Setting up your infant's car seat can be a huge endeavor. Even if you do it right, there are still a few safety precautions to take into account – one of which is very important this time of year. When the weather turns cold, parents tend to bundle infants in puffy winter coats to keep them warm, but this doesn't mesh well with securing them safely into a car seat. This twist on a common accessory helps babies stay safe in car seats during the winter months.
What might seem like a tight seat belt is really just the straps around the coat, not the child. This leaves baby susceptible to injury or worse if there's a car accident. That's where the Three Sisters Non-Profit helps.
Three Sisters Non-Profit, founded by real-life sisters Barb Goldsby, Joanne Isenhart, and Karol Hodson, is on a mission to make sure babies are protected from the elements as well as collisions when traveling by car. Together, they developed an alternative to the winter coat — the car seat poncho.
Parents can use their signature baby poncho instead of a bulky winter coat, which is much safer. To use, you put the poncho on the baby, fasten the car seat straps, then drape the poncho over the entire car seat. The poncho has an attached hood, so baby's head is also warm. The poncho, made of fleece in varying thicknesses, keeps the heat in and the baby snuggly.
"We adapted the design of ponchos we had seen online and continue to modify. Modifications include a v-neck to allow for more room around the neck area. This was a recommendation by the Department of Health and Safety in Colorado," Barb Goldsby, founding member of Three Sisters tells Romper.
The ponchos come in a variety of styles, including ones that are the perfect carry-over to warmer months.
"We also make some ponchos with detached beanies rather than hoods. We do both single and double thickness for varying climates and make pool or beach ponchos that wick the moisture away and can still be used in the car seat on the way home," Goldsby says.
The sisters also make beanies in support of their aunt who is currently battling cancer. To date, they have donated over 150 ponchos and 200 beanies for families in need and to get the word out about car seat safety, according to the organization.
If you aren't sure whether or not your child's coat is interfering with fastening the car seat's harness, this test will help you decide, Consumer Reports noted.
Place your child in the car seat with their winter coat on. Fasten the straps as you usually would, tightening appropriately. Without adjusting the straps, take your child out of the car seat. Remove their coat and place them back in the seat and buckle them in. If the straps are too lose, then your child is not safely secured.
A child dummy that seemed to be safely strapped into a car seat was ejected at a simulated 30 mph crash at an official crash test lab, according to Today.
"Anything between the child and the straps is compressible; it’s like having space, which creates more risk that the child could thrust forward into the straps in the event of a crash," Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, the medical director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Doernbecher Children's Hospital, told Today.
If your child is still in a car seat, ditch the coat and go for a warm blanket or poncho instead. It's safer for both you and your child. Winter weather can be unpredictable, so taking potential tragedy out of the equation is a win-win for everyone.
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