Winter Car Seat Safety

Keeping Kids Warm AND Safe

Even though it is still November, it seems like winter arrived in Southeast Idaho this past week! Many of us were digging deep into our closets to try to find hats, gloves, and coats to make sure our kids would stay warm. Winter coats are a necessity for kids during the cold weather season, however the extra padding to keep warm can make it difficult to wear in a car seat or seat belt.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, as a general rule, bulky clothing including winter coats and snowsuits should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat. If a car accident occurs, fluffy padding immediately flattens out from the force which can leave extra space under the harness. A child can then slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips to keep your kids warm AND safe!

  • If using an infant seat, keep the carrier portion inside the house when not in use. This will help keep the seat at room temperature to reduce the loss of your child’s body heat in the car.
  • Dress your child in thin layers. Close-fitting layers on the bottom such as tights, leggings, and long underwear can be great options. Next, add pants and a warmer top like a sweater or thermal-knit shirt. Your child can wear a thin fleece jacket over the top. If dressing an infant, generally they should wear one more layer than adults. If you have a hat and coat on, your infant will probably need a hat, coat, and blanket.
  • Get an early start. Dressing your child appropriately for the weather will take more time, especially if they aren’t cooperating! Make sure to give yourself extra time to get them ready, especially if the weather is bad and the driving conditions are difficult.
  • Don’t forget hats, mittens, and socks or booties. These are a great way to help keep your kids warm without interfering with car straps. If your child is a thumb sucker, keep an extra pair or two of mittens handy in case they get wet.
  • Tighten the straps of the car seat harness. Multiple layers may make it difficult to tighten the harness enough. If you can pinch the straps of the car seat harness, then it needs to be tightened to fit snugly against your child’s chest.
  • Use a blanket or coat over the straps. Add a blanket over the top of the straps or put your child’s winter coat on backwards after buckling them in. Remember that the top layer should be removable so your baby doesn’t get too hot after the car warms up.
  • Only use a car seat cover if it does not have a layer under the baby. Nothing should ever go underneath your child’s body or between their body and the harness straps. Always leave baby’s face uncovered to avoid trapped air and rebreathing.
  • If it didn’t come with the car seat, it has not been crash tested and may interfere with the protection provided in a crash. Many retailers carry car seat bundling products that are not safe to use in a car seat. Just because you can buy it at a store, does not mean it is safe. Never use sleeping bag inserts or other stroller accessories in the car seat.
  • Pack an emergency bag for your car. Keep extra blankets, dry clothing, hats, gloves, and non-perishable snacks in your car in case of an emergency or your child gets wet.

According to The AAP, these tips are appropriate for all ages. In fact, wearing a puffy coat yourself with the seat belt is not the best idea because it adds space between your body and the seat belt. By following these tips, you can help keep your kids safe, warm, and happy wherever the road may lead you. If you have any questions or need any help with your children’s health, contact The Pediatric Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho or Rigby, Idaho.


Some content provided by The American Academy of Pediatrics