Here’s Why Putting a Winter Coat on a Baby Before Putting Them in a Car Seat is So Dangerous

You know what goes together like sardines and cupcakes? Car seats and puffy coats. Fall is here and winter is coming, so let’s talk about why this combo isn’t ideal for riding in the cold.

We’re used to bundling up for cold weather when stepping outside and into our cars, but car seat safety experts are warning parents to do otherwise. While some of you may already experience difficulty when buckling the kiddos up in bulky outerwear, there’s also a safety concern.

The American Academy of Pediatrics cites the fact that winter coats create too much slack under the car seat’s harness. It feels snug when you strap them in, but there’s actually a gap between your child’s body and the harness that’s buffered by the coat. The puffier the coat, the higher the risk.

Where’s the danger? The harness is essentially loose. If you get into an accident, the coat compresses, leaving your child vulnerable to loose safety restraints and therefore injury. The video below demonstrates how to tell if the straps are secure on your child.

Normally, when you do the pinch test, you should NOT be able to grab a hold of the strap’s webbing. No pinch would indicate your little one is snapped in securely. But the car seat safety expert in this clip recommends double-checking without the coat. Look for yourself to see how much slack is in between the baby and the harness!

You can check your own child’s seat. Harness your child in without the coat. Do the pinch test to see if it’s loose; you’ll have strap in your fingers. If it is loose, that tells you that the coat was the protection, not the straps. Your child could slide out during impact or suffer from strap-related injuries.

Watch the video to learn how to correct the slack and properly secure your child into the car seat. If you’re worried about putting a coatless baby into the car, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a few different suggestions to keep warm:

  • Warm up the car and dress your child in thin layers for riding or use a fleece jacket. Bring the puffer coat along and put it on before exiting your car.
  • Buy a coat-friendly car seat.
  • Place the coat over your child like a blanket once she’s strapped in properly.
  • Snap your kid into the seat and then put the coat on backwards, over the safety harness, and slip their hands through the armholes.
  • Keep an emergency kit in your car that has blankets, winter clothing, snacks, and water.

It’s up to your family to choose what works best for your commutes. We know it seems like one more thing to worry about when you hit the road, but safety comes first. Kids can still stay warm! If in doubt, you can visit your local fire department or other professional for a car seat inspection.

Did you know about winter coats and car seat safety? Have you been using one of these guidelines for your kids in the winter?