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How to keep children safe and warm in their car seats

baby girl in car seat

With cold temperatures here in full force, it’s a good time for a refresher on how to keep infants and children safe in the winter months.

When parents of newborns are trying to figure out how many layers of clothing to put on their children, the basic rule of thumb I promote is the number of layers it takes for you to be comfortable is how many layers your child needs. For example, if you’re sitting in a T-shirt and shorts in your home, your child should not be bundled in four or five layers of clothing and blankets.

When you step outside during the winter months, obviously we all put on extra layers. However, when you have an infant or toddler who needs to be in a car seat, it’s important to remember not to have the infant wear a coat when strapped in the car seat.

Car seat straps need to fit snugly, as some winter coats create just enough of a gap between the child and the car seat’s straps. If an accident should occur, your child can have a whiplash effect within the straps and sustain severe injury. Another concern is that if people change the car seat’s straps to accommodate a bulky coat in the winter they often forget to change the straps back once warmer temperatures arrive.

As a result, I recommend that you dress your children in multiple thin layers, and have a thicker coat to go around them when you carry them outside. Once your child is placed in the car seat, those thicker layers need to briefly be removed as you put the child in the car seat with very secure, snug straps, and then rewrap them in a coat or blankets.

If you’re concerned that your baby isn’t warm enough without a coat while in the car seat, you might try purchasing a car seat cover, if it is approved by your car seat manufacturer. These do a great job of keeping little ones warm.

It’s also important to remember that if you use the car seat or baby carrier to transport your infant inside, you’ll need to remove some of the extra layers of clothing to be sure your child doesn’t overheat.

In terms of clothing needs, I recommend socks for infants who are not walking, but shoes are not necessary. Multiple layers of socks can be helpful as feet tend to get cold in the winter. Socks can also be used to cover your baby’s hands in cold temperatures.

A hat, or other type of head covering, is also recommended as infants have very thin hair and a lot of heat is lost through their heads. These items will also help protect baby’s ears from cold temperatures.


About Amy Seery MD