The temperatures are dropping, holiday tunes are filling the airwaves and the malls are already sporting wreaths and trees. So, it’s time to think about keeping your precious little one cozy and warm, especially while you’re out and about braving the cold weather. Here are some tips to help keep your little one safe and warm during this cold season.
One of the basics of properly using a car seat or booster (after having installed it correctly—for installation videos, click here), is that the harness or buckle is snug. You should always perform the “pinch test” on the straps above the harness clip. You shouldn’t be able to pinch any of the webbing on the harness strap. If you can, the straps are too loose.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “It’s OK to adjust the straps to allow for thicker clothes, but make sure the harness still holds the child snugly. Also, remember to tighten the straps again after the thicker clothes are no longer needed.” However, this does not allow for a puffy jacket, down snowsuit or thick coat, since in the event of a collision, the soft material of the extra clothing could compress.
It’s easy to check and determine if baby’s winter coat is too thick to be safe in your car seat. This simple test will show how thick the coat is and how much it would compress during an incident or sudden stop.
1. Bring your car seat inside.
2. Put the winter coat (or thick sweater or snowsuit) on your child.
3. Put your child in the car seat and buckle the harnesses as you normally would before car travel. Adjust the straps to the appropriate fit.
4. Take your child out of the car seat without loosening the straps.
5. Take the coat off your child.
6. Put your child back in the car seat and buckle the harnesses again, but do not tighten the straps.
7. Now perform the pinch test. If you can pinch any of the webbing on the harness straps, the straps are too loose and your child should not wear the coat under the straps.
Cozy & Warm:
Instead of putting your child in a car seat with a heavy winter coat, the Texas Department of Public Safety recommends that you “keep your child in the clothes they will be wearing when they are indoors. Place the child in the car seat, making sure the harness straps are snug over the shoulders and that they lie straight and flat down to the buckle. Buckle the child in and THEN put the coat OVER them – on TOP of the harness system. You can even turn the coat around and put his arms through the sleeves after he is buckled into his car seat. This will ensure your kids are kept snug in their seat, the harness system is able to do its job in the event of a crash, and that the kids stay warm.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also recommends that “to keep your baby the safest, always remove bulky clothing or blankets before you place the child in the seat. Then, put the blanket or coat over the baby. You should never place anything thick underneath the baby, unless that item came with the car seat originally — which tells you it’s been tested by the manufacturer. When a child is wearing a thick coat, it’s hard to tell if you have a good harness fit, which is crucial. A coat can add a lot of slack, reducing the level of protection for your child in a crash.”
In summary, here are some Graco engineer-approved tips that give you an at-a-glance guide to cold weather car seat safety:
- Clothing that interferes with the proper placement or tightening of the harness system shouldn’t be used.
- Read your instruction manual for even more detailed instruction on proper harness placement.
- It’s important for the shoulder straps to be placed properly on your child’s shoulders per the instruction manual based on the child’s shoulders, not their clothing. Don’t use clothing that interferes with the proper placement of the shoulder straps, including snowsuits with hoods and other bulky clothing.
- Always use the chest clip positioned at arm pit level. The chest clip helps keep the shoulder straps on the shoulders and close to the neck.
- Buntings (or similar clothing without individual leg openings) prevents the harness from being placed between your child’s legs and should never be used.
Here’s to safe (and warm!) winter rides!