This post features questions from readers for a CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician) focusing on car seats and is made possible by the generous sponsorship of clek who have made their staff CPSTs available to The Leaky Boob community in order to answer your questions and help you keep your children safe.
I’ve heard that coats aren’t safe in car seats but I live quite far north where the temperatures are subzero and quite dangerous to be out in for even brief periods without proper protection. While I understand that puffy coats can compress, is that something that really happens in an accident? Though I’ve heard a lot of warnings about it in a hypothetical sense, I don’t think I’ve heard an actual scenario. And what are the safe alternatives? I worry that if we were to be in an accident in the winter, my child may be safely restrained in her seat but in the case of a severe accident, be exposed to dangerous temperatures without proper protection. I want to keep them safe from both an accident and inclement weather conditions and since staying home for 7 months isn’t really an option, I’m looking for something that will meet both needs.
Bundled Up Mama
Dear Bundled Up Mama,
Staying warm in the winter can certainly be a challenge at times when living in a colder climate. I’m in a cold climate myself, so I understand how difficult it is to find a balance between keeping your little one warm AND safe.
What you’ve heard about bulky winter clothing is correct, the excess slack that can appear when bulky clothing is used can cause injury in a crash. There is a lot of force in a crash and all the warm fluffy air that keeps our child warm can also lead to them being hurt. A lot of time heavy coats and snow suits also change the position of a child in a seat. This can range from leading to the straps not sitting fully on a child’s shoulders, to making them seem taller in the seat than they actually are.
Fleece suits are a safe option in the car. Fall/spring weight jackets also work well with having a bit of a shell to break the wind while still providing warmth. Once kiddo is safely buckled in, extra blankets on top of them will help keep them nice and toasty. There are other products out there like car seat ponchos or specially designed coats that unzip to move out of the way of the harness that are also safe options.
*Editors note: this post from The Car Seat Lady goes into great detail on ways to keep your child warm and safe in the car with customizable options depending on the specifics circumstances you may be dealing with.
My mother-in-law bought some toys for our son to have in the car, a sort of bar that clips to the sides of the infant seat and arches over the top holding hard and soft toys. I’ve read about potential projectiles in the case of a crash, is something like this safe? I don’t want to offend my mother-in-law, she really is trying, but I also want to keep my family safe.
I appreciate your help!
A Little Rattled
Keeping our little ones amused in the car can sometimes be a challenge, and finding a safe way to do it can be tricky. Generally speaking, if a toy is hard enough that it would hurt if you were to hit yourself with it, it is too hard to have near your baby in the car.
Some toy bars have removable toys – if that’s the case with yours, then you may be able to keep the soft toys and remove the harder ones. This might be a nice compromise to use the toy that was thoughtfully bought, while keeping your little one safe. If your little one is in a rear-facing only seat still, also check that the handle position is in an approved position while traveling. Some seats allow handles to be left up while traveling, while others instruct to put the handle down.
We have the option of LATCH for installing our rear facing car seat but it doesn’t seem quite as secure as the belt install. There isn’t a CPST local to me to have check our install, does it matter if we use the belt install instead of the LATCH?
Dear Confused Mommy,
The choice between LATCH and the vehicle belt raises a lot of questions so I’ll do my best to help make it a bit easier to figure out.
When installing a car seat, it’s important to have a tight installation. This means having less than 1” of movement side-to-side and front-to-back at the place where the belt goes through the car seat – commonly known as the belt path. The safest installation is the one that gives you a secure fit. It sounds like the vehicle belt gives you a better fit in your car, so that would be the best method of installation for your car seat in your vehicle.