any other material clothes under his straps other then the shirt hes wearing
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