The hidden danger: Puffy coats and car seats

This baby is snug in a carseat with warm layers, not a puffy slippery coat. Straps should be adjusted tighter to hold baby securely in the seat. Stock photo.

As the winter chill sets in, parents seek the perfect balance between warmth and safety for their little ones. Puffy coats, while a popular choice for insulation, come with an unexpected danger when combined with car seats.

Aspirus Health, in collaboration with insights from Jaime Oswald, MD, Aspirus Family Medicine Physician and Safe Kids Wisconsin (SKW), aims to guide parents and caregivers in bundling and buckling their kids up securely during the winter months.

Puffy coats, while they look like they are going to be really warm and keep your child safe in that regard, put a lot of space in between your child and the car seat straps.

“If you think that you’re cinching down those car seat straps, there’s actually this big gap where the puffy coat is sitting,” said Dr. Oswald. According to Safe Kids Wisconsin (SKW), a puffy coat adds four inches of slack to car seat harness straps, which Dr. Oswald says, “causes a potential for your child to slide around in their car seat in the event of a car accident, which would defeat the purpose then of the car seat.”

To ensure both warmth and safety during cold weather, Dr. Oswald recommends alternatives to puffy coats in car seats. Parents can opt for lighter, thinner layers such as sweaters that don’t compromise the snug fit of the car seat straps. Additionally, hats, gloves, boots, and blankets provide warmth once the child is securely strapped in and can be an effective substitute for bulky outerwear.

“A practical rule of thumb to use when trying to figure out if you’re dressing your kid warm enough for the cold weather is that they should be wearing what you’re wearing, plus a layer,” said Dr. Oswald. She suggests that parents dress their children in a manner similar to themselves, plus an additional layer. For instance, if a parent is wearing a jacket, the child can wear a jacket and a hat. This ensures that the child stays warm without compromising their safety in the car seat.

Aspirus Health recommends SKW’s simple coat check to ensure the security of the car seat. After strapping the child into the car seat with the coat on, parents can remove the child without adjusting the straps, take off the coat, and place the child back in the seat. Dr. Oswald says, “If the straps still fit snugly, the layer is safe. But if the straps become significantly looser, the layer is too thick and poses a risk.”
By adopting alternative clothing options and following safety measures, parents can ensure their little ones are snugly secured, protected from both the cold weather and the unexpected dangers of puffy coats in car seats. For more information on passenger safety, visit

This kind of puffy coat is a no-go in a carseat or booster. Stock photo.

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