There’s more to know about car seat safety than simply how to buckle your baby in properly. Find out how your baby’s coat may be a safety issue in the wintertime.
In this article:
- Keeping Your Baby Safe and Warm in Their Car Seat
- Why Puffy Coats Pose a Danger to Babies in Car Seats
- Hypothermia: A Coatless Baby Is a Safety Hazard
- Can You Heat the Car Instead to Protect Your Baby from the Cold?
- So, What’s the Best Way to Keep Your Baby Warm in the Car Seat?
Baby Coat and Car Seat Safety 101
Keeping Your Baby Safe and Warm in Their Car Seat
When it comes to your baby’s safety, you probably think about when you baby proofed the house. Maybe you think about how you set up the crib so it’s not a safety hazard during naps.
Or perhaps, you think about how you’re always looking for the safest toys for your baby.
You probably don’t think about a winter coat as a danger. To you, a winter coat is a way to keep your baby warm, comfortable, and protected from the cold.
So, how can putting your baby in a warm coat during the winter actually be dangerous? It turns out, this is a safety issue worth researching a little bit more.
Why Puffy Coats Pose a Danger to Babies in Car Seats
No one wants their child to be cold during the winter. Whether they’re in the car, in their stroller, or being carried from one place to another, a coat is supposed to keep them warm and safe from hypothermia.
So, oftentimes, we think buying the bulkiest coat is the best option. And in some scenarios, a bulky coat may be a fine choice.
Experts don’t say the same for bulky coats and car seats, though. Those puffy coats may be cute, but they decrease your baby’s safety in the infant car seat.
For every bit of puffiness in the coat, that is more space separating your baby from the car seat’s harness.
When you first bought the car seat, you made adjustments to each strap. This way, your baby fits snugly in the car seat.
The straps aren’t so tight as to cause your baby pain. But in the case of an accident, your baby will remain firmly in his/her car seat. He/she won’t flop out or be jolted around too much. The second you put your baby in a puffy coat, the straps on the car seat will need loosening.
Since it is a puffy coat, the baby can still squirm around pretty easily. So, your baby is not as safe and protected in the car seat as he/she was before.
If an accident were to occur, there is no guarantee the baby will not suffer whiplash. The baby may even come out of the car seat due to the extra space.
Hypothermia: A Coatless Baby Is a Safety Hazard
It may seem as though the answer to the problem is to take your baby’s coat off before putting him in the car. Despite what we’ve just learned about puffy coats, this is not the proper solution.
Don’t forget the reason you bought the coat to begin with: to keep your baby warm and protected from cold temperatures and hypothermia. If you take the coat off, he’s susceptible to these hazards once again.
Unlike older children and adults, a baby’s tolerance for cold temperature is much lower. If your baby’s temperature is 97.7 degrees or lower, he may be suffering from hypothermia.
The symptoms of hypothermia in babies include:
- Low energy
- Loss of appetite
- Cold skin
- Low blood sugar
- Low oxygen levels
Depending on how long hypothermia continues, other risk factors include frostbite and decay of tissue.
Hypothermia Definition: This condition occurs when the body is losing heat faster than it can produce heat. Read more about this serious condition here.
Can You Heat the Car Instead to Protect Your Baby from the Cold?
Now, you may be wondering if you can simply heat the car before putting your coatless child in the car seat.
Even if you take time to heat your car before fastening your infant into his/her car seat, this does not ensure your child will not face cold temperatures. You can be in a car accident or another unforeseen circumstance may occur, leaving you and your child at risk.
If you are unable to help your baby, he/she may be exposed to cold temperatures without his/her coat on. With the potential for hypothermia, the risk is not worth it.
So, What’s the Best Way to Keep Your Baby Warm in the Car Seat?
Luckily, there is a solution to both problems. You can keep your child warm in his/her car seat and safely secure.
It simply requires the right kind of infant winter coat and the right type of layers. Before heading out the car, make sure your child is properly dressed!
This can mean adding an extra layer than you would otherwise. Make sure you pick some of the thinner items in your baby’s closet.
This way they don’t add extra bulk or space between your baby and the car seat’s straps.
Next, you need to determine if your infant’s winter coat is safe. Here are some easy steps to follow:
- Put the coat on the baby. Place the baby in the car seat, then adjust the straps accordingly so the baby is secure.
- Remove the baby from the car seat and take off his/her coat. Do not adjust the straps.
- Place the baby back in the car seat without the coat on.
- Tug on the shoulder straps, checking to see if there is any extra space.
No extra slack means the coat is safe for the baby to wear in the car seat. If it was easy to gather the straps and pull them away from the baby, this means the coat is too puffy!
So, what should you look for in a safe winter coat for your infant? Try looking for these features:
- A coat made of fleece – This helps get rid of some of the bulkiness of other coats and also helps keep your baby nice and warm. Other materials like down tend to add too much soft bulk to a coat.
- A coat with multiple materials – The body of the jacket can be made with a material like fleece to reduce bulkiness. The sleeves, on the other hand, can be a bit bulkier as they don’t interfere with the car seat’s harness.
- A coat without a hood – A hood is one element that can really add too much bulk to a car seat.
Keeping these features in mind, the ultimate goal is to find a coat like The Quimby Coat which has multiple layers. Dual-layered coats allow you to keep your child warm in his/her car seat with the less bulky base layer.
When you get out of the car, you can add the second, bulkier layer so your baby is even warmer while out in the cold! Bonus points for a multi-layered coat that is easy to quickly put on.
All the Quimby requires is for you to slip the vest over the base layer. No extra zipping required.
The extra layer can also help protect your baby from hypothermia with its added hood. This is especially important because infants tend to lose heat from areas like the head, hands, and feet.
For more safety tips that parents should know to avoid the risk, watch this video from 41 Action News:
So, while puffy coats may be cute on your baby, remember to always put their safety first. They should fit securely in their car seat even with their winter coat on.
They also need to be warm and protected from hypothermia at all times. Luckily, once you’ve found the perfect coat for your baby, you won’t have to worry about either of these problems.
Are there other car seat safety issue you are concerned with? Let us know in the comments section below!