The Comprehensive Guide to Car Seat Safety Part IV (Additional Concerns)

See also Part I of this series: Car Seat Selection and Direction, Part II: Installation, and Part III, Harnessing.

ADDITIONAL CONCERNS

What about Winter?

Bulky items (this includes winter coats, buntings, and liners like the BundleMe) are not allowed to be used with a car seat because the harness will be too loose to protect a child in the event of a crash. Even when tightened over these bulky items, in the event of a crash the material will compress leaving a large gap between the child and the harness. A child could be ejected from the car seat if the harness is not snug enough.

Some alternate options for keeping kids warm in the winter are:

-“Shower cap” style car seat covers that go OVER an infant seat, and not between the baby and back of the seat. You can also layer some blankets on top of the baby (once harnessed) before zipping up the car seat “shower cap” cover. 

“Shower cap” style car seat cover (with blanket between cover and baby- on top of harness) (photo credit: Saara Moskowitz)
“Shower cap” style car seat cover (with blanket between cover and baby- on top of harness) (photo credit: Saara Moskowitz)
 “Shower cap” style car seat cover (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)
“Shower cap” style car seat cover (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)

-Fleece Ponchos that go over the harness system, and do not come between the child and car seat.

Fleece poncho (photo credit: Saara Moskowitz)
Fleece poncho (photo credit: Saara Moskowitz)
Fleece poncho in use over car seat/harness (photo credit: Saara Moskowitz)
Fleece poncho in use over car seat/harness (photo credit: Saara Moskowitz)

-Buckle your child in, and then put his coat on backward (or use a Snuggie) on top of the harness straps.

Backward Coat over harness (photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/SuperCarSeatGeek)
Backward Coat over harness (photo credit: Super Car Seat Geek)
Snuggie Over Harness: https://www.facebook.com/SuperCarSeatGeek
Snuggie Over Harness (photo credit: Super Car Seat Geek)

-Fleece jackets that fit snugly and do not compress.

AFTERMARKET PRODUCTS:

Another item prohibited by car seat manufactures are “aftermarket products” which includes anything that does not come with the car seat and is not specified as allowed in the car seat’s manual. Some examples of aftermarket products include infant head or body positioners, strap (or seat) covers, protection mats that go under car seats, seat belt tighteners, buntings, etc. These items are sold at retailers nationwide but they are not regulated or tested with the car seats.

The aftermarket items can interfere with the car seat’s installation, harnessing, and protection of your child. Many manufacturers will void the seat’s warranty if aftermarket products are used. Nothing extra should ever go between the car seat and vehicle seat, the baby and the car seat, or the baby and the harness.

Unsafe BundleMe (and projectile toys) (photo credit: Jillian Yeager)
Unsafe BundleMe (and projectile toys) (photo credit: Jillian Yeager)
Unsafe aftermarket Strap covers (photo credit: Courtney Michelle Gadd)
Unsafe aftermarket Strap covers (photo credit: Courtney Michelle Gadd)
Unsafe aftermarket Head and Body Support (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)
Unsafe aftermarket Head and Body Support (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)

This photo shows the aftermarket body support removed, but the harness on the same tightness setting as when the body support was in the seat. You can see how much space is actually between the baby and her harness. In the event of a crash, the body support would compress and the baby would not be protected.

Body support removed (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)
Body support removed (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)

One common concern is a newborn’s head flopping to the side in her car seat. If your car seat does not come with an infant insert, do not purchase an aftermarket product. An easy solution is to roll up some receiving blankets and place them on the side of the baby’s head, like so:

Rolled receiving blankets provide head support (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)
Rolled receiving blankets provide head support (photo credit: Sara Adina Baker)

Nothing should ever be clipped onto the car seat harness, this includes pacifier clips, toys, and devices meant to prevent a child from opening the chest clip. These items were not crash-tested with the car seat and can prevent the harness from fitting snugly, and the plastic or metal clips can cause further injury in the event of a crash.

PROJECTILES

Items such as toys, mirrors, and window shades can come loose in a crash, becoming projectiles which can seriously injure passengers. This also includes large handbags, water bottles, etc. If it’s not something you would want thrown at your head, secure it, or keep it in the trunk. In the event of a crash, these items will actually be significantly heavier than they are in a regular environment.

REGISTER YOUR PRODUCT

Every car seat comes with a postage paid postcard (or website address) to use for registering your seat. Completing the product registration is an important step because it allows the manufacturer to contact you directly if there is ever a recall on a product you own. If you have lost the registration card you can visit the manufacturer’s website and locate the registration page to register your product.

HEATSTROKE

Never leave your child alone in the car, even for a minute. The temperature inside a car can rise drastically in moments, leading to heatstroke and death. There are many apps (including Kars4Kids‘ brand new app) and devices available to help prevent children from being left in the car, but never attach any extra devices to the child’s car seat.

Be extra cautious when you have a change in routine. When a caregiver is not used to dropping off her child at day care before going to work, mistakes can happen. Try to keep a personal item (keys, wallet, purse, phone) safely secured in the back seat. This will quickly become routine, and every time you arrive at your destination you will be accessing the back seat for your personal item, and will quickly see if you have any children in the car that day.

BUCKLE UP

You are a role model for your children. Children with parents who wear their seat belts every time they drive are much more likely to buckle up as teenagers.

Additional Resources:
Car Seats for the Littles
car-seat.org
The Car Seat Lady
safekids.org
safercar.gov
The Car Seat Nerd
Super Car Seat Geek

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Saara Moskowitz is a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) certified by Safe Kids Worldwide. She lives in New England with husband and daughter. You can contact her with any questions at SaaraCPST@gmail.com.