It goes without saying that car seat safety for your baby is non-negotiable.
But you may be surprised to learn that you need to think carefully when choosing what your baby will wear on a car journey in winter, because the wrong choice of clothing can lead to serious safety concerns.
To keep your child warm and safe during a car ride in cold weather, you should avoid thick padded coats and instead opt for thin layers.
This will ensure the car seat harness stays close to their body at all times, allowing the car seat to function properly and do its job in a crash.
What Should Babies Wear In A Car Seat In Winter?
The general rule when dressing a baby is to dress them in one more layer than you would wear.
However, when using a car seat, you will need to think more carefully than usual.
If you are dressing your baby for a ride in a car seat in winter, you should avoid bulky clothing, such as padded winter coats, snowsuits and sleeping bags.
In fact, according to safety experts, you shouldn’t put anything thicker than a sweatshirt between your child and the straps of their car seat.
Why Can’t Children Wear Thick Coats In Car Seats?
By now you’re probably wondering exactly why your child can’t wear a thick jacket when they are in their car seat.
The reason is because in the event of a car crash, the fluffy padding in a coat will flatten and squish down, leaving space underneath the harness.
This extra space will result in the harness straps being loose, which prevents the car seat from working properly.
In the unfortunate event of a crash, your child could then slip through the straps and risk a serious head injury.
So if thick jackets are out, how else can you prevent your child from getting cold in the depths of winter?
Let’s take a look at a few safer options.
Tips For Keeping Your Baby Warm & Safe In A Car Seat
Although your child should avoid wearing thick coats and other padded garments under the harness, this doesn’t mean they have to go cold in winter.
Here are some other ways you can keep your little one warm, comfortable and most importantly safe even if the temperature outside is freezing.
We’ve seen that adding thin layers is one of the best ways to keep your child warm while not adding bulk (which interferes with the safety of their car seat).
A good tip is to start with close fitting layers on the bottom half, such as tights or full bodysuits, and then add slightly thicker pants and sweaters.
Layering also has the added advantage of providing flexibility, so that if your child gets too warm, you can easily remove a layer or two to get them back to the right temperature.
Swaddle Over Straps
It’s ok to swaddle a baby in a car seat, but the swaddle must always be over the straps, never underneath them.
In very cold weather you can even swaddle twice, once with a thin blanket and once with a thicker, heavier blanket.
The backwards coat trick is a neat and easy way to provide some extra warmth to your little one.
You simply dress them in layers and strap them in the seat as usual, and then put the coat on backwards, so the coat goes over your child’s arms but sits on top of the harness straps.
Car Seat Covers
As with swaddling, using a car seat cover is safe, provided it does not go under your child’s body or under the straps.
As a word of caution, beware that just because a car seat cover is being sold in a retailer doesn’t mean it’s safe to use.
So you should not automatically assume that everything on the market is safe to use with a car seat.
To be on the safe side only purchase accessories sold by your car seat manufacturer and check they are designed to be used with your model of seat.
Pre-Warm The Car
As we all know, those first few minutes before a car warms starts to warm up can be bitterly cold.
So it’s a good idea for mom or dad to start up the car before little one gets in, which will help take the edge off a car that’s been sitting in ice cold conditions for hours or even days.
Don’t Forget Accessories
They can also be easily removed if your baby starts to get too warm, which is something you should also look out for once your car warms up and the temperature inside rises to a more comfortable level.
- Never dress your child in thick, padded jackets when using a car seat.
- This is because fluffy padding will flatten in a crash, leaving a dangerously large amount of slack in the harness straps.
- Effective layering can be a terrific way to add warmth without adding bulk.
- Swaddling, car seat covers and coats can be used to keep your child warm during winter, but they should always go on top of the harness straps and never between the straps and your baby.
- Check your baby once you’re into the journey to ensure they are not getting too warm.