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Posted on Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : noon

Are puffy winter coats for children a safety hazard in the car?

By Melissa Boehling

It makes sense once it's pointed out, but I would never have originally guessed that putting my child or infant in a heavy winter coat or suit to keep them warm could be causing a safety hazard in their car seat.

I had seen in the years since I had my son that more parents had been using the car covers for infants versus a snow suit similar to the ones used back when we were littler or the years in between.

The big puffy coats and winter suits seem to be trendy as well logical for the frigid temperatures, especially the below freezing ones we've seen lately. Those puffy coats mean more bulk, which means that the harnesses aren't being kept as tight as they need to be. The two finger test doesn't work well when you're testing it with at thick coat on a child.

This is a good article that discusses the possibly safety hazard of winter coats for babies and children: Winter Coats and Car Seat Safety: What Every Caregiver Should Know

It is directed, in the title, to caregivers but really applies to all of those who care for or have children that are in their vehicles.


Photo by Anna Dickey

Photo by Anna Dickey

My children now wear coats that are still very warm but made of the a thinner material then the big puffy coats. Car accidents can be very serious and scary with our children in the car; that every extra step that we can take to make sure they are able to walk away okay when one may occur is something we'd all want to be aware of.

What are your thoughts? Is this a valid concern, or are parents being overly worried?

Melissa Boehling, Owner and primary care provider for Starry Night Child Care, IT Consultant, and mother of four (twin sons in heaven, a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.)


Melissa Boehling

Fri, Jan 7, 2011 : 10:39 a.m.

@JuliaAnnArb - You are right everyone needs to do what works best for them based on the ages and resources. =) I also am with you too about parking lots too just for getting everyone in seats and seatbelts, but we're lucky enough to have a van and I'm a relatively short (5 2") person so I just load us all in the back and close the doors and then we get everyone settled in and then walk to the front to drive. Now eventually when we go back to a different type of vehicle that won't be so much an option but thankfully the kids will be older so my need to do that should be less. Although sometimes its my seven year old I find being more forgetful about proper parking lot safety...=P


Thu, Jan 6, 2011 : 9:29 a.m.

My solution has been to buy the non-puffy coats. I always wondered how many people really take winter coats off in the car, and whether the experts who recommend it live in Michigan. I can see it being possible when we're leaving the house, but how am I supposed to bundle my boys up inside the store, schlep across the Target parking lot, take both kids out of their coats, and strap them into a cold car? Then repeat the whole operation at the next stop? I'd be worried that one of them would wander off in the parking lot or get clipped by a distracted driver, especially on a snowy day like today. For an infant who's still riding in a baby bucket or being popped into a cozy sling, no problem, but I just don't see that it's possible with toddlers and preschoolers.

Melissa Boehling

Wed, Jan 5, 2011 : 9:24 a.m.

@Eva - Thanks. I can understand the concern for overheating since they had long ago said that could be a factor in SIDS cases. The blanket sleepers do seem great for the littlest ones. =0) @Jen - It sounds that way! He's just ahead of the curve on knowing what is safe. :-D

Eva Johnson

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 10:37 a.m.

Great topic, Melissa! I have to admit, I always worried more about the kids overheating than being cold, so I would try and warm up the car and then just transfer them quickly (without coats) with a blankie on top of them. Blanket sleepers were also my favorite thing to keep them warm.

Melissa Boehling

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 7:53 a.m.

@fensk - Yes the biggest concern seemed to be the extra space that was being created under the belts. I agree that the advice is easier for infants on alternate ways to address this versus young children. They even suggested having the children take off their coat once in the vehicle, put on the seatbelt/harness, and then have them wear their coats backwards which they switch when arriving at the destination. My kids would be excited to be able to take their coats off in the vehicle while driving. They have sometimes asked to. There is also the option of buying the coats that are made out of really good cold weather protecting materials (similar to what skiers use) versus the bulkier coats. And you can find those coats at pretty good deals both my kids coats came from either Kohls or JCPenny and were found on sale the season before for 1/2 price. I can't remember what material they are made out of but it is a thinner one but seems to keep them warm as they ask us to turn the heat down in the vehicle (or as mentioned above request if they can take their coats off). Of course they also have a mom is always cold this time of year.;-) @breadman - The blanket sleepers with blankets are a great idea as well.


Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 3:31 p.m.

Very good though!!! Yes fensk, blankets are fine but when you stop and get the child out must put a coat on. Secret! my youngest was born in January, with winter almost on the end, I used a lot of blanket sleepers as a coat with thick blankets. Covered her from head to toes....


Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

The carseat safety class I took said to not use heavy coats UNDER the belts. ( of the carseat) Put heavy blankets etc over, after the child is secured in. I guess this is good advice for infants in infant seats as you can cover them up and tote them around, seat and all. I am not sure how well this works with a toddler...might be kick off the blanket. It would mean you would have to put the heavy coat on once they are out of the car..brrr.

Tammy Mayrend

Mon, Jan 3, 2011 : 11:27 a.m.

Good points Melissa!