Winter coats dangerous for babies in car seats

Monday, 6 December 2010 10:01 AM

As the temperatures continue to plummet, parents will be conscious that their baby is kept 'snug as a bug' indoors and out. But, placing your baby in a car seat with a large winter coat or snowsuit could affect the harness tension and place your child in danger.

Bulky winter clothes add padding and the harness straps can be deceivingly loose against your child’s chest. In an emergency brake situation, the coat would compress under the force and the straps would be too loose, offering little or no protection for the child.

“Parents may be very surprised at the amount of slack a coat or snow suit can cause. For a car seat to work properly, the straps needs to be tightly strapped against the child’s chest,” warns Isobel Thompson, mum of three and founder of Morrck, the online baby wear and accessories site.

In a survey conducted by Morrck, 76 per cent of British parents fastened their child into a car seat while wearing bulky winter clothes. Of these, over half were unaware that this could potentially put their child in danger.

“To get the correct harness tension over a puffy snowsuit or thick coat, a parent really has to tighten it substantially,” explains Thompson.

“However, this can make the child uncomfortable as their freedom of movement is restricted and being tightly strapped in a warm coat can also lead to the child overheating.”

Placing your baby in a prewarmed car without their outdoor coat solves the problem. But, with temperatures below freezing most evenings, unwrapping your child of their cosy layers is sometimes unthinkable.

Thompson and her business partner Kate Frankland designed The Baby Hoodie which is a specially designed blanket for car seats and prams that has holes for the harness straps to fit through but wide enough to wrap your baby up in. The harness is fastened underneath the folds of the blanket and is the safest solution to the bitter cold outside.

According to the UK Department of Transport, up to 80 per cent of all car seats are used incorrectly, with car seat tension being the single biggest failing.

To test whether you have the correct harness tension, Morrck advises using the ‘two finger’ test.

  • Put the coat on the child
  • Strap the child into the car seat and tighten to ensure a snug fit
  • Remove the child from the car seat without loosening the straps.
  • Take the coat off the child.
  • Strap the child back into the seat- but do not readjust the straps.
  • Do the ‘two finger’ test – if you can fit more than two fingers underneath the harness at the child’s collar bone, the harness tension needs to be tightened or avoid wearing a coat while in the car seat.

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