Car Seats and Winter Weather

It’s too cold to walk so I’ve been taking taxis with my child. Do I need to use a car seat?

YES! Although it is not illegal to hold your baby in a taxi, it is extremely dangerous. No one is strong enough to hold a child in the instant of a crash–the child becomes much heavier than normal and will fly forward either into the divider screen or out the windshield. Using a baby carrier (like a BabyBjorn) is also unsafe. Researchers Kathleen Weber and John Melvin of the Highway Safety Research Institute at the University of Michigan Medical School tested this scenario using a 30 mph, front, dynamic crash test like the one required by the current federal safety standard for child car seats. In the crash test, an adult wore the baby in a soft, cloth front carrier like the Baby Bjorn and used a lap/shoulder belt. The researchers found that this infant was at a very high risk. The tested carrier shredded completely, ejecting the infant dummy into the dashboard. If the carrier had not shredded, they found that the infant would likely still not have survived. As the adult’s head traveled forward in the whiplash motion, the adult’s chin would have slammed down into the infant’s head right where the soft spot is. The solution? Since infant seats are the easiest ones to use in taxis, buy a high-weight infant seat (one with a 30+ lb weight limit) so that you can use it for as long as possible. After your baby is too big for it look at stroller/car seat combos like the Combi Coccoro car seat and Flash stroller wheels. Older kids can easily use booster seats or the Ride Safer Travel Vest.

How can I keep my baby warm in the car seat?

Obviously its important to keep the baby warm, but many products marketed for use with car seats are actually UNSAFE. Make sure you buy a product that goes over the baby, not under the baby or under any of the car seat’s straps. Anything that goes underneath the baby–even if it has room for the car seat straps to fit through–is not safe to use in the car (and often voids the manufacturer’s warranty). Here’s why: The car seat is designed to have a specific amount of fabric and padding underneath the baby. In a crash, this padding will compress but a properly tightened harness will keep the baby tight in the seat. Any additional padding that you introduce will also compress–but because the extra padding is there when you put the baby in the seat, you won’t be able to get the straps as tight–which means the possibility of injury in a crash. Also, the shoulder strap slots on products that go underneath the baby may not line up with the strap slots on the car seat and end up displacing the straps off the child’s shoulders, which might lead to the child coming out of the seat during a crash. Safe alternatives that go over the baby include blankets and products specifically designed to go over a car seat.

Can my baby wear a snowsuit in the car seat?

It’s unsafe for a baby to wear a snowsuit or heavy winter coat in a car seat. Heavy clothing puts too much padding between the child and the 5 point harness. This adds too much slack to the harness straps (you can’t pull them as tightly as you would if the child wasn’t wearing the heavy clothes) and could lead to the child coming out of the seat during a crash. Kids also overheat easily. You probably don’t wear your winter coat in the car! Put a blanket over the child and after the car warms up, pull the blanket off.