The Midwest has taken a beating this winter. Our temperatures go from positive to negative so quickly, we have summer temps in the dead of winter, and dry spells when we need to start thinking about welcoming those May flowers. I am a Chicagoan living in Kansas City, so the drastic changes in weather do not scare me nor do they shock me. And I never questioned how to dress for any climate, until I had a child.
There are so many warning signs, including on the car seat, advising parents not to put a child in the car seat in a snow suit or a coat of any kind. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, can compress in a crash and lead to increased risk of injury. Ideally, you can dress your baby in thinner layers and tuck a coat or a blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps if needed.
I’m not a Nervous Nelly, but I do try and keep my son as protected as I possibly can. I take safety very seriously and pay attention to all warnings and all safety requirements of anything Evan-related. Throughout the fall, I had Evan in a fleece jacket. It was pretty thin, so I felt comfortable. I asked my pediatrician about it, and although she does recommend no jackets of any kind, she didn’t completely write off the fleece. As the temperature began to fall, I began to get more and more nervous. I’m torn about a jacket in the car seat and here’s why: It’s cold! It has been in the single digits lately and most days we’re lucky if it’s even above zero degrees. The back of the car does not heat up as quickly as the front, and there are no butt warmers in his car seat like I have up front. When we leave the house and the car is in the warm garage, I have no concern. It’s when we get to our destination and we have to get from the car to point B where he’ll be chilly in the back seat.
This topic has come up many times with me and my pediatrician. Each time I ask her, “Really, you still support no jacket?” And she’s told me some terrible stories and why so many child-related services stand so strongly against jackets in the car seat. She said as silly as it may be, you throw a few blankets on the baby in the car, wrap them up in them then run into where you need to be. For older kids she recommends having the jacket in the car then quickly putting it on before you get inside. But I’d prefer to have Evan zipped up in a tighter form of insulation against the harsh cold rather than wrapped in a knitted blanket.
Then I think of those stories. I can picture what has happened to children who have been involved in vehicular accidents and are in snow suits. I understand the precaution the experts take and why they are urging parents to use blankets and car seat manufacturers to display a clear warning. It makes total sense.
It’s been many months, and I still go back and forth. There are times I feel guilty about having a jacket on him, so I’ll leave it off. Most of the time lately, I am so worried about the cold that I bundle him up and cinch him in tightly. What is the difference between me in a jacket with a single cross-body buckle and Evan in a jacket with a double-chested buckle? I don’t know. But I’m doing my best with the information I have — even if I do make a different decision every day.
I’d love to hear how you feel about coats in the car seat. Do you skip coats or not worry about it? —Jennifer