Bulky winter coats and car seats do not generally mix well! I'm assuming you all know the proper safety precautions for installing your child's car seat properly, and using the harness properly. If you need a quick refresher, check out the links at the bottom.
Here's a quick test to determine if your child's winter coat could compress in a crash and put your child in danger:
- Put your child in his winter coat, buckle him into his car seat, and tighten the straps to where it passes the "pinch test".
- Without loosening the straps, unbuckle your child, and remove the winter coat.
- Put your child back in the car seat without the winter coat, and fasten the straps without adjusting them.
- If the straps don't pass the "pinch test" then the coat is too bulky to wear in the car seat.
What is the pinch test?
In order for your child's car seat to provide protection in a crash (which is why we use car seats, right?) the harness straps must fit properly. Loose harnesses can cause injuries or completely fail to protect your child at all. The pinch test helps determine if the harness is properly tightened and adjusted.
- Put one finger under the harness near the child's collarbone so you can pull the strap up to "fold" when you pinch it. I use three fingers - my index finger and thumb on top, and my middle finger under the strap. My middle finger pulls the strap up while my thumb and index finger attempt to pinch.
- If you can pinch the straps together, they are too loose.
- Ensure the straps are properly tightened near the child's belly (below the chest clip - which should be -not surprisingly- at the chest, not down at the buckle).
- Repeat the pinch test near the collarbone until you are unable to pinch the straps together.
How do you keep your child warm if they can't wear a coat in their car seat?
- Have your child wear her coat to the car, remove it to buckle her, and then put it on backwards.
- Do what this mom did - http://www.car-seat.org/showthread.php?t=29772 and make it work safely!
- Use blankets or ponchos over the car seat. Do NOT use anything between the car seat and your child or the buckle - this is not safe and not recommended by any manufacturer, despite all the aftermarket products available.
- http://www.thecarseatlady.com/tips_and_tricks/tips_and_tricks_8.html has tips for infants, toddlers, and big kids.
Comment here if you have any additional suggestions!