Car Laws & Safety

Why Not To Use Winter Coats In Car Seats?

Many Parents asked why they should not use winter coats in a car seat? Dr. Leah Alexander did extensive research to answer this important question to our dear readers.

Winter is approaching, which means it is time to dress warmly for outdoor activities. As you prepare for this weather, you layer on the heavier onesies, sweaters, coats, and hats. Then, putting your child into the car seat requires you to remove a layer.

You look at your little one, very warm and cozy, and think, “Do I really need to take the coat off? “Is this really necessary?” In reality, it is. Read further and you will understand why it is much safer to take the coat off.

Why Are Heavy Coats Unsafe? 

Bulky Winter Coats and Car SeatsThe primary issue of bulky coats and clothing is that they prevent carseat harnesses from properly securing your infant or child.

These straps remain unexpectedly loose because of the coat. According to the AAP:

“In a car crash, fluffy padding immediately flattens out from the force, leaving extra space in the harness. A child can slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.” 

When in a carseat, straps and clips should lie flat against the chest. The chest clip should be at the armpit level (source). Straps should be tight but comfortable for your child. 

The AAP Recommendations 

The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, provides more specific age and height recommendations for carseat use: 

  • Birth to Age 4 Rear-facing, infant carseat (under 35lbs) 
  • Age 4 to seat weight Forward-facing convertible or harness carseat limit (35-60lbs) 
  • Ages 8-12 Booster seat Height under 4’9” 
  • Ages 13 and up Seatbelt only Height at least 4’9 

Take a look at this link for their helpful charts and diagrams 

How To Choose & Proper Installation 

They also provide information on how to choose and properly install a carseat:

It is important to note that all infants and toddlers should be kept rear-facing
at least until the age of 2.

Crash test studies reveal an increased risk of spinal cord injuries among this age group during accidents when in a forward-facing carseat.

See also
California Car Seat Laws Explained

In November 2018, the AAP updated their policy to state “rear-facing until the age of 4” if possible:

Because laws may vary in your state, it is best to consult your local authorities to determine when to transition your child to the next stage of carseat.

Carseat Safety & Laws 

First, let’s discuss a bit about carseats. Carseats for infants and children have come a long way since laws were passed requiring their use in 1985.

Recommendations on which type of seat to use varies by age, weight and height.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Committee offers some basic recommendations:

  • Infants Rear-facing, infant carseat 
  • Toddlers Forward-facing carseat with a harness and tether 
  • Grade School Children Booster seat 
  • Older Children Seatbelt only 

How do I Know Which Coats Are Safe? 

It may be obvious that bulky down coats and snowsuits will not fit well in a carseat.

You may be wondering, however, if a fleece onesie or lighter jacket would be ok.

Bestseller No. 1
Kids Car Seat Poncho Toddler Boy Blanket Lumberjack Deer...
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  • SAFE: No more worries about safety when buckling your baby over bulky coats or clothing! Try our...
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Bestseller No. 4
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  • Kids ponchos for 0-2 years olds, and for baby aren't height higher than 100cm/39.4", ponchos for...
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Last update on 2021-07-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Consumer Reports developed a “Puffy Coat Check” to help parents determine if their child is safe. They recommend:

Step 1

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

Step 2
Without loosening the harness at all, unhook it, and remove your child from the car seat.

Take the coat off, put your child back in the car seat, and buckle the harness straps, which should be adjusted just as they were when the child was wearing the coat.

Step 3
If you can pinch the webbing between your thumb and forefinger now, then the coat is too bulky to be worn under the harness. 

You may want to try this test before assuming that a lighter coat is safe enough. Take a look at this consumer Reports video 

In general, however, Consumer Reports agrees with the medical authorities: removing the coat is safer. 

It’s Cold Outside! Now What? 

You may have noticed a variety of products on the market with claims stating they are a “safe winter coat” option for carseats. Once such option is Buckle Me Coats.

Bestseller No. 1
Buckle Me Baby Coat - Safer Car Seat Boys Winter Jacket - Deepest...
  • Safer baby and toddler winter coat for use in car seats; award-winning design; ingenious solution to...
  • Side zipper and hook & loop closures at the shoulders enable you to move the entire front panel and...
  • Getting child out of car seat is just as easy; more importantly, no need to struggle in the confines...
Bestseller No. 2
Buckle Me Baby Coat - Safer Car Seat Unisex Winter Jacket - Grey...
250 Reviews
Buckle Me Baby Coat - Safer Car Seat Unisex Winter Jacket - Grey...
  • Safer baby and toddler winter coat for use in car seats; award-winning design; ingenious solution to...
  • Side zipper and hook & loop closures at the shoulders enable you to move the entire front panel and...
  • Getting child out of car seat is just as easy; more importantly, no need to struggle in the confines...
SaleBestseller No. 3
Infantino Flip 4-in-1 Carrier - Ergonomic, Convertible, face-in...
33,483 Reviews
Infantino Flip 4-in-1 Carrier - Ergonomic, Convertible, face-in...
  • Design: 4-in-1 carrier with adjustable ergonomic seat, shoulder straps and waist belt to shift...
  • Wearing positions: Convertible facing-in and facing-out design for newborns and older babies,...
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Bestseller No. 4
Bucklebee - Easy Buckle Release Aid for Children and Caregivers
  • The PROVEN product designed to reduce the unbuckling force for a child or caregiver
  • Large grip for easy and ergonomic release
  • Remains attached to the seat for convenience
SaleBestseller No. 5
Sunferno Car Headrest Hooks 4 Pack - Stylish Back Seat Hanger for...
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Last update on 2021-07-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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I have not, however, found a single product that has been endorsed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Both government and medical authorities all agree that bulky coats and carseats are a bad combination.

Instead, the consensus is to use a blanket or the heavy winter coat draped over the car seat once your infant is secured inside.

Adding a hat and mittens provides additional warmth. Blankets should NOT be wrapped around the baby or tucked under the harness in any way[Mayo Clinic]

Bestseller No. 1
6 Pairs Winter Warm Knitted Mittens Gloves Stretch Mittens for...
  • Package includes: each package comes with 6 pairs of winter knit gloves in different colors, the...
  • Material: these mini gloves are made of acrylic and spandex with strong elasticity, flexible and...
  • Adorable accessories: its warm and great color combination design makes these gloves can not only...
Bestseller No. 2
MCTi Kids Mittens Waterproof Winter Ski Warm Sherpa Lined Long...
  • Super Warmth Lined: Insulated with lightweight thick sherpa fleece to keep hands super warm and dry...
  • Durable Water-Repellent Nylon Fabric: It is water-resistant and wear resistant for any outdoor snow...
  • Non-slip PU Palm: Full PU gripper on the palm and fingers. The quality is approved as imported...
Bestseller No. 3
SnowStoppers Kid's Nylon Waterproof Snow Colorful Mittens (Black,...
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  • Featruing the Patented SnowStoppers Sleeve
  • They Stop the Snow from getting in to the wrist between the coat and mitten
Bestseller No. 4
Boao 12 Pairs Stretch Mittens Winter Warm Knitted Gloves for...
  • Comfortable to wear: these mini gloves are made of acrylic and spandex, warm and breathable, it can...
  • Adorable gloves: each glove measures 11.5 cm/ 4.5 inches in length, and its width is approx. 6.5 cm/...
  • Various choices: there are many colors included, easy to match with different outfits in various...
Bestseller No. 5
Motarto 12 Pairs Toddler Mittens Warm Winter Gloves Stretch Knit...
  • The package includes: there are 12 pairs of toddler gloves in the package, each pair of gloves has 6...
  • Material: the gloves are soft and comfortable; they are made of high-quality acrylic fiber,...
  • Wide application: these beautiful gloves are suitable for any outdoor activities, such as skiing,...

Last update on 2021-07-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The AAP offers additional tips for keeping your little one warm AND safe(Source)

Blanket In The Best Solution 

So, as you prepare for enjoying fun winter activities, remember carseat safety. Skip the heavy coat, and bring a blanket to drape over him or her instead.

SaleBestseller No. 1
JJ Cole Original Bundleme Bunting Bag, Canopy Style, Graphite
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  • Stable design:  removable top allows for easy temperature control to keep your little one...
Bestseller No. 2
JJ Cole Car Seat Cover Heather Grey, Gray
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Bestseller No. 3
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  • - MULTI-USE: Swaddle, carseat blanket for Car seat or Stroller with 5 slots for 3 or 5 Point Harness...
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Bestseller No. 4
Skip Hop Winter Car Seat Cover, Stroll & Go, Grey Feather
  • Baby car seat covers are the perfect accessory for cold weather travel with your little one. With...
  • Keep the collar closed to block out cold wind, or flip it open and snap it to the outer layer for...
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Bestseller No. 5
liuliuby Infant Car Seat Cover - Weatherproof Bunting Bag &...
  • 【 WEATHER PROOF SHELL 】liuliuby’s high quality, wind proof and water resistant mélange shell...
  • 【 BABY’S COMFORT 】The ultra-soft, luxurious coral fleece lining cocoons baby for ultimate...
  • 【 STYLE & CONVENIENCE 】Clean design that includes conveniences for today’s modern...

Last update on 2021-07-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Leah Alexander, M.D is a graduate of Kalamazoo College and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, and is board certified in General Pediatrics. She completed her Pediatric residency at Overlook and Morristown Memorial Hospitals of New Jersey.

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