Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What You Should Know About Carseat Harness Safety & Winter Coats

As is always the way when the colder weather strikes, the debate about children wearing thick winter jackets or snowsuits in carseats rears its head. To me, there’s no debate about it – a simple don’t do it is all that’s needed, but I’ll explain why here.

It’s obvious when you think about it, that if the child is wearing a thickly padded winter jacket or snowsuit then you won’t be able to tension the harness correctly. In the event of an impact the child then has further to travel forward before the harness stops them, which in turn increases the chances of serious internal injuries / neck and spinal injuries. A carseat harness doesn’t tension the same way as a 3 point seatbelt in the vehicle does so you want to make sure it’s tensioned properly before you set off (a maximum of 2 finger gap between the breastbone and the harness is the recommendation for correct tension) Once the child moves up into a high back booster seat and is using the 3 point seatbelt, this isn’t so much of an issue, as in an impact the seatbelt tension would lock and prevent the child moving forward too far (the same as it works on an adult using the seatbelt)

A lot of infant carrier carseats have cosy-toes available as accessories for the cold weather. I used one for J in his CabrioFix when he was a baby. It goes into the empty carseat, then you put the child in and do up the harness correctly, then zip up the cosy-toes on the outside of the harness. This ensures baby is safely harnessed in the carseat and keeps them lovely and snuggly warm.

Maxi-Cosi CabrioFix Footmuff

Also remember that when you’re in the car, you have the car heating. I don’t tend to wear my coat when I’m driving as I find it restrictive – so I know the vehicle temperature is warm enough that any children travelling with me won’t be freezing cold anyway. Obviously younger babies do need to be kept warmer than an adult, so it’s a good idea to layer them up, but don’t bundle them up for arctic conditions when you’re in the car, it’s unnecessary and will cause them to overheat.

Once J was too big for his CabrioFix carseat and moved up to using the Opal, there wasn’t a cosy-toes / Footmuff option available, so I used blankets over the top of the harness instead. This became more difficult as he got older, since he’d insist on having his hands free for playing with whatever toys he’d brought with him or being able to have a drink or snack while we were driving. I discovered Snuggie Blankies were the best thing ever – gorgeous soft fleecy blankets with sleeves in, you know the ones designed to sit on the sofa wearing on a chilly evening? J was given one for Christmas with his favourite Disney Pixar Cars characters on, and it became my cold-weather go-to for when he was in the carseat as I could tension the harness with him in normal indoor clothes and then put the blankie over the top of the harness, and put his arms through the sleeves so he had no need to shrug it off in order to eat / drink / play. He’s in a high back booster seat now, so it isn’t so much of a concern but I still have that blankie in the car just in case. It’s also helpful if he falls asleep in the car, because I can scoop him into my arms and put it around him to carry him into the house without getting too child (you know you feel the cold more when you’re half asleep) Also a friend told me about a company called Snunkie who make bespoke cosy-toes for pushchairs – I got one for our pushchair, but then also discovered it could be fitted to the carseat as well, using the harness hooks to attach the loops that would normally be around the pushchair chassis and stop it dropping off.

Maxi-Cosi Opal carseat with
Snunkie cosy toes

I can see why people think it’s a faff, but really it only takes a couple of seconds to take off a jacket before putting the child in the carseat and put it back on again when you reach your destination. You don’t have to spend a fortune on the official cosy-toes either, or fancy specially-designed carseat blankets – a normal blanket is fine, or a snuggie blankie as I found, or even just put their winter jacket on backwards once they’re in the carseat harness. At the end of the day though my argument is simple – sure, it may take a couple of extra seconds to remove / put on the jacket before and after every journey, and it might disturb your child if they’ve fallen asleep, but really what amount of time is worth it to potentially prevent them being killed if you crash? The reality is that people find too many excuses for it being inconvenient and taking too long because they quite simply do not have the common sense to see the most serious potential outcome of the child not being correctly harnessed in. Think about it. It’s the same as taking the time to make sure the carseat fits your vehicle properly and is correctly fitted in the first place – this is your child’s life. Sure, they might be lucky and you might have an accident and they might be fine – but are you willing to take that risk? I know I’m not.

Be safe people, and take care of the little ones in your life,


Mummy P

x x x x

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