As a new parent, one of the first things you learn about is the best way to keep your child safe in a car seat. You know all the rules:

  • Infants should ride rear-facing until they are two years old
  • Children should ride in car seat with a 5-point harness until they reach the highest weight and height allowed by their car seat manufacturer
  • Booster seats are required until your child is 80 pounds or taller than 4 feet 9 inches

But did you know that your child could still be at risk if they are wearing a heavy winter coat while riding in their car seat?

The combination of bulky winter coats and car seats can put your child at risk for injury or even death in a car accident. This is especially the case with the popular puffy coats that many children wear. Bulky coats create too much space between the straps and your child, often compressing in the event of a crash and causing the straps to become less or even completely ineffective

Is My Child’s Winter Coat a Risk?

To determine if your child’s coat is too bulky to wear safely in a car seat, use this simple test:

  1. Strap your child into the car seat with the winter coat on.
  2. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the strap between your thumb and finger.
  3. Unbuckle your child and remove them from the seat. Do not loosen or tighten the harness. 
  4. Take off your child’s winter coat and place them back in the car seat. If you are now able to pinch any of the strap between your thumb and finger, then the coat is too bulky to be worn in the car seat.

Winter Coat Car Seat Safety

If your child’s current coat is too bulky to safely wear in the car seat, don’t worry—they don’t have to be cold to stay safe! Here’s how to keep your child safe in the car during cold weather:

  • Bring your infant carrier seat into the house when not in use so the seat stays warm.
  • Strap your infant into the car seat wearing normal clothing while you’re still inside. Cover the infant carrier with a blanket or special fitted cover, designed for an infant carrier. Be careful that the fitted cover does not include a layer that goes under your infant. 
  • Have your toddler or child wear their coat to the car and then take it off before buckling them into the car seat. Turn the coat around and place it over the child, or have a blanket on hand for use while riding in the car seat. Put the coat back on after you’ve arrived at your destination.
  • Don’t forget hats, socks, shoes, and mittens or gloves. These items help keep you child warm and won’t get in the way of the car seat harness. Add a blanket on top of the buckled harness for added warmth and safety.


Expectant Parent Resources

The Arkansas Children’s expectant parent pages will help you find neonatal intensive care resources, research study opportunities with the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, what to expect during the first month of a baby’s life and much more.

View expectant parent information

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