As we head into winter weather, keeping your child warm while traveling is a seemingly-mindless task involving adorable jackets, coats, snowsuits, and sleeping bags.
No fuss, no muss, right? If these products are sold in stores — slots for the car seat buckle to pass through and all — they must be safe to dress our children in.
The only problem is, they aren’t.
Here are six items you need to keep away from your child and his car seat as the weather gets cooler:
1. Winter Coats
It may be freezing outside, but you must avoid dressing your child in a winter coat when you’re out and about. Excess fluff in the form of a winter coat will create space between your child and the car seat straps that you may not even recognize is there.
As a test, put your child in the car seat wearing his coat and tighten the straps. Then — without adjusting them — remove your child and remove his coat. Put him back in and fasten the straps. See how much room there is? Would you drive with him “secure” in those ill-fitting straps?
Your child may look adorable and Maggie Simpson-esque in that snowsuit, but in a crash, it would be anything but cute. The force of a car crash is enough to crumple steel, and it will also crumple the fluff and fabric around your child. When that happens, the seemingly-snug shoulder straps suddenly become extremely loose and your child is at risk for injury or ejection from the car seat.
3. Head and body supports
Yes, some car seats come with head and body supports, but did you know these go through rigorous safety tests?
For example, if a manufacturer creates a car seat for children 4–35 pounds and includes a “fluff” that can be used at any time, with any size child, the manufacturer must crash test that “fluff” with not only 3 separate crash test dummies (the newborn, 12-month-old, and 3-year-old dummies) but also run a separate crash test with each of these dummies in all the various permutations allowed for the shoulder strap and crotch buckle positions. What you may have thought required just one crash test can require literally dozens. — The Car Seat Lady
If it doesn’t come with your child’s car seat, don’t use it.
4. Sleeping bag inserts
Just as coats add padding between your child and the car seat, sleeping bag inserts do as well, resulting in the same gaps between your child and the straps.
5. Padding for shoulder straps
If there is anything that seems harmless, it’s those adorable padded covers that help your child’s shoulders avoid being cut up. The only problem is that those shoulder straps must be flush to your child’s body and positioned properly, something those padded covers may alter.
Think about it: your child’s shoulders are flexible enough to travel through the birth canal. A slight adjustment in positioning and your child can slip through ill-fitting straps without a problem.
6. Fashion seat covers
These are aesthetic replacement seat covers that replace the original fabric on the car seat. Manufacturers are not forced to go through the same safety tests the car seat manufacturers are, putting your child at risk.
How Do I Keep My Child Warm?
When the weather drops below zero, it’s hard to justify putting your child in the car without a coat. Still, it’s the safe thing to do.
Try these alternatives to keep your child warm and safe:
1. Swaddle over your buckled baby
Strap your child in the car seat first, then wrap in a thin swaddle blanket or a heavy blanket.
2. Use a car seat cover
Only use car seat covers that fit over the car seat and do not wrap between your child and the car seat.
3. Warm up your car
A remote car starter is one of the best new-baby investments you can make, allowing you to cover your baby in a blanket to keep warm before transferring to a warm car.
While it may seem strange to have your baby in a car coat-free, it’s a necessity for keeping your baby safe. So before the cold of winter sets in, research these methods and make sure your baby is snug and secure before you leave your driveway!
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