Snow is falling and parents everywhere are thinking about how to keep their kids warm this winter. Some climates are milder than others where in others, your nose falls off from frostbite the second you step outside. There are good and bad ways to go about keeping your kid warm in a carseat and I’ll show you how to do it the safe way here. First, let’s memorize this important tip: nothing goes between your child and the carseat or the harness. What does that mean? You shouldn’t put anything under your child in the carseat that didn’t come with the carseat out of the box nor should you put anything between the child and the harness, like a blanket. Why? Compression. Padding compresses leaving the harness loose and a loose harness means an increase in chance of injury. So, keeping this tip in mind, puffy snowsuits are great in the snow, but not in the car.
You might think, “OK, so I won’t use the one that has all the puff and fluff behind it. I’ll use the one that has the thin blanket behind it instead.” Guess what? I tested that one too. And guess what? Oy. I was truly surprised because I thought it would be OK. After all, it was a very thin layer, but it also left the harness loose AND take a look at the pictures to see what truly shocked me.
See how my doll’s chin is pushed all the way forward to his chest? I can’t begin to tell you how much that scares me. The KeyFit that I’m using isn’t a big seat, but it is a rounded seat on the backside, so the Lite Bundleme may fit a different infant seat more favorably. But it still is going to leave slack in the harness. Adjusting the elastic that holds the Lite Bundleme to higher up on the back of the infant seat does affect the fit of the doll. The product instructions don’t specify where to place the elastic on the infant seat, simply to place it over the back of the seat. So, it’s quite feasible that a parent could over-stretch it as in the first picture in the hopes of keeping it from sliding off. Hopefully common sense comes into play and the parent sees the chin-to-chest of the baby and knows that’s not a good fit of the product.
Instead, if your baby must wear a warm suit, use a fleece bunting over a long-sleeved onesie. Fleece will keep your baby warm, especially with fleece blankets layered on top. Using several thin layers allows you to adjust your baby’s temperature more easily as you go from one environment to another so babe doesn’t overheat or get too cold. Some fleece suits have fold-over flaps for hands and feet coverage too. Carters and Old Navy are good places to start for fleece jammies and brands like Columbia and The North Face have the more heavy duty fleece buntings. Infant seat shower cap-style covers are pretty plentiful and come in all different colors and designs (including some really cute ones!), so you have plenty from which to choose. Remember, to be safest, when your baby is in the carseat, always keep her buckled securely and use layers for comfort. Here’s a list of shower cap infant seat covers:
Jolly Jumper Sneak a Peak Infant Carseat Cover Deluxe
NoJo Double Zipper Baby Cover-Up
These are the JJ Cole Bundleme products I tested. The Urban Bundleme and the original Bundleme are the same, but the Urban has an upgraded outside fashion. If you’re going to use a Bundleme product, I’ve marked the safe one.
As you can see from the list above, there are lots of covers from which to choose and you can even make your own. For older toddlers and big kids, there are ponchos. The key is to make yourself aware of the dangers of loose harnesses and to know that during the most slippery driving time of the year, it’s especially important for our kiddos to be buckled up properly. Drive safely and warmly!
Hello! I just came upon your blog. Great read with great info. It is surprising how often I see an infant bundled up with puffy clothing while in their car seat even with all the information, statistics and research against it. I make custom fleece shower cap covers and while at craft shows I do small demonstrations about safety. I tell all customers how a shower cap cover isn’t technically attached to anything and therefore won’t void the car seat manufacturer’s warranty, and more importantly is safer for the child. (I also make sure I tell them how dangerous items can be that are attached to the car seat, even if they are marketed for “comfort” for the child.) I make my fleece on fleece covers with enough room underneath for additional blankets for warmth and ensure that they are still breathable.
Thanks again for the great blog!
I just also wanted to add how I find the canopy covers so frustrating. I tell my customers, “You can’t drive with the handle in the upright position, so once you get in the car, they lose their blanket without you fiddling with the attachments on the handle and then tucking it in and so on and so on. So much more work… and with a strong gust of wind (like we get here in Michigan) the blanket blows right off.
I have never understood those…. I guess that’s why I love mine sooooo much!
Handcrafted By Amanda makes custom covers too… always fun to be stylish, cute and most important, SAFE!
One thing, though, Amanda. Most infant seats now allow their handles to be in the upright position and some even require them to be up while in the vehicle. So we can’t really generalize anymore about handle position. Also, you may want to reconsider making custom covers. Because they haven’t been tested with the carseats, we don’t know how they’ll perform in a crash. Things like different padding used can affect friction and movement of the child in a crash. But the showercap-style covers are absolutely fine.
I’ve read your article and understand it all, but it leaves me wondering what to do. I live in Michigan, and we have horrible winters. I am still painfully cold in layers and a very fluffy coat hat gloves and boots. There’s no way I’m going to put a couple long sleeve shirts and a fleece on him and call it good. He will freeze. He is 15 months old and has a convertible car seat. The only thing I can think to do would be to go through 10 minutes of bundling up before we leave just to de-bundle once we get in the car, and then re bundle before we get out and do that over and over at all locations. I don’t know if you be ever had a toddler, but my sanity can’t handle that. Neither can my sons patience. Or my pressed time. What else can I do?
Hi Brianna. I get it: I may live in the desert, but it gets down into the 40s here and that’s pretty cold. No, seriously–we ski and I know what it’s like to go out when it’s windy and snowy and you can’t catch your breath it’s so cold. It’s not realistic in some climates to layer with fleece and leggings and call it good. What I would do in your situation is layer with the warmest, thinnest fleece and leggings you can find (or wool, but I find that to be scratchy) and use a jacket on top with a hat, if he’ll keep that on. I know leggings are a girly thing, but they’re the next best thing to flannel-lined jeans (which are awesome!). Jennie lives outside Chicago and tried some jackets here: https://carseatblog.com/24645/baby-its-cold-outside-winter-coat-suggestions-for-kids-in-carseats/ .
What about something like this http://www.imperfecthomemaking.com/2012/01/tutorial-hooded-car-seat-blankies.html That doesn’t interfere with the straps?
Ooops, nevermind my last comment. I thought the written article covered in full what was in the videos. My bad!
Could you explain why three of the BundleMe products didn’t pass your tests?
Here is my question to the author of this article, and bear in mind I mean no disrespect to you. What are your qualifications? What are your sources? What where your tests? Looking through the article I see no qualifications that justify me taking away what warmth I can provide my newborn daughter. I’m sure your a caring parent as well and can understand my concerns. My primary interest in this comes because I had a not quite nurse at children’s mercy hospital recommend the same thing; however, upon further consideration, I looked into the compression your talking about. Literally centimeters. My week old child is strong enough to remove any compression in the fabric. Further I test how taught her restraints are every time I put her in the seat. And any slight offset from the fabric does not seam enough to make a difference in an accident where two vehicles weighing thousands of pounds are colliding. I then went to multiple registered nurses with 15 plus years of experience in labor and delivery as well as multiple children, who confirmed my thoughts.
So I just ask for more detail and more specific test results before I remove anything keeping my daughter warm.
Charles, I’m coming up on 14 years of experience as a child passenger safety technician with 8 of those being as an instructor. Included in those years is training on crash dynamics and how harnesses stretch and fabrics compress as well as having many friends in frigid climates. My qualifications aside, unless the nurses in labor and delivery have had child passenger safety technician training, they aren’t qualified to give advice to you regarding carseats just as I’m not qualified to give advice about epidurals. Very basically, in a crash, the force any child puts on a carseat or harness is weight x speed. So if your newborn weighs 8 lbs. and you’re in a 20 mph crash, that’s 160 lbs of force on the harness. You might not think that’s much, but it’s enough to compress whatever blankets you’ve put under her and make her harness loose (which does stretch in a crash, and most parents don’t tighten it enough in the first place, especially with newborns). I assure you, she will stay warm enough with a fleece sleeper and blankets on top of her after she’s been harnessed. If it’s windy where you live, then a shower cap-style cover over the top will keep her extra toasty to the point you should probably remove it in the car. Congrats on your sweetie!
I avoid using jackets in car seats by layering with a long sleeve cotton onesie on top and baby undersocks for the legs and feet warmth. I also warm up the car before we go anywhere so its not too cold in there. Stay warm and safe everyone!
Favorite onesie: http://www.amazon.com/Carters-Sleeve-White-Onesies-Month/dp/B004BA7GUM/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416008301&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=body+suit+baby+onesit+carters
Baby Undersocks: http://www.amazon.com/Undersocks-Baby-Warmers-MONTHS-Natural/dp/B005TD8BK4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416008358&sr=8-1&keywords=baby+undersocks
As long as they don’t start making a snuggie that looks like Dora trying to hold a beer, I’m all for it, lol!
@Chou, I think you mean Kecia ;). I’d skip the reasoning, because she’ll win every time, and schlep it back and forth every time with you. Maybe you should wear it? j/k Maybe she’d enjoy holding it and changing into it if you made it a routine to throw it in the dryer for a few minutes before you leave?
I have a question for you and Jennifer: how do you convince a toddler that it’s in her best interest to take off her cozy, poofy winter coat and slip into a bone-chillingly cold poncho that has been in the deep freeze all night (we park in the street). Right now, when it’s in the 40’s in the morning she doesn’t seem to mind, but when it’s below 0–like I’m sure it gets in NY for a couple days– how do you do reason with her?
Someone told me recently that they had found kid-sized snuggies (with superhero themes!) at Walmart. I think those would probably be great in the car for older kids. Better than a blanket.
I have heard in the past that they were. Where I live, we don’t need much more than a blanket over the top of baby, so I don’t see many fleece suits, lol. I got a cute one for ds when he was born (12/31 baby!), but never used it because he always overheated in it. The key is to keep the fluff down and also the size. If it’s too big, it’s going to bunch under the baby which is essentially more padding behind the baby.
Thanks for posting this! I will totally forward to my families who have infants. I see this all the time here in Seattle!
I was wondering if the Hanna Anderson and Colombia fleece suits are ok? The Columbia one seemed pretty thin and OK with me to use. What are your thoughts?