If you brought your firstborn home within the last few months, you might finally feel like you've finally gotten the hang of the car seat. You can buckle the baby in seconds, plug it into the base, and even move it between cars without having to enlist the help of the fire department. But like Jon Snow keeps warning us, winter is coming, and with it comes a whole new protocol for transporting your baby safely. Don't worry, though, here are a few tips for car seats in the winter that'll keep your tiny passenger warm and safe.
You may be wondering what the weather has to do with the car seat. After all, it doesn't require snow tires or an ice scraper. What changes in the winter is what your baby's wearing, and while your first thought might be to bundle them up tight to protect against the cold, some methods you might be considering could actually put your child in danger. Some clothing isn't appropriate for wearing in a car seat, and even some products specifically designed for winter car seat use are still considered unsafe, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. As with those adorable crib bumpers that are actually strangulation and suffocation hazards, "Just because it's on the shelf at the store does not mean it is safe!"
There is a way to keep your kid toasty without endangering them, though, and it's not as tricky as you'd think. Here's what you need to avoid, and what you should do, instead.
Skip The Snowsuit
Yes, your little one looks absolutely precious in that puffy winter gear, and Grandma spent a lot on it. But save it for making snow angels, because in a crash, all that filling will compress instantly, leaving a gap between their body and the car seat straps. That means they could actually be ejected from the seat.
Get Creative With That Coat
Puffy coats can also compress, so you shouldn't put them on under the straps. But you can put them on backwards after your baby's loaded into the seat. Just opt for a coat without a hood, or tuck it in so your baby's face isn't covered.
Think Twice About Car Seat Covers
A winter car seat cover may seem like the perfect solution — after all, it was designed for just this purpose — but they might also pose their own problems. The AAP warns parents against using a cover with a bottom layer: "Nothing should ever go underneath your child's body or between her body and the harness straps." And if your baby's face is covered, they're at risk for rebreathing their own exhaled carbon dioxide, which the journal of Pediatrics notes is a contributing factor of SIDS. Yikes.
It's All About The Layers
If you haven't gone shopping for winter clothes yet, you can plan baby's wardrobe accordingly. Rather than a coat you can't use (or can't use as intended), choose a light fleece jacket, and plenty of layers to back it up, like longjohns if you can find them, or failing that, leggings under jeans and a onesie under a longer shirt. And don't forget the hat and mittens!
But Make Sure They're Not Too Warm
So you've loaded the baby into the seat, dressed safely and appropriately and now you're off and running. You've probably heard the old standard that babies should wear one more layer than adults, so if you find yourself wriggling out of your coat at a red light once the car warms up, remember that your baby could probably stand to lose their hat at that point, too. Regardless of your comfort, though, some babies run hot, so if you're driving a significant distance, be sure to pull over and check on your baby periodically.
Consider A Festive Poncho
Yes, car seat ponchos are a real thing, and brace yourself, because they're even more adorable than you're imagining.
Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.