Car Seat Safety Tips for the Winter Months

winter car seat safety

We all know just how brutal winters can be here in the Midwest.

Our top priority, especially as parents, is keeping our little ones toasty warm as we venture out into the frozen tundra. Many parents do not know however that bulky winter jackets and car seat accessories meant to keep our children warm often don’t mix with car seats. I have compiled a few tips and tricks below to ensure that everyone has a safe and happy winter season.

While those bulky winter jackets are great for outdoor play, they pose a very serious danger if worn in a child’s car seat. If an accident occurs, all of that extra puff compresses, leaving a loose harness, potentially allowing your child to be ejected from their car seat. Luckily there are a few things you can do to ensure your child is secure in their seat and stays warm in the cold weather months.

car seat winter safety


Tight fitting thin layers are your friend in cold weather. Not only does this allow you to remove layers if your child gets warm, but it also allows for a nice snug fit in the car seat. A onesie or undershirt, long sleeved tee, and tight fleece work wonders. Throw on a hat and mittens and your child is good to go! 

Car Blankets and Ponchos

I keep a big old stack of warm blankets in the backseat of my car. As soon as my kiddos are loaded up, I tuck the blankets in around them. If your child is still in an infant seat (aka a seat that can be removed from the car) a nice warm blanket combined with a few added layers makes for an easy trip. An added benefit of blankets — as the car warms up, they can easily be removed. Also, if you are ever in an accident or your car breaks down, these blankets can help to keep you warm until help arrives.

Car seat ponchos are another great option. Think blanket with a large a hole for your kiddo’s head! They can be put on indoors, and you can tighten the harness and then lay the poncho over your child once in the car. Just make sure it is draped over the back of the seat and not between your child and their car seat.

Warming the Car Up

This one is a bit more controversial.  It is your call as to whether or not you want to start your car ahead of time, but on those really nasty negative wind chill days, this helps us out a lot. Just remember, DO NOT leave your keys in your running car. You don’t want to be a walking advertisement for car theft. 

THIN Winter Jackets

Again, this one is controversial. Remember, safety is the top priority in the car so any jacket that your child wears while riding needs to fit some requirements. Many companies have released very thin down and down alternative jackets. They are advertised as car seat safe. However, there is no “one size fits all” jacket. What may work for your friend may not for you. You will need to physically test the jacket out using the strap test on your child to ensure a great fit and a safe ride.

Here is how to test:

  1. Put your child in their seat with the jacket in question on.
  2. Tighten the harness as you normally would, remembering to pull any slack out of the hips.
  3. Remove child from the car seat WITHOUT loosening the harness straps.
  4. Remove jacket in question from child.
  5. Place child back into the car seat and buckle. Check for any additional slack. If the straps do not pass the pinch test, then the jacket in question will not work in the car seat.

Shower Cap Style Covers for Infant Seats

Shower cap style covers are amazing for infant seats. This style of cover goes around the outside of the seat and often has a flap that zips open and closed to allow for easy access to your child.  Just remember to unzip it after the car warms up to prevent overheating.

While shower cap style covers are perfectly safe, there are other popular covers that go between your child and the seat that are not safe at all.  These covers are great for strollers, but they are dangerous for car seat use for a few reasons.  They go between your child and the seat, making it difficult to ensure that the harness is properly tightened due to bunching.  Furthermore, they lead to the same compression issue as listed above.

By following the tips above, you can ensure a safe and cozy ride for all of your young passengers this winter season!

Additional Resources

Obviously, a topic like this raises a lot of questions and might leave parents wanting more information. Here are just a few great places to start! 

4 Responses to Car Seat Safety Tips for the Winter Months

  1. Sarah December 18, 2017 at 10:15 pm #

    Good lord, this article smacks of “overworried mom syndrome.” Is any of this advice evidence-based? The author should probably provide some kind of research before throwing out scary statements like this gem: “While those bulky winter jackets are great for outdoor play, they pose a very serious danger if worn in a child’s car seat. If an accident occurs, all of that extra puff compresses, leaving a loose harness, potentially allowing your child to be ejected from their car seat.” Any actual evidence, any links, any pediatric associations that agree? No? Then say that it is “borderline obsessive” and nothing more. Don’t pass on the illness/worry, please.

  2. Kate December 18, 2017 at 10:20 pm #

    Alternative perspective:
    “As a Weather Service meteorologist, Fransen has been teaching weather safety courses for over 15 years. She says that wearing a coat in the winter is the difference between life and death when you’re driving on rural roads. The only thing you’re doing when you take your child’s winter coat off, she argues, is exposing them to yet another danger in the car. Especially if you’re unconscious and unable to keep yourself or your child warm.”

  3. Shiverless January 2, 2018 at 6:23 pm #

    I only learned of this cold weather danger when I became a grandmother and was then motivated to come up with a solution so parents wouldn’t have to choose between warmth and safety for their kids. The result is a car seat onesie that is thin yet warm thanks to the fabric technology used. It’s called the “Shiverless” and Child Passenger Safety Technicians have used it with their own kids and approve!

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