When the weather turns cold, you want to keep your kids warm AND safe, so you might wonder, “can a baby wear a jacket in a car seat?” Here’s why the experts say wearing a jacket in a car seat is dangerous.
I can feel the stares.
I can almost read their minds…
“Why isn’t that baby wearing a coat? It’s freezing out here!”
And yes, it IS freezing out here.
And no, my baby is not wearing a coat.
My 5-year-old isn’t either.
But I have a really good reason for that…
Experts Warn that Wearing a Jacket in a Car Seat Could be Deadly
What makes puffy winter jackets and car seats a dangerous combination?
Heavy winter coats are often filled with fluffy material, such as down feathers or a synthetic alternative. This design is wonderful for insulating the wearer from cold weather, as the quilted pockets of insulation and air hold in body heat.
However, these fluffy pockets also make it difficult, if not impossible, to properly secure a car seat harness.
In the event of a crash, the extreme forces of the accident can cause the jacket to compress, leaving space between the harness and the child. This can make a harness ineffective and put children at risk for slipping through the harness and being ejected from the car.
That risk is why experts say puffy winter jackets and car seats should never mix.
In fact, Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, medical director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon says that children should not wear anything heavier than they would wear indoors — a sweater or sweatshirt at most. (Source)
So what is a parent to do to keep their kids warm AND safe when the temperature drops?
How to Keep Your Kids Warm and Safe in the Car
- Use a Blanket — We always keep a blanket or two in the backseat of a car. This is a habit that my Grandma taught me, as you never know when a blanket may come in handy. Usually we just bolt quickly to the car without a coat, buckle the kids in snugly, then cover them with a blanket. This works especially well for babies and toddlers (and it actually helps our youngest daughter nap easier!)
- Wear a Jacket Backwards — Our older daughters can take their jackets on and off themselves, so if they want to wear them as we walk to the car that’s fine. Then when we get to the car, they take off their jackets, buckle up, and then put their jackets on OVERTOP of the car seat or booster seat harness, slipping their arms in the sleeves to keep warm.
- Have Everyone Wear a Hat — According to the Harvard Health Letter, because there is little fat for insulation on the head, you can lose a lot of body heat if it is uncovered. Wearing a hat can help prevent this heat loss, especially on a quick walk to the car.
- Warm the Car Up in Advance — If you’re able, starting the car and allowing it a few minutes to warm up before you need to go somewhere is helpful too.
The Bottom Line: Wearing a Jacket in a Car Seat is Not Worth the Risk
As a parent, my kids’ safety is my number one priority.
That’s why I have to be the bad guy and say ‘NO’ when they ask to do stuff like throw rocks or slide face-first down the stairs.
It’s also why I’ve learned to ignore any stares or weird looks when our family walks out of a store and to our car without jackets. Even when it’s freezing.
And even when my kids whine that it’s cold outside.
Look, no one is going to freeze to death in the 2 minutes it takes to get to the car.
But strapping a kid into a car seat with a puffy winter coat IS a matter of life and death.
That’s why I remind my husband, grandparents, etc. every time they take the kids somewhere without me. Am I annoying? Maybe.
Are my kids safe? Yep.
And that, my fellow mamas, means I’ve done my job for today!
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