Today is scheduled to be the first snow in Chicago. Yikes! Do you know how to keep baby properly bundled in the car seat, without compromising safety? I talked with Brooks Watson, owner of Safety Squad & the Kids Fire Dept. Safety Squad is the professional car seat team for Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. Here is the Safety Squad's list of DO's and DON'Ts for safe car seat use during the winter months:
1. Don't place a lot of padding behind baby - this includes big coats, snowsuits, or inserts. Extra padding compresses in a crash, potentially loosening the harness straps and placing baby at a risk for ejection.
2. Don't use 'after market' products with your car seat. This includes inserts, strap covers, and head supports. Your car seat was only tested with the items it came with in the car seat box. Adding extra products will void your car seat warranty and possibly decrease the performance of your car seat in a crash. "We have seen many harness errors with products such as the Bundle Me when used in the car seat carrier. These items place a lot of extra padding behind the baby and around the harness straps, causing twisting of straps and making it difficult to tighten the straps properly," states Safety Squad.
1. Do use thin layers to keep baby warm, a medium weight jacket, and a hat. Or use the coat backwards, on top of baby, inserting the arms through the sleeves. The Car Seat Poncho is a safe, jacket alternative.
2. Do use blankets on top of baby and the carrier for warmth - regular baby blankets work just fine. Another advantage of blankets is that they can be easily removed, once the car warms up to avoid overheating baby. The Car Seat Blankie is specially designed to stay put on top of the car seat carrier.
3. Do use car seat covers that fit around the shell of the car seat, like a shower cap. These are safe because they don't integrate with the straps or place extra padding behind baby. One option is the JJ Cole Car Seat Cover, featuring a removable cover.