Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(most) Coats & Car Seats are NOT a safe combo (here are ways to keep kids WARM & SAFE)

Does winter time in your car ever look like this?  

These girls are NOT safe in their car seats due to bulky winter coats
Have you ever struggled to just get the harness buckled when your child is wearing a coat?  Notice how the girl on the left doesn't even have the buckle between her legs fastened as there wasn't enough room in the straps with the bulky coat on.  The problem is that in a crash the plastic chest clip is designed to open under certain circumstances - so if you haven't fastened the straps between the child's legs, they will come out of the seat!  Do you notice the straps sliding off the child's shoulders with their coats on?  Do you notice that when you take the coats off the straps seem very, very loose?

Would you wear a bulky coat under your parachute harness?
Wondering what parachutes have to do with car seats??? The whole idea of the car seat is to act as your child's parachute in a crash.  30mph feels the same 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'd 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 and/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 injuries.  

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 child - 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.  

Here's how to keep your kids WARM & SAFE in the car in winter

Step 1: Dress the child in thin, tight layers under their winter coat - dress them as if it was 50-60 degree weather.  For example, under their winter coat they should wear an undershirt, long sleeve shirt, and sweater.  

Step 2: Take the child to the car with their coat unzipped - have them take off their coat when they get to the car.  Quickly buckle the child and get the straps snug withOUT the coat on (remember to pull firmly up on the shoulder straps to get all the slack out of the legs/stomach area, then pull firmly on the tail to tighten the straps).

Step 3: Have them stick out their arms and put the coat on backwards.  The best part about this is not only are they safer, but they also won't overheat as the car gets warmer as they can pull their coat off when they get hot.

Some coats are SAFE for the car seat
Some coats are thin enough That they don't interfere with the snugness of the straps - and are therefore safe for the car seat.  Want to know if your child's coat is safe for the car?  Buckle your child into their car seat with their coat on & get the straps snug.  Take the child out of the car seat, remove their coat, and rebuckle the child into the straps.  Firmly pull upwards on the shoulder straps - you should notice no slack coming up, and only enough room for one finger to fit between the child's collar bone and the strap - if the straps are looser than this, then the coat is not safe for the car.

These down jackets are perfect for under the car seat as they are VERY thin and compressible (from the picture you can't tell how thin they really are).  Stock up now for next winter (they're on sale now!)...
- Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket
- REI Down Jacket

Car Seat Ponchos: A great ALTERNATIVE to coats
1-year-old wearing 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.  Note: there are other ponchos being sold that have drawstrings at the hood/neck area - we do NOT recommend these as drawstrings pose a risk of strangulation.

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