As we head into cooler weather you’re inevitably starting to think about jackets and keeping the kiddos warm. You may be surprised to know that not all jackets are safe to use in a car seat. And improper use of car seats (i.e. putting on a heavy jacket and then strapping in) make them less effective. For those of us with kids in car seats, it’s really important to know which jackets your child can wear in the car seat. It’s actually much trickier to get a safe car seat coat than you’d initially think. Most of those big puffy winter jackets need to be reserved for outdoor use only.
**Note: this image is not my child, and I’d guess that the coat the baby is wearing isn’t car seat safe. I’ll likely update with what a “safe” coat looks like once I take a picture of my daughter in her car seat this winter.
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As if we don’t have enough to learn
Mamma – I feel you. It seems like every time I turned around the first year there was some other horrible hazard I was exposing my baby to. In truth, many of those were probably overblown. Car seat safety isn’t one of those “optional” rules to follow. Along with safe sleep, keeping baby safe in the car is one of the best things you can do as a parent to protect your child. Unfortunately, car seats are more often than not installed improperly, and you can definitely go wrong by bundling up in the winter.
For more information on car seats, check out the carseat lady – she’s awesome! I’m certainly not up to speed on everything car seat related, so I’ll just kindly refer you to someone who is. What I’m going to cover in this post is around winter safety – specifically, safe options for winter jackets you can use in a car seat.
Why can’t I use every jacket?
The best way I can answer this is to let you know that using a big puffy jacket under the car seat straps is essentially the same thing as not pulling the straps tight at all, and just heading out for a ride. A big puffy jacket puts space between the seat belts and your child. Even if you pull the straps tight, there is a lot of space between your child and the strap due to the heavy jacket. In the event of an accident, it’s like the straps aren’t tight at all.
Although your straps feel tight on the jacket, they won’t keep your child in place. Your baby can actually go flying out of the car seat. If you’re into terrifying yourself, you can check out a simulated 30 mph crash with a baby wearing a puffy jacket. If you’re not, you can just trust me when I say that even if the straps feel tight, they aren’t. The worst offenders are the big puffy down jackets, but any jacket that takes up additional space between your baby and the car seat puts her in danger. This includes “approved” jackets that are too large.
Ok, but it’s winter. And cold.
Fear not, this doesn’t mean you have to freeze your kid out in the winter. There are a few different options you can use to keep your child warm in the car while still keeping her safe.
A car seat poncho eliminates the need to use something under the car seat straps. It fits over the head just like a hooded jacket, but goes on top of the straps versus inside. Since it’s over the straps, you can buy a version that’s as thick as you’d like!
Thin fleece coats or suits
We used Columbia fleece buntings and jackets during the first two winters and loved both options. The snowtop II bunting was great when she was super tiny since I didn’t want her legs to get too cold and the Benton Springs fleece worked well for an entire winter when she wasn’t outside much. The Steens Mt. II version is for boys!
The carseat lady recommends The Road Coat which is an actual winter jacket for use up to -25 degrees Fahrenheit — AND is safe for the car. They definitely aren’t cheap, but if you’re buying your kid a North Face or Patagonia jacket anyway, this is a much better option for car seat safety!
Heavy blanket or a Pookie Poncho
One of the best options is to just skip the jacket altogether. If you can keep your kiddo bundled up with a heavy blanket over the straps, that works! When our little lady was an infant we tried the pookie poncho.
Products from Amazon.com
Price: Out of stock
It was SUPER warm and we loved it for the infant car seat. However, it says it fits over a convertible car seat and strollers as well, and we couldn’t ever figure that out. If you live in a really cold climate and/or will be commuting outside a lot, this is definitely a good option. It’s not cheap, but definitely worth the price, if you’ll get use out of it.
How to stay car seat safe
Never put a puffy coat on and strap your child in the car seat. The best option is to use a poncho or blanket and not put on a coat at all. However, I know that isn’t really feasible for most of us, so I use a thin fleece in the car seat and a blanket on top when it’s really cold. No matter how tempting, even if it’s just for a short ride, don’t strap them in with the fluffy down jacket. Over 50% of accidents happen within five miles of the home*. It’s just not worth the risk. It’s very easy to tell if the jacket you’ve chosen is safe to use in the car seat.
Put on the jacket and strap your child in.
WITHOUT loosening the straps, take off the jacket and put your child back in.
If the straps are still snug, your child can wear the jacket in the car seat.
If the straps are loose and dangling once you’ve removed the jacket, it’s too big to wear under the straps.
You can easily keep your child safe if you know what kind of jackets to avoid, so take a few extra minutes and make sure you’re using a jacket that is thin enough for the car seat. Or better yet, skip the jacket and use another option this winter!
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