Bringing Home Baby: Tips to Keep your Little One Warm in their Car Seat this Winter
Whether you’re leaving the hospital as a new mom or are well-versed in the ways of car seats with multiple littles, wintertime can be a frustrating time to deal with car seats. Trips that should be quick and easy end up being multi-step ordeals. Gather boots, socks, coats, hats, mittens, and outer layers, walk the kids to the car and load them back in as you simultaneously derobe them from the very same outer layers you just spent (what felt like eons) putting it all on. You arrive at your destination, robe up again, leave, derobe, and arrive home, only to robe and disrobe one more time. That’s just one trip to one location.
I’m tired just thinking about it – and that doesn’t account for kids screaming in frustration that their coat zipper is digging into their chin, that they’re too hot in the car, or that it’s too cold outside! It’s enough to make even the least financially able of us ready to splurge on meal delivery services and grocery pickup so that we don’t have to leave the house again until May.
Here are some safety-first tips to help you get out the door with a little more ease and a priority on safety so that you never have to worry about compromising your little one in order to make the necessary trips of life.
Save the big coats for the final destination. Especially if your kids are in the older toddler age bracket, running from the front door to a warm car (consider the length of the stint) won’t turn them into popsicles. The Swedes have a famous saying – there is no bad weather, only bad clothes. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns that bulky clothing (think: snowsuits, winter coats) should not be worn in the car seat. It is a major safety hazard because, in the event of a car accident or slamming of the brakes, the fibers in those clothes get compressed, leaving plenty of room between your child’s safety harness and their body. They could be thrown from their car seat. I’d rather them get cold!
For little infants who do not yet have the use of their hands, bring an activated hand warmer pouch and layer it in between two blankets near their belly so that they cannot touch or reach it. If they’re a thumbsucker, consider cutting the thumb off of their mittens so that the rest of their hand can stay warm. Consider moving the car seat to the middle rear seat position which is further from the windows which can get drafty even when shut. This position, if safe in your car, also allows more heat flow from the front air vents.
Think backwards. Coats, zip-up swaddled, and blankets can all be put on after the child’s harness has been locked (on top of the safety belts). My daughter, 2, loves Miss Elaina from Daniel Tiger and how she wears everything backwards. We make it a funny game to put her coat on backwards in the car once she’s been buckled up. This way, she can also remove it herself if she gets too hot once the car warms up. Another way to think backwards is to plan your day backwards, if possible. If I need to be somewhere at 2 p.m., I’m going to back it up and tell myself to start getting ready at 1:15 (hey, it is no small feat getting a toddler out the door in bad weather!).
Keep in mind that many products created to keep babies and toddlers warm or comfortable in the car are not necessarily designed for car safety or are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). According to the AAP, “Nothing should ever go underneath your child’s body or between her body and the harness straps”. This includes comfort or warming pads, extra blankets, or accessories. In fact, many of these devices (even car seat strap pads) can actually void the warranty of your car seat which could put you in a dangerous situation that you might not even realize. Click here to see your child’s car seat safety rating and click here to quickly read about the important components of car seat design.
While it might seem obvious, the best thing you can do is to plan all your outings ahead if possible. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to get ready to go thirty minutes (I need even more!) before you need to leave. Use the restroom, prepare snacks and blankets, turn on and warm up the car, and get the babies dressed appropriately. When I use this little trick, it also keeps me calm so that when I am driving, I’m a safer driver – especially in wintry conditions.
Winter weather can be frustrating but for the times that we do need to get out and load the kids in the car, it’s always worth it to plan in advance and take every safety precaution possible for the safety of our families.