Sunday, December 12, 2010

Keeping warm (and safe!) in winter

Now winter is here full-force, many people are wondering how to keep their children both safe and warm in the car.   I live in Alaska, and I don't have a garage OR an autostart on my car, so trust me I know cold!  As you may have heard, bulky coats and snow suits are not safe for use in the carseat, and here's why: 
From the Child Passenger Safety Technical encyclopedia:
"Thick, soft, and compressible material should not be placed behind or under the child, nor in between the child and the shoulder or lap straps. The primary concerns are that the padding may negatively affect the way the CR works in a crash and that blankets or inserts may interfere with proper harness routing. Soft foam padding or fluffy blankets will compress in a crash and leave the harness slack on the child, allowing excessive movement or even ejection. Bulky jackets and snowsuits can have the same effect, while "baby bags" without legs and blankets wrapped around the baby before harnessing do not allow for proper routing of the crotch strap."
From SeatBeltSafe:
"Clothing worn by children can present compression and harness routing problems. Bulky jackets and snowsuits can compress in a crash and leave the harness slack on a child, allowing excessive movement or even ejection. It is best to have children travel without coats, to put coats on backwards, or to add a blanket over the child after the harness has been buckled. Jackets that are worn the regular way should be no heavier than lightweight fleece fabric or be unfastened to allow contact between the child and the harness or vehicle belt. An option for an infant in an infant seat is a shower cap-style seat cover. This style of cover fits over the top of the infant seat, has an elastic band around the edge, and has no fabric behind or under the child."
From Transport Canada
"Some aftermarket products can cause safety issues ranging from inducing slack in the shoulder harness system to adding compressible material behind the child, which during a crash will allow for slackness in the harness system. The resulting slack in the harness may cause the child to be either partially or fully ejected from the restraint system, in the event of a crash or sudden stop... Bulky snowsuits can affect the harness with respect to additional compressibility. In addition, many snowsuits are made of very slippery material. This can affect the harness system should the chest clip of the restraint not be used properly. When using bulky winter clothing ensure that the harness system is tight, compressing the material to ensure a snug fit. Check with the car seat manufacturer for alternative methods of clothing during the winter."
Check your car seat's manual: it will have a section in the front warning against bulky clothing and aftermarket products (such as buntings, "Bundle Me" type bundle bags, Kidpotamus Snuzzlers, etc).  An example of such warnings:
From Baby Trend:
"Do Not dress your child in bulky clothing or other garments that will hinder the harness from being snug around your baby and properly latched between your child's legs."
From Chicco:
"NEVER use clothing or blankets that interfere with fastening or tightening the harness. An unsecured child could be ejected in a sudden stop or crash! To keep child warm, place a blanket over child and restraint AFTER you have properly secured child in harness.  DO NOT use any accessories, pads or products supplied by other manufacturers with this Child Restraint. Items not tested with this restraint could injure your child." 
From Evenflo:
"In cold weather, DO NOT dress the child in bulky clothing like snowsuits if the child is riding in a child restraint. Bulky coats/ snowsuits make it difficult to properly tighten the harness to the child, which may allow the child to be ejected from the restraint during a crash."
The following pictures illustrate why it's not safe to wear thick coats, jackets, or snow suits in the car seat.  They demonstrate how bulky clothing will compress in a crash--no matter how tight the straps are when you put the child in their seat.  In all these pictures, the straps were tight and the coats were compressed to the extent of my (human) ability.  In a crash, however, there is an extreme amount of energy being transferred to the car seat, and the coat or snowsuit is able to be compressed much more than we are able to do with our bare hands.  In effect, the coat or snowsuit will compress down to nothing, leaving slack in the harness.  This is what is demonstrated in these pictures--the amount of slack that will be introduced to the harness system in the event of a crash.  
A common question is "but are there cases of children actually being ejected from their car seat?"  The answer to that is yes, there certainly are.  In 2009, 24,474 people died in car crashes.  Of those, 6844 were under the age of 16, and of these, 909 were fully or partially ejected.  
With no further ado, here are the pictures!  
Here is Scarlett, my four year old, wearing her normal outdoor gear: snow bibs and her warm coat.

Straps are snug, and pass the pinch test: my fingers slide right off the strap and I cannot pinch a horizontal fold in the strap.

With the coat and bibs removed:

She is easily able to wriggle free.

Next I put Scarlett in just her coat, without the snow pants.
The straps are tightened so they pass the pinch test:
With the coat taken off, there is a dangerous amount of slack:
And she is not going to be safely restrained in a crash.

And finally here is my two year old little guy, all ready to go in his bibs and coat.
The straps are tightened securely and pass the pinch test:
With the coat and snow pants removed:
There is a large amount of slack in his harness that could easily allow him to be ejected in a crash.

A fellow car seat fanatic gave me permission to use these pictures of her little one, who is 6.5 months, 13.5 pounds, and 25 inches long:
All buckled in, ready to go.  This snowsuit looks pretty harmless, and is a good deal less puffy than many you see out there.
With the snowsuit removed:
Here's the little sweetie in her other ride (the Evenflo Symphony convertible seat):
Harness is nice and snug:
With the snowsuit removed:
Yikes!


So how do we keep them warm and safe?  
1. Fleece is your friend! For babies, a good-quality fleece one-piece outfit with a long-sleeved onesie or cotton pajamas is a good start. Fleece is very dense and very warm, and it doesn't compress in a crash.  I'm a big fan of fleece suits for infants and toddlers.
Carter's has many fleece jammies, which are great for teeny babies.  They also have fleece suits like this, which I loved for my kids:




I have also had good luck with Old Navy, as they frequently have fleece at good prices. 


Several brands, such as Columbia, The North Face, and REI make quality one-piece fleece buntings. Many even have the option of folding the cuff over to cover their hands and feet.


Here's my son modeling his (pink!) fleece suit:


2. Smart layers.  This is especially important for older kiddos, who don't have the option of snugly one-piece suits.  My kids wear cotton tights under fleece pants, and a long-sleeved shirt under a fleece jacket.  If you have wind, a nice thin windbreaker can safely go over fleece:
3. Shower-cap style covers. If you are using an infant seat, choose a shower-cap style cover for it, as these keep the wind and cold off your little one without introducing slack into the harness.  You can also tuck blankets over the baby, and the shower cap cover will keep them in place--but once the car warms up, don't forget to unzip the cover and loosen the blankets so baby doesn't get overheated!


Here is another teeny guy wearing warm clothing, with the shower cap style cover unzipped.  
And zipped up, ready to go!
4. Blankets over the harness.  This is a great option since the child can kick the blanket off when they are warm enough, which prevents them from getting overheated.  They work well in the infant seat...


...and in the convertible seat

5. The "backwards coat trick."  This involves buckling up the kiddo, and, you guessed it--putting their coat on backwards, over their harness.  Here is our model buckled in wearing her fleece and windbreaker:
After she's buckled, I tuck her warm winter coat around her, and she kicks it off after the car gets warm.
6. The Car Seat Poncho!  This product was invented by a fellow Child Passenger Safety Technician as an alternative to thick, puffy outerwear.  

47 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this!

    Do you have any suggestions for what to do with car seats once they have been outgrown? I currently have FOUR in my garage, and they are too old to pass along to friends. Do they just go in the garbage? Thanks for any help you can provide.

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  2. Very good info! Just be careful with so much fleece. In or near a fire, it melts, which is why kids' pajamas are not supposed to be made from it.

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  3. Testblog, if they are expired you can just cut the straps, remove the cover and throw them in the trash. Some states have car seat recycling programs, so you might look into that as well!

    Change-is-possible, thanks for the heads up!

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  4. Would you please link to a shower-cap style cover (which are permissible), as well as the bunting (which are not good)? Are they only for infant "bucket" seats?

    Also, do you have any advice other than a fleece one-piece outfit and possibly a regular blanket over the straps for a newborn or infant who will be going in a convertible car seat from day one? Thanks!

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  5. ~M, here is an example of the shower cap style cover that is safe to use.
    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Kiddopotamus-CozyUp-Carrier-Cover-Pink/6487083

    And here is the bunting style, which goes under the baby and thus will compress and create slack in a crash:
    http://www.target.com/JJ-Cole-Original-Bundle-Months/dp/B003KN27C8/ref=sc_qi_detaillink

    I am not aware of any shower cap style covers made for convertible seats, but the "Car Seat Poncho" might be an option depending on the climate you live in and the temperatures you face.

    http://www.carseatponcho.com/

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  6. The links are helpful. Is it considered safe to put a regular lightweight blanket over the car seat once the baby is buckled in?

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  7. Yes, blankets over the baby are perfectly safe as they do not interfere with the harness in any way :)

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  8. Those kids are ADORABLE! I love the one of you holding the babies arms.. So cute!!!!
    Great blog. I will be sharing this for sure.

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  9. Thank you for writing a wonderful post! So many parents need to read this. I am going to share this with many people who need this information!

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  10. This is fantastic! Thanks so much for posting!

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  11. We have one of the Columbia fleece buntings for this very reason. It's very warm and he can be snugged down and there is little to no compression slack.

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  12. Awesome Picture!!

    At FashionPosh.com we carry tops, bottoms, coats, sweaters, dresses, and cardigans of all kinds- Winter Coats

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  13. What about the trick of putting the coat on, unzipping it, buckling the harness, and then zipping the coat over the harness? so that the harness and straps are against the child's body, but the coat is not backwards?

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  14. http://www.justmommies.com/blog/tag/car-seat-safety/

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  15. Amazing post! stay cool and comfortable this winter by wearing cool color fleece with chilly color scarves!

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  16. Anna, this is such a great & important post. I would like permission to reprint it in my newsletter at: www.glendale.macaronikid.com. I couldn't find any other way to contact you, so please contact me at: ipolanil@macaronikid.com. Thanks!

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  17. Great, lots of good advice on your post. I’m impressed with the quality of your writing. Automotive Market

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  18. When I'm cold in the car, and I want to slip on a jacket (and am not driving), I slide it on backwards like that, too.

    Our son, a big 21 monther, dislikes blankets, so we are thoroughly fleece people. It's rarely below 30F here, but still chilly for a wee one in a cold car, so we bring him places in his jammies with a sweater over, then dress him there.

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  19. Great post!
    Its feel impressive to see the way of caring any one can got good ideas from this post!
    Cozy and comfortable fleece suits of kids.
    Wear comfort color nice pants in this winter.

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  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. babies Hoodies looks superb! i want to purchased at least one Hood for baby. its looks warm and comfortable on babies skin.
    Wholesale Kids Apparel

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  22. I see many parents in my daycare using thick, compressible coats. However, we're in a French province. Would you know of a French version of this post (or would you let me use the photos in a French translation for educational purposes)?

    Thanks!

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. Maxi-Cosi FamilyFix Car Seat is very usefull for baby safety when in car, this is the best product. Make your baby comfort and safe every day.

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  25. Nice blog & Good post. Its very helpful for us, we are awaiting for more new post. Thank You!
    Car Leather Clean

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  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  27. Hey!
    What a commendable work you have done, with simplest of language. I can’t resist myself to leave a comment and trust me it’s hard to impress me. Blogger seems like an educated and knowledgeable writer with sensible thoughts. Good work and Keep it up.

    Vachel
    Charities Partners
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  28. Some aftermarket products can cause safety issues ranging from inducing slack in the shoulder harness system to adding compressible material behind the child, which during a crash will allow for slackness in the harness system.
    car ins

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  29. I enjoyed watching all the cute pictures of your kids wearing warm coats that are safe as well while taking them in cars, I like reading it. Miami Buy Here Pay Her Car Lots

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  30. Hi! Question - so, do you essentially have to undress your kids once you get out to the car? At least until you put their coat on backwards... I worry that they would be cold if it's -20 C out, and I, like you, don't have a garage or car starter (I live in Alberta). Thanks!

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  31. Great Blog! Fantastic Pictures! They really demonstrate the dangers of wearing a snow suit in a car seat. I am a public health nurse working in the area of car seat safety in Ontario, Canada. I was wondering if we could have permission to use your photos? Please contact me at karen.hay@halton.ca. Thanks for considering.

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  32. morrck hoodies re fab in carseats http://www.morrck.co.uk/ I've used them for both my kids.

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  33. I get really anxious driving during the winter especially if my kid is with me in the car. The car seat he is currently using is from http://www.safety1st.com.au/ and so far I have been very happy with it. By the way, your kids are really adorable !

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  34. Wow ....
    I am cherry . The baby look like so pretty .I am always believe safety is first.
    it is very important to safe baby from cold .When they stay in home ten maintenance it no matter . But when they traveling youth you or anyone in car with a car seat like Britax Marathon 70-G3 baby Car Seat . Its so important.
    Thank you

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  35. thank you for this excellent informotive post . In cold situation warm is very urgent for baby . my baby is using recaro proride . I was ensure his warm

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  36. I have a 5 year old she's approx 37-38 lbs. In the winter I've been using her front facing car seat and then restraining her using the car's seatbelt. and then pulling tight around her shoulders I'm wondering if this is safe.

    I figured with the combined weight of her boots + jacket + Snow pants it would be enough to restrain her. Thoughts?

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  37. Are you sitting comfortably? The constantly changing fashionable take on Indoor car covers demonstrates the depth of the subject. Remarkably Indoor car covers is heralded by shopkeepers and investment bankers alike, leading many to state that its influence on western cinema has not been given proper recognition. The juxtapositioning of Indoor car covers with fundamental economic, social and political strategic conflict draws criticism from the easily lead, who are yet to grow accustomed to its disombobulating nature. Complex though it is I shall now attempt to provide an exaustive report on Indoor car covers and its numerous 'industries'.

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  38. Safety is important during drive in all seasons while hiring any car from car rental service kindly check rented vehicles overall condition. Driving safely may decrease many certain or un certain risk its a true facts well mostly people done pathetic driving after renting a car from rent a car services they totally disobey all rules regulation just for fun.

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  39. That baby is too photogenic. Anyways, that a very important article you have written about baby safety in car. During winter you must use lots of woolen clothes for your baby. From safety point of view, you must use the seat belt first and on top of that belt, use the woolen/jacket.

    Regards,
    Arnold Brame
    Fire Risk Assessment

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  41. Bulky jackets and snowsuits can have the same effect, while "baby bags" ... anorthfacejacket.blogspot.com

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  42. Cool post. All Images are so cute. I like the way you written the post.
    I like to buy best car seats for babies. There are many website who famous for kids toys online.
    Thanks for sharing such a nice post.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Wow this I'd fabulous! Just found your tutorial via tip junkie and I want to make one for my little guy that I am expecting in November.Mr. Joshen,my friend brought this type of seat cover from bestforauto.com. But your's is good. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete