(most) Coats & Car Seats are NOT a safe combo – learn how to keep kids WARM & SAFE)

Does winter time in your car ever look like this?  

These girls are NOT safe in their car seats due to bulky winter coats

Have you ever struggled to just get the harness buckled when your child is wearing a coat?  Notice how the girl on the left doesn’t even have the buckle between her legs fastened as there wasn’t enough room in the straps with the bulky coat on.  The problem is that in a crash the plastic chest clip is designed to open under certain circumstances – so if you haven’t fastened the straps between the child’s legs, they will come out of the seat!  Do you notice the straps sliding off the child’s shoulders with their coats on?  Do you notice that when you take the coats off the straps seem very, very loose?

Would you wear a bulky coat under your parachute harness?

Wondering what parachutes have to do with car seats??? The whole idea of the car seat is to act as your child’s parachute in a crash.  30mph feels the same to the body as if you jumped from a 3rd story window and landed on the pavement!  You would be absolutely crazy to jump – but if you had to, a parachute would give you the slowest, gentlest landing. You can give your child a parachute landing – by making the straps snug to the child’s body and the seat tight to the car.  If the straps are loose to the body or the seat is loose to the car, the child still has to come to a stop, but it becomes a much more jolting stop – like landing on your feet – and that is what hurts in a crash.  

If you were about to jump out of a plane with a parachute harness, you wouldn’t wear anything fluffy between you and your parachute harness as you would be afraid that the harness wouldn’t hold you tight.  The same thing goes for your child in their car seat – you don’t want to put anything bulky like coats, snowsuits, buntings, fleece sleeping bags, body supports, strap covers, etc between the back of the car seat and the harness straps – as the straps won’t be snug to the child’s actual body.

Here’s how to keep your kids WARM & SAFE in the car in winter
Dress the child for about 50-60 degree weather UNDER the straps (2-3 thin, tight layers)

Step 1: Dress the child in thin, tight layers under their winter coat – dress them as if it was 50-60 degree weather.  For example, under their winter coat they should wear an undershirt, long sleeve shirt, and sweater.

Step 2: Take the child to the car with their coat unzipped – have them take off their coat when they get to the car.  Quickly buckle the child and get the straps snug withOUT the coat on (remember to pull firmly up on the shoulder straps to get all the slack out of the legs/stomach area, then pull firmly on the tail to tighten the straps).

Step 3: Have them stick out their arms and put the coat on backwards.  The best part about this is not only are they safer, but they also won’t overheat as the car gets warmer as they can pull their coat off when they get hot.

Some coats are SAFE for the car seat

Some coats are thin enough That they don’t interfere with the snugness of the straps – and are therefore safe for the car seat.  Want to know if your child’s coat is safe for the car?  Buckle your child into their car seat with their coat on & get the straps snug.  Take the child out of the car seat, remove their coat, and rebuckle the child into the straps.  Firmly pull upwards on the shoulder straps – you should notice no slack coming up, and only enough room for one finger to fit between the child’s collar bone and the strap – if the straps are looser than this, then the coat is not safe for the car.

These down jackets are perfect for under the car seat as they are VERY thin and compressible (from the picture you can’t tell how thin they really are).  Stock up now for next winter (they’re on sale now!)…
Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket
REI Down Jacket

Here is a trick to use even with thin coats to get the straps closer to the child’s body AND allow the child to cool off as the car warms up.  With the coat unzipped, buckle and snug up the straps against the child’s body.  Then, zip the coat OVER the straps.  When the car warms up, the child can unzip their coat to cool off.

The thin (Patagonia Sweater) coat is unzipped & the straps are buckled and snug against the child's body

With the straps buckled & snug, the coat is zipped OVER the straps

Car Seat Ponchos: A great ALTERNATIVE to coats

1-year-old wearing Car Seat Poncho

There are also several varieties of thick fleece ponchos that the child can wear in the car seat – all of these become like a warm, hooded blanket that the child can’t kick off.  They are typically for kids from 6 months to 3 years of age.  They are also nice in that when you take the child out of the car seat you can snuggle them in the poncho blanket so they aren’t cold when going through the supermarket parking lot or to your front door,  or wherever you may be running errands.  Note: there are other ponchos being sold that have drawstrings at the hood/neck area – we do NOT recommend these as drawstrings pose a risk of strangulation.

3 Responses to “(most) Coats & Car Seats are NOT a safe combo – learn how to keep kids WARM & SAFE)”
  1. Robin says:

    Thanks so much for this. My daughter is almost 6 months and I’ve been scratching my head over this very thing for a month or so. Quick question: how do you feel about the fuzzy infant seat liners? We have a Bundle Me that Lily just loves. Most of the time, she’s just in a hoodie and a hat, tucked inside her Bundle Me. I feel like it’s way better than a bulky coat, but I’d be curious to know your thought.

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