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Wrapping your child in the coziest jacket possible seems the obvious way to stay warm, but puffy coats are not the safest option when it comes to car seats and booster seats. When it’s time for them to get into their car seat, the jackets need to come off. It might be a pain, but it could save their life.

When your child is wearing a winter coat it might feel like they are strapped in snugly, but that extra padding isn’t doing them any favors—especially if it’s a slick, slippery material. For your child’s car seat to offer the maximum protection in a crash, the harness or seat belt needs to be as close to the child as possible. The more layers of padding or clothing between a child and the harness, the harder it is to properly fit the restraint to the child. The harness can end up fitting to the thick coat, and in the event of a crash, all that extra air is forced out between the layers, leaving the harness too loose to protect a child. A loose harness, at best, means extra crash time on the child, and at worst, could mean ejection from the seat.


Here is a simple way to check if your child’s coat is too big and bulky to wear under their harness:

Put the coat on your child, sit them in the child seat and fasten the harness. Tighten the harness until you can no longer pinch any of the harness webbing with your thumb and forefinger.

Without loosening the harness, remove your child from the child seat.

Take the coat off, and put your child back in the child seat and buckle the harness straps, which are still adjusted as they were when he was wearing the coat.

If you can now pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness.


If you find that the coat can not be safely worn under the harness, here are a couple things you can do to keep your child safe and warm in his/her child seat:

After securing your child in his/her child seat, turn the coat around and put it on backward with their arms through the arm holes and the back of the coat acting like a blanket

Lay a blanket over your child to keep him/her warm.

Use a Car Seat Poncho – it is made from fleece and doesn’t interfere with the harness. The zipper can unzip from the top or bottom, making it easy to buckle the child in.

Another important consideration is that children do not need to wear all of those extra layers while in the vehicle. Even if it takes a while for the vehicle to warm up, when it does, the child can become hot, sweaty, and generally cranky if they are dressed in too many layers. Usually, even the tiniest of babies need at most one more layer of clothing than their parents are wearing to be comfortable.

Remember, it is very important that the harness is tight enough that you can’t pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. Extra slack in the harness can be very dangerous; it can lead to too much excursion or even ejection during a crash. As long as you don’t introduce extra slack under the harness or seat belt, kids will be safe and warm all winter long. Safety First!