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Snowsuits and car seat safety

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When the cold weather arrives jackets and snowsuits are once again daily attire many parents start to question, what is the proper clothing for my child when strapped in a car seat?

 The biggest concern with warm clothing and car seats is, of course, the tightness of the straps and the possibility of ejection from the car seat in the event of a collision. All car seats straps should fit snugly to your child’s body and lofty winter clothing can change how a child is secured in their car seat.  When dressing a child in lofty, insulated jackets or suits, the insulation can add up to four inches of slack (depending on the garment)! Four inches is a lot when you are talking seat belt safety (think of a dog being walked on a collar four inches to big!).

 We want our children to be warm and comfortable but know we cannot sacrifice safety. So, what do we do?

 Dress in layers: Each layer a person wears adds a layer of airspace around the body, effectively trapping and holding body heat. Layering from their tiny onesie and leggings, to a sweater and fleece pants, to a warm fleece and heavier trousers paired with a hat, warm socks, and booties, is a sure bet. One of our favorite pieces to finish off a layering system for infants and toddlers is a one piece fleece bunting bag. Fleece is fairly low bulk, and when layered on top of their daily winter clothing, the one piece design can pack more heat! Plus, they are cute as a button.  Just make sure they fit well!

 Remove Insulated items when being strapped in: If you child needs to wear loftier outerwear i.e. spending a lot of time outdoors, or is an older child still needing a car seat, removing insulated jackets before being strapped in can help. If you want to keep your kid cozy while the car warms up, turn it around and put it on backwards to keep their chest and arms covered.

 Remove other bulky items: Make sure there are no blankets taking up space behind the child or tucked under strapping. The child should fit snugly into their seat with nothing between their body and straps besides their clothing/layers. If you want to add a blanket tuck it around your child OVER the straps.

 Keep Carriers Inside: If at all possible, during colder months keep your child’s car seat indoors to keep it warm.  This way they are not encased in a cold seat on the way to daycare at 8am!

 Test if your lofty item is suitable for a car seat: If you want to test how tight your child’s straps are when wearing their winter clothing and determine it is suitable for the car seat, you can conduct this little experiment. You can do this inside of course, where it is warm J

 Test your child’s insulated pieces!

 Step 1: Dress your child in their winter gear and strap them into their car seat. Once the straps are snug and tightened to your satisfaction, remove the child from the seat WITHOUT loosening the straps and buckles. 

Step 2: Take off their winter clothing and put them back in the seat. Buckle the straps with no adjustment and observe how much space is between their body and the straps. If you can buckle the straps and slide any buckles to the appropriate position and the straps are snug, the jacket is suitable for the car seat. If the straps are not snug, the jacket is not suitable for the car seat. Basically, the straps should be just as tight with, or without the insulated jacket! 

When a child is strapped in a car seat, you should be able to only fit a finger under the strap at the collar bone. Two fingers can be too much. The key is to find what works best; after all, we do need to keep our little ones warm. Instead try to avoid purchasing suites that a child will “grow into” as this can increase bulk. Go with clothing and outerwear that fits well and check any items you feel are overly lofty with the strap test. If you feel your child’s jacket is to bulky for their car seat but you need the warmth it offers, remove the jacket and strap your child into their car seat before putting the garment back on for warmth.


 YouTube Informational videos from The Car Seat Lady:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnBqWuhc6kE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkrfELyO6OQ

Sources:

 “Keep kid’s warm and safe in a car seat”, The Car Seat Lady (blog), Tips & Tricks, accessed September 10, 2019 https://thecarseatlady.com/warmandsafe/  

Heather Corley, “Winter coats and car seat safety”, Very Well Family, July 10, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2019 https://www.verywellfamily.com/winter-coats-car-seats-safety-check-293703 ,