Car Seat Safety: Does Your Baby Wear a Coat in the Car?

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Every day, I put a pink puffy winter jacket on my baby girl and then I put her in her car seat, and we go on our merry way. The thought never even occurred to me that I could be putting her in jeopardy. In fact, I thought I was being a good mom by protecting her from the cold. But then I read the post Winter Coats and Car Seat Safety that bwsmommy put up in the 2007 Babies group, which basically said that winter coats and car seats do not mix.

I want my baby to be safe—and warm. What to do? I talked to momof2luvsshoes, a member of Safe Kids who is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, and mom to two little boys, to get the facts about winter coats and car seat safety.

Is there a law about coats and car seats?
There is no law regarding this but rather a rule of thumb. 

So then it's okay for my baby to wear her cute puffy pink jacket in her car seat?
I don't recommend that anyone wear a coat while in a vehicle. Coats are hot, uncomfortable, and they interfere with seat belts and harness straps in car seats.

But is it actually unsafe for my baby to wear a coat?
Yes. I have done tests with my children in their car seats—with and without coats. I firmly believe that no coat is best. An easy way to visualize what happens to a baby if they have a puffy coat on during a crash is to put the baby in the car seat with the winter coat on and buckle him in as usual. You will most likely have to loosen the straps to do so correctly. Now, take the baby out and put him back in the car seat without the coat but do not adjust the straps and buckle him in again. You'll see how loose those straps are—if in a crash, a coat would compress and could allow the child to become a projectile object by slipping through those loose harness straps.

That makes me nervous. I know you said that coats in cars can be hot, but I'm not so sure—it's really cold when we get in my car. I definitely want to keep my baby nice and safe. But I really want to keep her nice and warm too. Do you have any recommendations that will keep her safe and warm?
A thin fleece, a wind jacket, sweatshirt, simple layering as long as it cannot be compressed. There are now car seat ponchos on the market. Plus, it’s always best to keep extra blankets in your vehicle while traveling. It is completely safe to put a blanket on the child once he or she is secure in the car seat and tuck it in on the sides. Another option is to secure the child in the car seat and then put their coat on them backwards.

Those are great options. Thanks momof2luvsshoes!
Glad I could help out.

How about you? Does your baby wear a coat or jacket in his or her car seat?


Check back here and on the other parenting channels all this week for more info on car seats.

This information is intended as general guidance—you should read your auto and car seat manuals, and consult a certified technician if possible, for the proper use and installation of your child’s passenger seat.

car seat safety

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maxan... maxandrubysmama

My son wears his coat in the car. It isn't huge and marshmallow-y, but it's warm for him. I've never had to readjust the straps for him. They are a tad more snug with his coat on, but I just use my super mom muscles to fasten him in. He never seems to be uncomfy at all either. :)

MDMom... MDMomof2Cuties

My boys (4y/o and almost 2 y/o) NEVER wear coats in the car!  I also feel as though it is very unsafe.  The straps just don't fit them right.  I ahven't put coats on them since my oldest was around 4 months old.  I keep blankets in the car and they wrap up with those and we pre-heat the car whenever possible too.

kayna... kaynadjaysmom28

After reading this I did not realize how dangerous it is to have the baby in a car seat and have on bulky jackets or snowsuits. Because, when my daughter was a baby I had to put her in her snowsuit and put her in her car seat, cause if I did not do that my in-laws would want me to put something on her when it is cold out. But, with my last baby I have decide to put a warm comforter and a sheet to cover him up from the cold. And, for older people don't understand that kind of stuff cause they are the ones who tell me that I should keep my baby warm. If I know about this before like when my daughter was a baby  I would have used a comforter or and sheets. Maybe, they should have this in car seat manuals and anywhere in the media and have commercials on it on tv, because not to many people know about this.

kayna... kaynadjaysmom28

I forgotten one more thing with my 3yo daughter. She wears a jacket and a coat sometimes. And, just recently my in-laws had to get the straps readjusted for her to get in the car seat so she can wear her jacket or coat in the carseat. Is this a good idea or a bad idea? To me I don't think it is safe. What I do is get her jacket or coat off and then get in the seat and buckled and then when we get to where we are going then she gets out I put her jacket and coat on. But, for my in-laws they want her to be warm so they let her have her coat and buckled in her seat.

annmb... annmbm0327

We actually don't put a coat on my daughter because her car seat material is that stain resistant kind so it makes her sweat even in heavier clothes.  I can't imagine that she'd be comfortable with a coat on.  We do the same way a lot of the other moms said--put a blanket over her and then we're out the door.  We usually have to take the blanket off again once the car warms up.  She'll let us put on the thin cotton mittens but hats/hoodies are enough to send her into screaming fits.

desti... destinyfaithmom

wow i used to but my daughter in a snow suit b/c its been so cold here lately i guess i wont any more thanks

cherr... cherrypie9377

nope...in the winter they put on a fleece hoodie...its not like they are outside for hours on end and going to freeze...plus they interfere w/ safety of the carseat!! great article!

Lynette Lynette

my mom just can not comprehend it when I tell her how unsafe  it is.  I live in WI.  My kids do not wear coats in their car seats

ATG499 ATG499

The only coat my son wears in the car is a thin, fleece zip-up hoodie. If he needs more than that he'll get a "beanie", some mittens, and a thick blanket on top.

Suzie... SuzieQ632

I'm sorry, despite all this wonderful information,  my kids have always worn their winter gear when we go out.  They are now out of car seats and into boosters so this really isn't an issue for me any more.  I live in Fairbanks Alaska where winter temps hit -20 for weeks and we can get as cold as -50/-60.  Now at the - 50 range most people only go out when Absolutely necessary.  But we are prepared for and deal with the -20 regularly.  It is essential that you wear your gear when you go out.  Just leaving your car sit for 20 min or longer and it could take up to 20 min to get it back warm again.  Shopping of any kind takes at least 2  hours when  I am totting the kids around.  Put on your gear, rush to the car and get in, then take off your gear, then buckle all kids up.  I have 3 and at one time it was 3 kids under 3.  Get to where you are going, unbuckle then put gear back on.  Then do this all again once we are done and the car is a frozen popsicle.  I have a standard car so I don't have auto start.  I couldn't do it and I can't advocate it in harsh conditions.

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