The 411 on car seat safety in the winter

You’ve installed the car seat according to manufacturer’s instructions and know how to perfectly latch your little one in the seat. But did you know you could be making your child less safe by doing one common thing?

It’s cold outside, and you naturally want to bundle up your little ones when you head outdoors. You probably have your child pull on a coat and gloves when it’s time to go somewhere.

But you’ll want to take an extra step that may seem counterintuitive when you get to the car and latch your little one into the car seat — take the coat off.

Why is that?

Well, bulky clothing like a winter coat can cause the car seat’s harness to fit improperly. If a crash occurs, the clothing would flatten out due to force from the crash, leaving extra space between your child and the harness.

That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends removing the coat before fastening your child into the car seat. A few easy steps can help you keep your little one warm in the car without the coat:

  • Bring the carrier for an infant seat inside so that it can be warm when you put it in the car.
  • Dress your child in layers, and make them thin ones. Put thin layers close to the body, with items like leggings or long-sleeved bodysuits. Then add other slightly thicker layers on top, like a sweater or thin jacket. If it’s really cold outside, long underwear under clothing is also a good option.
  • Cover the basics — the head, ears, hands and feet. Hats, gloves/mittens and socks will all keep your child warm without interfering with car seat safety.
  • Tighten the car seat harness. And then tighten it again. Layers can make it difficult to tell if the harness is tight enough, so you want to make sure you can’t pinch the straps of the harness.
  • Once you’ve tightened the harness, put your child’s coat over the seat, like a blanket. Or bring along an actual blanket to tuck around your child once he or she is safely latched in. But make sure you don’t place any items under your child. Doing so can interfere with car seat safety and make your child less secure.

Looking for more guidance about car seat safety and other kids health issues? Talk with your pediatrician. Need a pediatrician? Find one here.