Thursday, October 3, 2013

Car seat safety in the winter

Before I had a baby I thought it was the cutest thing to see babies and toddlers bundled up in their car seats with thick puffy jackets. I thought they looked like cute mini Michelin babies. Little did I know how unsafe it was to place young children in the car seat with such jackets on . I know you are probably thinking “huh”? Every time I mention this to people they roll their eyes and call me paranoid. Surely since everyone has always done it,  it can’t be unsafe Right? Wrong.  Think of it this way, when I was a child I never even once sat in an infant/toddler car seat, I don’t think I regularly wore a seat belt, in fact I clearly remember riding in the trunk of a station wagon a few times! There was no law against it at the time and  I survived it but that doesn’t mean it was a safe practice.  The same principle applies with many other baby practices, just because it has been done by parents for years doesn’t make it safe.

The issue with bulky jackets is this; when a thick winter jacket is worn inside the car seat, the straps of the seat need to be loosened to accommodate the extra bulk of the jacket. In addition the straps are not able to be properly positioned on the shoulders and chest of the child because the bulky jacket is in the way. Even though you might tighten the straps over the jacket it is still not holding the child correctly. In the event of a sudden stop or collision the thick jacket will compress and suddenly there will be all this extra space between the child and the straps,  allowing the child to either slip free from the car seat or to sustain more serious injury and trauma because the straps were unable hold the child tight enough to the seat. Most people think the whole purpose of the car seat straps is to keep the child in the seat, whilst that is the primary purpose. The straps are also to minimize how badly the child would be jolted, shaken or thrown forward within the seat in the event of a sudden stop or collision.  If the straps are too loose they won't be able to function properly. 

When I first heard about this, I tried to ignore it because it seemed 100% impractical to NOT put my infant in a jacket in the winter but the more I learnt about it, I knew I had to listen up and figure out another way. Firstly I learnt that light weight fleece and micro fleece jackets and hoodies like the ones shown below were considered safe for the car seat and that I could always put a blanket or jacket on her once she was already strapped into the seat.

Fleece & microfleece hoodies and jackets 
that are safe to be worn inside the car seat

On the other hand winter coats, thick jackets, buntings or snow suits with padding like the ones shown below are are not safe to be worn inside the car seat

Bulky winter coats and snow suits, unsafe for the car seat

So last winter when my daughter was still in her infant seat, I would put her in a fleece hoodie and then strap her into the car seat. Once she was strapped in, I would put her jacket over her arms and throw a thick blanket over her. At one point I used the JJ Cole Shower cap style carseat cover as well.
Once we stopped using the infant car seat and switched to the convertible seat it got a little trickier. The infant seat was much more convenient because I could detach it from the base and bring the seat into our home. This allowed me to strap her into the seat and get her all bundled up within the warmth of our home before taking her outside into the car. The convertible seat on the other hand stays inside the car , so it became a bit more confusing to figure out how to keep her warm without putting her into the car seat with her jacket on. This was how we survived her first winter.

  • ·         First I would dress her as normal with her thick jacket and fleece hoodie underneath.
  • ·         Then  I would carry her into the car and turn the engine on and turn on the heat.
  • ·         Next I would remove her outer jacket, place her in the car seat and strap her in.
  • ·         Then I would drape the jacket over her, and add a blanket if necessary

So this way she was warm in the car seat but there were no thick bulky layers between her body and the car seat harness.Yes it was slightly tedious having to keep taking her jacket off when we got to the car and then putting it back on once we arrived at our destination. But spending an extra couple of minutes is a sacrifice I was totally willing to make to ensure my daughter's safety and I will repeating that process again this winter! 


  1. Makes sense! Just because something is regularly done does not mean it is right

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