With the arrival of the winter season, parents are tempted to bundle up their babies as thickly as possible in order to keep them snug and warm. The warmth factor can interfere with the safety factor of the baby car seat. The problem is that this is not the best idea if you are planning to put a baby in a car seat with a five-point harness. The reason is that the harness system then serves to hold the coat in place and not the baby. This defeats the whole safety purpose of the car seat.
Unfortunately, rescue workers and police report seeing empty coats strapped safely into baby car seats. This proves that the impact of a crash can cause a baby to “fly” out of the coat. The fact that bulky winter coats can sabotage your baby’s security in a car is a well known fact and that is why it is often included as an important warning in most manufacturers’ car seat manuals.
Whenever possible, it is best to not have your baby wear a coat at all once placed in their seat. However, coats can be a necessary evil in frigid parts of Canada. Your baby’s winter clothing should never interfere with the proper tightness and position of the clips and harness.
Dressing your baby with only the warmth factor in mind is not being conscientious of the impact on the safety factor of the car seat. To check if your baby’s coat is too bulky, place your baby in a coat and then put them in their seat and tighten the straps as you normally would. Then without loosening the harness straps take your baby out of the seat and remove the coat. Put the baby back in the seat and then look at the gap between your baby’s body and the straps. If you can fit in more than one finger at shoulder bone level, your baby would not have been strapped in securely in the seat with their winter coat on.
One trick is to take off your baby’s coat and put them in the baby seat and tighten the harness and then put the coat on your baby backwards. For colder weather, you should also keep an extra throw or blanket in the car to cover the entire seat with the baby so they don’t get cold. With the use of blankets you also have the option of simply removing or replacing them according to the change of the car’s interior temperatures. Babies in large coats can sometimes become too warm and start to perspire and if taken into cold temperatures immediately they can catch a chill which is undesirable.
Instead of bulky winter coats many parents are opting to dress their babies in thin performance fleece. This is also called polar fleece. It is warm, comfortable and very soft and does not add the kind of bulk that big puffy snowsuits can which would compromise the security of your car seat.
Despite the niftiness of this clothing, the ideal is still to have as much of your baby’s spine meeting the back of the car seat so that the shock of any impact is spread over the entire body and not just a certain point.
Whether your baby is wearing a coat or not, the retainer or chest clip should always be positioned between the nipples and armpits. This ensures that your child does not fly out of the seat. You should also not allow any gaps between the baby’s groin area and the harness.
To warm or not to warm, that is the question. Whether or not your engine needs warming in winter is a discussion for car gurus but for your baby’s safety and comfort it is a preferable choice. Without a remote starter it requires effort but it can make scraping snow easier if you also leave your window defrost on. The best option to keep your loved one warm and safe is to adequately warm up your vehicle, dress them in quality fleece, place a blanket to cover your baby after they are strapped in or flip their warmer thicker coats around. Then they will be “snug as a bug in a rug” and safely secured in their car seat.
Mohammad Bhorat is the owner and operator of Baby Car Seat Installers located in Markham, Ontario. He is a certified Car Seat Installation Technician. Mohammad offers free car seat inspections. Visit www.carseatinstallers.com.