Before Caroline was born we went to the Colchester Police Department to have our infant car seat checked to ensure that we had properly installed it. While we were there we were given a lot of information about how to correctly use our car seat.
It was truly unbelievable how many do’s and don’ts there were.
The three things I walked away with were: make sure the straps were buckled tightly and securely against baby, keep her rear facing for as long as possible (at least one year, but two years was better), and that we should never put anything like thick blankets or clothing between baby and the straps.
With the winter in full swing, the temperature dropping and Caroline being an active 10 month old I decided it was important for me to do some research and make sure I had a clear understanding of how to keep Caroline the warmest and safest. Once finding the information it was obvious it was meant to be shared!
What I learned:
Winter coats and snowsuits can compromise your child’s car seat safety. In order for car seats and booster seats to work properly the straps need to remain tight against the child’s chest (remember how tight the nurses made you tighten the straps before letting you leave the hospital?). Thick winter jackets and snowsuits can make car seat safety difficult because they change the way your child fits in the seat causing the straps not to be tightened as closely as they would be if the child wasn’t wearing the jacket. In a car crash all coats and clothing compress, thicker coats and suits will compress more which could allow your child to be ejected from the car seat. This could have deadly consequences. If you think about it this makes a lot of sense. As adults using seatbelts, in a car crash our seat belt locks when we move forward and then tightens as we move backwards. With car seats, the straps don’t lock or tighten, they stay at the same length they were clenched at when the child was first put in the seat.
How to check if your child’s winter coat/attire is too thick:
- Take the car seat into the house.
- Put the winter coat or snowsuit on the child.
- Put the child in the car seat and buckle the harnesses as you normally would before car travel. Adjust the straps to the appropriate fit for your child.
- Take the child out of the car seat without loosening the straps at all.
- Take the coat off your child.
- Put the child back in the car seat and buckle the harnesses again, but do not tighten the straps.
- If you can fit more than two fingers under the harness at the child’s shoulder bone, the coat is too thick and is not safe for use with the car seat.
So how do you keep your child warm?
- For Infants you can put them in their car seat, buckle them, and then tuck a warm blanket around them and on top of the safety straps. You can also put them in a fleece sweatshirt or fleece suit (if it meets the above standards).
- For older children you can take their coats off buckle them into their car seat or booster seat and then put their coat on backwards over the safety straps.
- Preheat the car prior to going out to it, so it is warm when you and your child get into the car and put coats on after you arrive at your destination. Fleece jackets and sweatshirts are great for quick trips from the house into the car, and they are really economical. We have quite a few we use every day that we picked up for $5 each.
For More Car Seat Safety Information:
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Car-Safety-Seats-Information-for-Families.aspx
Vermont Department of Health: http://www.beseatsmart.org/index.php
*Please note that two of the photos in this entry were edited to reflect where the proper placement of the chest strap should be. Thank you to those readers who pointed out that in my haste I had neglected to put them in the right spot. I promise we didn’t drive anywhere that day 🙂