When the temperature outside make us all shiver, it’s tempting to stack on the layers to keep baby warm while out and about.   But, did you know that thick winter coats or snowsuits can compromise your child’s car seat safety?!   A thick puffy jacket prevents the harness from correctly fitting tightly against the child’s chest.  So how much pouf is too much? 

Car Seat Pinch Test

The simpliest way to check if your child’s coat is too thick is with a simple pinch… 

  1. First, secure your child in the car seat while wearing the coat in question.
  2. Properly tighten the car seat harness around your child until the harness webbing cannot be vertically pinched at your child’s collar bone.
  3. Remove your child from the car seat WITHOUT loosening the harness system.
  4. Remove the coat and secure your child back in the car seat WITHOUT adjusting (loosening/tightening) the harness.
  5. Perform the PINCH TEST to see if you can pinch the webbing of the harness straps.

IF AND ONLY IF the buckle AND chest clip are still secure without the coat, AND the harness webbing CANNOT be vertically pinched at your child’s collarbone, then the coat is acceptable. If the harness webbing CAN be vertically pinched, then the coat is too thick and should not be worn in the car seat.

[In the pictures above, the pinch test FAILED and the jacket is too thick for the child to be wearing while in the seat.] In this case, you would remove the jacket prior to securing child, and put jacket back on once you get to your destination.

So How Do I Keep Baby Warm?

Layers, mama, layers! 

You can still bundle baby up for cold winter days just do so over their car seat straps. Start with warm yet tight clothing that the child would wear normally throughout the day, then add a warm fuzzy hat and booties and place baby in their car seat. After they are safely secured, add a thin breathable blanket, followed by a thick blanket, and finally a warm car seat cover.

If that still isn’t quite warm enough, you can add a second layer of clothing before strapping your little one in their seat. We recommend a tight fleece jacket and fleece pants over normal clothing.

While it’s important for baby to be warm, it’s also important that they don’t overheat! 

As a general guide, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dressing baby in no more than one layer more than an adult would use to be comfortable in the same environment. That’s why layers are so important! You may need all of these layers for a quick walk outside but as soon as you get to your destination, the layers need to be reduced.

Also keep in mind that these recommendations are meant for the occasional extreme cold we experience in Montana. Nevertheless, dressing a baby for winter in Montana or anywhere else should never involve a puffy coat under the car seat straps.

Happy Winter, Everyone ❄️

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