Baby It’s Cold Outside: Car Seat Safety

lanacoldWe are in the midst of record-setting frigid temps.  All I want to do is pile on some layers and crawl under a blanket.  When the time comes that I have to go outside, a coat, mittens, scarf, and hat are a must.  We take all of these precautions to keep us safe and warm, so it would only make sense that we need to do the same for our kids.  The more layers the better, right?  If going out involves a car seat, the answer is actually LESS IS MORE.

I just assumed that using puffy coats and snow suits in a car seat was a well-known safety hazard.  I have read it on social media, heard it on the news, and seen an article in a magazine.  One link I saw even showed a crash test where the dummy was wearing a puffy coat in the car seat and, as a result, flew right out of the seat on impact.  Scary stuff!

Sadly, I’m realizing that many parents either choose to ignore this recommendation or have not heard that car seats and winter coats don’t mesh.  The other day I saw a baby at daycare put into her snow suit before being put in the car seat.  I work with children, and I have seen kiddos be strapped in with a nice, big puffy coat when leaving a session.  I have also spotted tots in parking lots around Iowa City, waiting patiently for their parents to take them out of their car seats that they are stuffed into, coats and all.

No matter how snuggly you think you have the straps, it IS NOT tight enough.  I did read that a thin fleece is OK, but all other coats are a no-no.  We follow this rule every day.  So, how does Jessa stay warm enough?  Here’s our routine when going to daycare:

We always start the car a few minutes before we leave, and when going from the house to the car (housed in our attached garage), she has on a hat, mittens, and boots along with a blanket over her whole body.  She is then securely strapped in, and the blanket is put over her lap while keeping the other accessories on.  When we pull into daycare, I hop in the back seat, get her out of her car seat, and put on her coat before heading in.  Granted, it takes a couple more minutes on either end of a trip to get her coat on and off in the car…but don’t you suppose it is worth it?

I hope that this advice is something you have already heard a million times and that you already avoid coats in the car.  However, if this is new to you, please implement this rule!  In case you don’t believe me, here are some links that may sway you.




Lana Criswell is a born and bred Hawkeye fan who has lived in Iowa City for almost ten years! She came for college and never looked back. Lana has been married to her husband, Tom, for two years and is momma to Jessa (3.5 months) and Charlie, the dog. She finished graduate school nearly four years ago in speech-language pathology and works at Children’s Center for Therapy in Iowa City. She is excited to be able to work 80% time now and have some “girl time” with Jessa each week. Lana loves spending time with family and friends, cooking/baking, going to Hawkeye games, going on walks around the neighborhood with the dog, and reading.


  1. Great post Lana! I also make it into a sort of “game” with my almost-5-year-old when I jump into the back seat to get her re-bundled before getting out of the car…we see how fast we can get our coats and hats on! When she was an infant, I used one of those car seat covers (like J.J. Cole) that helped keep her cozy without the unsafe bundling.

  2. Great article, one note though, it is not safe to start a vehicle in an attached garage, especially if you are keeping the overhead door closed. A car running for even just a few minutes can create a considerable amount of carbon monoxide that will enter your home. Thank you for the information on car seat safety!

  3. I would love to see some more realistic options for moms that have other factors to deal with. Especially low income families who might be burdened most by trying to follow these guidelines.
    Imagine trying to follow this routine with 4 young kids. When you have to park down the block or at least not in a covered garage. When your cars exhaust is not the best and your afraid to let it idle with kids in it. Or maybe your car overheats if left running. And you can’t afford the extra gas 10min a day of idle time will use each week. When getting everyone buckled takes 5min with the doors open and there is no room to put jackets on in the car before getting out again and that takes another 5 min standing outside to get each kid redressed. How about the worry that the trusty rusty is going to break down on the way or run out of gas and everyone will be sitting in it on the side of the toad for an extended period with the heat off. And then be afraid that your going to go off the road because you can’t afford winter tires and your car is not 4 wheel drive. Worried your child will get thrown from the car if it’s a serious crash? Yes. Scared your child will freeze before anyone finds you? Even more.
    I’m not advocating for jackets in car seats. I just want people who see someone choosing to use them to understand that it’s not always as easy as carrying your one child to your heated car in your heated garage. And safely driving to daycare with no worries.

  4. Indeed – as an employee of the fire department, NEVER LEAVE YOUR
    CAR RUNNING IN AN ATTACHED GARAGE. Carbon monoxide will leach into your home and that can be deadly.
    As for the mom with ‘excuses’, yes, that’s what they are, it’s quite simple. All it takes is a bit of effort. I have 3 kids in car seats and it wouldn’t matter if the car was in an attached garage or 3 blocks away….they wear everything to the car. Everyone gets in their seats, then I go around one by one and lean them forward, slip off their coat, buckle them in, then put their coat back on backwards by sliding their arms into the sleeves and tucking the sides of their coat into the car seat around them – toasty warm, and no one was out of their coat for more than 20 seconds – just long enough to buckle them up.
    No matter the circumstance, it’s easily done. For the record, in addition to freezing myself while I buckle 3 precious boys, we live in Canada, today was -20 celcius and felt like -35 celcius with the wind chill. I’m not kidding, my hands are frozen by the time I’m done, but I’m not complaining – I would do anything to keep my kids as safe as I can. They don’t complain either.


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