I didn’t even know I was guilty until recently. You’re probably guilty too and don’t even know you’re doing anything wrong.
What am I guilty of? I’m glad you asked. I’m guilty of improperly using a car seat with a winter coat. And I’ve been doing it for years; how bad is that? Children are not safe in car seats while wearing their winter coats. They just aren’t. There are other ways to keep your kiddos warm and safe and my good friend Maddie showed me how and also why it’s not safe for your children to wear winter coats in their car seats. Maddie is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (as well as a great mommy!) and she posted these pictures on Facebook as a demonstration. Maddie has given me permission to share them with you. These are her pics, as well as her comments on them.
Maddie used her cute (then 4 year old) son for this demonstration.
Winter coats in car seats are NOT SAFE! Here are some tips to keep your child warm AND safe this winter.
This goes for passengers in boosters or seat belts as well. The coat will compress and leave the seat belt too loose. For infant seats, do not use bulky snow suits or a Bundle Me. Instead, use a “shower cap” style car seat cover that fits over their infant seat. (Something like this: http://amzn.to/9sJeH9 )
*PLEASE feel free to share this album! I made it public so people can repost it
I’ve been getting lots of messages so I thought I’d post this here- I am a certified CPST. (Child Passenger Safety Technician). I live in Minnesota where the winters are brutal, and my kids don’t freeze.
I put his winter coat on and buckled him in. I tightened it as far as I could. He looks safe, right? He’s not- click the next pic to see why!
I took the coat off and put him back in without loosening the straps at all. (If you doubt me, give it a try!) In a crash, that bulky winter coat will compress, leaving the harness much too loose to protect him. The huge force from his body will push the chest clip down, if not break it. You would never buckle your child in like this, right?
If he can easily do this, imagine what would happen in a crash.
His shoulders easily slip out. He has no upper body protection, and nothing to hold him in his seat.
To keep your child safe, first put them in their car seat with no coat on and adjust the straps properly. (harness snug and not twisted, chest clip at armpit level, straps at or above shoulders for forward facing/straps at or below shoulders for rear facing).
Make sure you can’t pinch the straps at their collar bone. If it passes the “pinch test”, it’s tight enough. (don’t make it so tight they can’t breath, just nice and snug)
Safe Option 1 – Fleece!
I didn’t have to loosen his straps at all, and he’s warm. Fleece will not compress in a crash, so his harness is tight and he is safe. In addition to a hat and mittens, and maybe a blanket for their lap, this will keep them plenty warm! Promise.
Safe Option 2 – The Coat Trick
Put them in their seat with no coat on and tighten the straps properly. Unbuckle them (without loosening the harness!) and put their coat on. Pull the sides of the coat through the harness so the straps sit on your child, not on their coat.
Then buckle them in properly (harness snug and not twisted, chest clip at armpit level..) The harness is tight without the bulk of the coat between him and the straps. Once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t take any extra time to get their coat through the harness with their arms.
You can zip the coat *outside* of the harness and keep them warm AND safe!
I’ve gotten some messages from people who are concerned about trying to unzip the coat in an emergency. You absolutely do not have to zip the coat if you’re not comfortable with it. It’s always the caregiver’s decision. However, if you are in a crash, you should leave the child buckled into their car seat and remove it from the vehicle. This will keep them still in case of head/neck/spine injuries, so the zipped coat won’t matter.
You could also put their coat on backwards after they are buckled, or look into something like a car seat poncho.
Thanks Maddie for sharing your little guy and your car seat knowledge with us! I hope this post will help keep kiddos safe this winter. If you have questions about this or any other aspect of car seat safety, stop by and visit the Car Seat Safety board on JustMommies. Maddie and others CPST’s and car seat safety advocates will share their vast car seat knowledge with you.