Car seat safety is something us mamas should take SO very seriously. 43% Of children who died from car crashes were improperly restrained (or not restrained at all) between 2010-2014, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
With all of the current technology, resources, and information available today, we can and should do better.
Winter car seat safety is a bit different from car seat safety in the warmer months, with extra considerations that need attention, especially when you live in a northern state like I do! When we moved to Michigan from the south, we knew the weather would be an adjustment. We needed more layers of clothing – sweaters, pull overs, hoodies, gloves, hats, etc. Before moving, we never had much of an issue with car seat safety, because we didn’t have to worry much about the extra clothing between my son’s body and his car seat straps. I simply warmed my car up 10 minutes before we left, packed his coat and hat in his day bag, and carried him in with a blanket to daycare.
Living in Michigan is a little different now for us. With the lower temps and need for extra layers and bundling to keep the wind from hurting their skin during that ten-second transfer from the house to the car seat, some extra consideration has to be taken when it comes to being safe and warm this winter season. Here are some important reminders for Car Seat Safety this winter!
MAKE SURE YOUR CAR SEAT IS PROPERLY INSTALLED
Before placing your child in a car seat, you should always determine that the seat is properly installed. If you need help finding information on installing/checking to see if your seat is properly installed, check out this resource for further information.
I would also urge parents to check your car seat’s expiration date. Car seats are not made to last forever – materials wear down, some car seats are recalled, and standards change! Typically, a car seat expiration date is good for about 5-6 years. I can attest that things have certainly changed since my oldest son was in his car seat, and he is 6 years older than my younger son. I hate to say this, but if you have a bad accident in the wintertime, and your car seat fails – one of the key factors a large corporation will look into when claiming they are not at fault for failing a consumer, is whether your product was expired, and if it was properly installed.
KEEP INFANT CARRIER SEATS INDOORS WHEN NOT IN USE
This is something you usually wouldn’t think of, but storing the infant seat in the car or garage when not in use can actually do more ‘harm’ than good because the seat will take on the colder temperatures outside, reducing your baby’s temperature once they are placed in the carseat. Try to keep the seat indoors and at room temperature.
DRESS IN THIN LAYERS
Here are some great pointers from the AAP:
Start with close-fitting layers on the bottom, like tights, leggings, and long-sleeved bodysuits. Then add pants and a warmer top, like a sweater or thermal-knit shirt. Your child can wear a thin fleece jacket over the top. In very cold weather, long underwear is also a warm and safe layering option. As a general rule of thumb, infants should wear one more layer than adults.
-American Academy of Pediatrics
TIGHTEN STRAPS – PINCH TEST
A child’s straps (when properly adjusted) should fit snug and pass the “Pinch Test”.
DO NOT WEAR WINTER COATS WHILE BUCKLED IN
Unless you have the Road Coat ($110) please refrain from buckling your child into their car seat while wearing a jacket. While the Road Coat is designed and tested to be used to warm your child in the cold winter conditions while still being crash proven and safe – other winter jackets are NOT. Bulky winter jackets require you to loosen the straps to your child’s harness, and decreases their safety dramatically should a crash occur.
And even if you are able to squeeze them into their seat while wearing all of their layers and bulky winter coat, a child is much more likely to overheat wearing their tightly strapped winter coat in their seat! See my next paragraph for a great idea you might not have heard about using until now…
USE BLANKET OR CAR SEAT COAT/PONCHO OVER STRAPS
Instead of using their winter coat, try using a blanket (take proper precautions with an infant, however!), or a Car Seat Poncho. Car seat Ponchos enable you to safely drape a blanket with a hood over your child after they are safely buckled in, keeping them warm. They are also incredibly easy to take off should your child become too hot, and aren’t so easily kicked off by a fussy toddler. Here is our favorite from All For One True King!
If you do purchase a poncho to take place of your child’s winter coat (and to be safer should an accident occur!) I highly recommend Charlie from All For One True King. Her ponchos are all made from a high quality anti-pill fleece that is extra thick and does not ball up after washing. They are double layered with no showing seams, which makes them reversible if needed!
Safely buckle your little one in their carseat underneath the poncho, and keep them covered just like their puffy winter coat would. This eliminates the loosening of their car seat straps, and therefore increases their safety should an accident occur.
Here is Jax in our Mickey Mouse Poncho from Charlie’s collection! He is strapped in his rear facing car seat, with his straps underneath his poncho. Because the poncho fits over the front of his straps while still covering his arms and chest/lap area, he is safely buckled and warm at the same time. His poncho is so thick, comfortable (which is great for Michigan winters!), and adorable. Charlie has two sizes – Jax is wearing the Small (12m-3T) which is 17″ long. She also has the Large size, which fits 3T-6X, measuring 22″ long.
Her ponchos make a great gift, and you can customize them to almost any character your little one likes! She has experience doing farm or zoo characters, and so much more. We chose the Mickey because I couldn’t wait to put the hood on my little guy with the mouse ears – cute right?!
REMEMBER HATS, MITTENS, AND BOOTIES
Hats, mittens, and booties are okay whether you decide to use a blanket, poncho, or a more expensive coat option because they cover the body parts that do not compromise the straps or safety of how your child is buckled in. In super cold temperatures, keeping tiny fingers, toes, and noggins warm and covered is comfortable for your babe.
PACK WINTER CAR EMERGENCY KIT
You probably won’t ever even need this emergency kit, but with temperatures dropping as low as they do here in Michigan, it is smart to keep one in your car. Here’s ours:
- Three extra blankets (one for each person)
- One extra coat (1 for each child)
- Water bottles
- Granola bars and some non-perishable snacks