Baby, it's cold outside. And babies, of course are tiny, fragile and need the most protection from the chill. That being said, those heavy, bulky coats might be even more dangerous to your baby and small children, than the elements. That is why experts are reminding parents of some very important information concerning your children and their car seats.
New York State Police Public Information Officer, Trooper James O'Callaghan said you should never put anything thicker than a sweatshirt on your child under the harness straps of a car seat. "A lot of parents don't realize that. Often people are just unsure of what to do. We want children, all children, to be safe in their seats," he said.
The advice is for children - newborns through age 5 - who are in a 5-point-harness. The straps should be tight enough for little movement at all. Coats — especially the “puffy” style — are likely to create extra space between the harness and the child, putting the child at risk for injury or death in an accident.
I know that as a parent, it's a real pain. The wind blowing, snow falling and we're supposed to take our kids out of their warm coat? I dread it. But, I know how important it is. To be honest, when I was a new mom, I kept my baby bundled up in her snow suit and she cried her eyes out. Turns out, by the time we got to our destination, she was very hot. Overheated. It scared me to pieces and taught me a lesson. My girls would much rather travel without all that gear anyway. It gets hot and uncomfortable. It's tough at first, but once the car is warmed up, it's no big deal. Just be sure and keep the jacket or blanket within arm's reach.
Trooper O'Callaghan said children should be put in their seat, buckled up and covered with their jacket or a blanket. Here are tips:
- Dress the infant as if they were going to be indoors.
- Put them in their infant carrier.
- Put on the harness straps nice and snug.
- Put on a hat and some blankets over the top of the harness straps and carry baby out to the car. (Never put blankets over the baby's head inside the car.)
One thing to keep in mind: As the car warms up you can remove blankets and replace them over baby when you arrive at your destination. This also helps ensure baby doesn’t get overheated.
For toddlers and preschoolers:
- Dress the child comfortably and put on their coat and hat for their walk out to the car.
- Take off the coat and buckle the child snugly in the harness straps.
- Put the coat on over the child. They can put their arms in the sleeves backward or use blankets.
- The child can remove the layer(s) as the car warms up
Trooper O'Callaghan also reminds drivers to warm up the car before putting kids inside whenever possible. Keep extra blankets, water, some snacks and a cell phone charger in your car, particularly during the winter months. Hopefully you will not have any accidents, but being prepared can be critical. "These are the extra measures you need to take for the safety of the child," O'Callaghan said.
If you have questions about your child's seat or what you should put on your child, you can call (585) 344-6200. You can also make an appointment to stop at a local State Police Barracks and speak to a certified professional.