Car Seats & Winter Coats Can Be Lethal: Is This Made-for-Car-Seats Jacket the Answer?

cozywoggle

One of the most important things for parents to remember when it comes to car seat safety: Winter coats and car seats do not mix. Buckling your kid into a car seat with a jacket on can have lethal consequences, so as a general rule, experts say winter coats should not be worn underneath a car seat harness. Yet, many moms either don't know this -- or still worry about keeping their little ones warm. Now, there's a new jacket on the market that's being touted as safe for toddlers and kids to wear in car seats.

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The Cozywoggle is a "heavy-duty wind/water-resistant polyester" jacket "lined with cozy fleece." It's made for kids between 18 months and 6 years to wear while they're buckled into a car seat.

How? The side seams have been replaced with zippers that turn the coat into a poncho, so you're able to lift it out of the way and buckle up your kiddo underneath it.

Sounds great, but since experts repeatedly warn about coats and car seats, we wanted to talk to a few of them to see if the Cozywoggle is something we can safely use.

"A car seat is designed to absorb the kinetic energy of a motor vehicle crash by moving within the vehicle while keeping the child secured within the harness," explains Roopa Thakur, MD, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. "This minimizes forces upon the child and prevents injury."

After all, if your little one is bundled up, you've got to loosen the straps of the car seat to squeeze him in, which is a huge no-no, because in the event of a crash, your baby's got a lot of extra wiggle room. He could get injured, or even ejected from the seat, says Dr. Thakur.

What about the Cozywoggle?

"I've had some interactions with the Cozywoggle coat," says Bob Wall, a car seat expert and global advocate for Nuna Baby Essentials, a maker of car seats. "When used, it seems to keep the child warm while keeping the car harnesses free from additional padding that can compress in a crash."

Because of its unique design, Wall adds, "this could be the right option for the cold weather transport of children, without the concern of added slack in the harness straps."

Although Dr. Thakur doesn't have such firsthand experience with the Cozywoggle, after seeing a video about how the coat works, she agrees.

"The coat zips open from the side, allowing the car seat harness to buckle directly against the child's chest," she says. "This eliminates the cushioning effect that a coat might have."

Cherlyn Jenkins, creator of the Cozywoggle, even had the coat tested at a National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)-approved lab. "The tests showed that the Cozywoggle did not impact how the seats performed," she told The Stir. "It is absolutely safe."

But Jesus Alderete, senior injury prevention coordinator at Children's Health in Dallas, Texas, is a bit more skeptical -- even after seeing a video.

"This product is new on the market, so I can't comment specifically about its safety or how it works," Alderete says. "What we do know is that less than one quarter of families uses their child's car seat properly, and automobile crashes are the number one cause of accidental deaths for kids."

Because of that, Alderete says, "We would shy away from products like this unless they've been recommended by a trusted source like the NHTSA."

The NHTSA doesn't endorse products. But according to a spokesperson, the Cozywoggle is "likely safe" as long as the seat straps lie against your child's body and the poncho is on top.

More from The Stir: 10 Common Car Seat Mistakes Parents Make & How to Fix Them

Regardless of whether you try the Cozywoggle, take a sec and refresh yourself on how to keep a baby safe and warm in the car without a traditional winter jacket:

1. After securing your child in the car seat, turn the coat around and put it on backward so the coat functions like a blanket.

2. Lay a blanket over your child (after he or she is strapped in).

3. Try the Car Seat Poncho or make your own. Again, it goes on after the child is strapped in.

4. Dress your child in thermal underwear beneath their clothing.

5. Try a fleece pullover.

Does all this make a wintertime car ride slightly more inconvenient? Sure. But for your kid's safety, we bet you can deal.

 

Image courtesy of Amber Boyt/Cozywoggle

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