Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Bundle Me - everyone uses it in the car seat - but did you know it's NOT SAFE for car seats (and using it VIOLATES the car seat's instructions)!

Fleece sleeping bag in infant car seat
Products like the Bundle Me (a fleece sleeping bag that goes in the car seat) are what's known as "aftermarket" products - because they are sold separately from the car seat.  You've probably seen tons of aftermarket products - the infant head inserts, the fleece buntings, the shoulder strap covers - they line several aisles in most baby stores.

Did you know that unlike your child's car seat which must pass rigorous crash testing, these "aftermarket products" have no crash testing or other crash safety standards they must meet? Most parents buy these products thinking they will make the car seat safer and more comfortable for their baby - not realizing that these products usually turn a 
safe car seat into an unsafe one.  In fact, using products that go behind or under the child's body or the straps violates the car seat manufacturers' instructions and will invalidate the warranty (see below for what the manufacturers say). 

The part of the Bundle Me (and similar products) that is unsafe is the part that goes BEHIND and UNDER the child's body and the straps.  

Why is it unsafe, you ask...
The whole idea of the car seat is to act as your child's parachute in a crash.  30mph feels the same thing to the body as if you jumped from a 3rd story window and landed on the pavement.  You would be absolutely crazy to jump - but if you had to, you would rather land with a parachute as you would land as slowly and gently as possible.  If your child's car seat is secured tightly to the vehicle, and the straps are snug to the child's body the child will come to the slowest, gentlest stop possible in a crash.  If however the car seat is loose to the vehicle or the straps are loose to the child's body, the child still needs to come to a stop - but it becomes a much more jolting stop, like landing on your feet, and that is what hurts and causes the injuries.  

Getting back to the Bundle Me and other fluffy products - if you were about to jump out of a plane, you wouldn't wear anything fluffy between you and your parachute harness as you would be afraid that the harness wouldn't hold you tight.  The same thing goes for your baby - you don't want to put anything bulky like coats, snowsuits, buntings, Bundle Mes, body supports, strap covers, etc between the back of the car seat and the harness straps as the straps won't be snug to the child's actual body.  Most of these products create so much extra room between the child's body and the straps that you can fit a fist in between - much more than the 1 finger that is allowed.

WITH Bundle Me - the straps "seem" snug as just 1 finger fits under the child's collar bone
WITHOUT Bundle Me (the straps were not loosened or tightened - just the Bundle Me was removed) - the straps are very loose - a whole fist fits under the straps
Do you have a Bundle Me or other sleeping bag product that you want to use this winter?  The video below shows a quick way to make the Bundle Me safe to use in the car seat.  

NOTE: If your Bundle Me has a filler material (stuffing) you will need to sew the new edges so that the baby does not try to eat the filler - this would be a choking hazard.

7AM Enfant Pookie Poncho on Combi Coccoro
Are you looking for a safe alternative to the Bundle Me?  One that you don't have to cut?  These products below simply fit OVER the top of the car seat - so there is nothing to interfere with the straps.  A few will work on convertible car seats too!

Car Seat Poncho

There are also several varieties of thick fleece ponchos that the child can wear in the car seat - all of these become like a warm, hooded blanket that the child can't kick off.  They are typically for kids from 6 months to 3 years of age.  They are also nice in that when you take the child out of the car seat you can snuggle them in the poncho blanket so they aren't cold when going through the supermarket parking lot or to your front door,  or wherever you may be running errands.

But don't take our word for it, here is what the car seat manufacturers have to say about aftermarket products. These excerpts were taken directly from the child safety seat instruction manuals.

Baby Trend

o 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.

o Accessory products for use with the Safety Seat are acceptable for use provided that they do not interfere with the harness assembly, or the proper adjustment of the harness such that it remains tight on the child's shoulders at all times. Thick, soft, or other compressible material in excess of 1/4 inch thick should not be placed behind or under the child or between the child and harness straps. Examples of accessory products are head support pillows or rolled blankets to add additional head support.


o The use of non-Britax Child Safety, Inc. covers, inserts, toys, accessories, or tightening devices is not approved by Britax. Their use could cause this restraint to fail Federal Safety Standards or perform worse in a crash. Their use automatically voids the Britax warranty.


o 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.

o 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.

Dorel (Maxi Cosi, Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Safety 1st):
o Dorel Juvenile Group does not recommend the use of any child restraint accessories except those recommended by DJG.


o 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.


o DO NOT use accessories or parts other than those provided by Graco. Their use could alter the performance of the car seat.

o Do not modify your Infant Car Seat or Base. Only use products and accessories approved by Orbit Baby to ensure the safety of your child. This limited warranty does not apply to: defects resulting from use with covers, inserts, accessories, tightening devices, or other components not supplied by or expressly approved in writing by Orbit Baby.

Peg Perego

o Use only approved parts. Use of unapproved parts can affect the safety of the car seat and cause serious injuries in an accident.

Sunshine Kids

o Using any non-Sunshine Kids product with this restraint; or any product not specifically approved by Sunshine Kids for use with this restraint is not allowed. Use of such products voids manufacturer's warranty and may seriously impact the products ability to perform properly in an accident.


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  3. There is a great product called the Flip Over me Poncho. It was designed for children to wear in car seats so they don’t have to wear bulky jackets. It is a poncho that easily goes over child’s head. When they are placed in their car seat the back flips over the front so the child is comfortable and the harness can be tightened directly against their body. I have been using mine in the cold Chicago winter. I could not go through winter without it.

  4. Great article! I personally have looked into the cruise cover (because it's so cute) but those Babbacovers are absolutely adorable. Thank you for pointing out the risks of using aftermarket products, as well as providing specific manufacture's warnings. I will be sharing this with friends.

  5. Thanks for sharing about the Flip Over Me Poncho - it looks great and I have added it to the blog post as another safe alternative to the sleeping bags and bulky coats.

  6. The Cozy Cover is a nice alternative also. It's similar to the infant carrier covers you already posted, but at about half the price.

  7. Just in case anyone is thinking about trying it don't bother with the Cruise Cuddler also by SootheTime don't bother with it. It doesn't have the bulk like the bundle me. but it interferes with the straps, making it impossible to tighten as shown above.

    I do recommended their clip on blanket though. The clips are nice and strong, and it was easy to just unclip and wrap around my sweetie as we got out of the car.

    I also have a car seat poncho. I love it and get so many compliments!

  8. Terrific article, as usual! The parachute analogy really hits the nail on the head. Thank you for featuring the Car Seat Poncho in your links and in the photo.

  9. Great post. I love that you posted excerpts of all the manuals. I will definitely be pointing anyone with questionable car seat usage your way.

  10. off to cut my bundle me right now! Thanks for the video