I've wanted to write a post about this for a long time, but kept holding off. Probably because I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, or make parents feel guilty, but that's not what this post is about. I am certain that almost every parent makes decisions with their kid's best interest at heart. We all want what is best for our little one's development, growth, and definitely safety. That's why it's always difficult to approach parents to discuss safety concerns about their little one when I'm hosting community events and teaching workshops. As a healthcare provider and expert in family safety I made a commitment long ago not to bother any parents about personal preferences or things that involve comfort, but safety concerns I cannot overlook. I would never forgive myself if an incident that I ignored led to a baby's harm, or even worse death.
Lately I have had several incidents involving infants being brought to my events completely covered and concealed without adequate access to fresh air. In some cases it has been babies in their infant car seats with winter seat covers tightly closed around them. In other cases it was babies being worn in baby carriers with coat extensions zipped up fully covering the baby's face, or a blanket covering the baby's head. While I understand the cold weather can be daunting and hard to contend with (especially if you have well meaning people constantly chiming in on how cold baby is!), it is essential to remember that fresh oxygen flow is paramount, and that without it an infant can suffocate.
The importance of fresh air flow around our infant is one of the key messages in SIDs prevention and safe sleep, and is just as essential when our baby is in a car seat, stroller, or baby carrier. Seeing our baby's face allows us to assess their well being through their skin tone and breathing patterns. When we cover our baby completely, they lose access to fresh air, and we lose the ability to ensure they are well. The American Academy of Paediatrics reminds parents to "Be sure to leave baby's face uncovered to avoid trapped air and re-breathing.” It's important that parents are aware that covering a baby’s face completely in a carrier, car seat or stroller can lead to overheating and suffocation (eg. Image B below).
In addition, we must consider what is safe for use in our vehicles. Many retailers carry car seat bundling products that are not safe to use in a car seat. Just because it's on the shelf at the store does not mean it is safe. When I raise this in my Infant/Family CPR & Safety Workshops parents are often confused as to why products are sold in stores that might be unsafe for baby. In an age where products are constantly entering the marketplace it can be tough to assess what is safe. If a product passes testing for things like textile strength and flammability they often get put up on shelves without any assessment about how parents may use these products, and what real life risk they pose for babies. With the introduction and popularity of car seat covers in recent years, parents have been warned to avoid any covers that go between the baby’s body and the straps (Image A below). These types of covers impact the fit of the harness and do not allow for proper safe use of the car seat as directed by the manufacturer.
When preparing our kiddos to go in their car seats in cold weather it's recommended that we dress them in tight fitting compressible layers (not snowsuits or puffy bunting suits). A snug fitting fleece outfit like this one from MEC can be a good option. If you're planning to use something extra to help keep baby warm in their car seat, please make sure it is a product that does not interfere with placement or correct adjustment of the straps, or with fresh air flow. This typically means using a simple blanket tucked in around them once they are strapped in properly, or purchasing a "backless" car seat cover like the Skip Hop one pictured here. These are a great option for infants during our cold winters, but please always ensure you keep baby’s face visible.
The same goes for babies being worn in baby carriers. Recently Health Canada introduced a Public Service Announcement with the message "Visible & Kissable." It aims to remind parents that having our baby in an upright and supported position, without anything covering their face or blocking their access to fresh air, is essential. If baby is being worn in a baby carrier against their parent's body they should mainly be shielded from the wind. As you can see from the photo above of me babywearing Penny, she is well protected from the elements but her face and airflow are not obstructed in any way. If you're going out on an extremely cold day and are concerned about baby's exposed skin, a layer of shea butter or another natural barrier cream can help. If you want to learn more check out my post on Winter Babywearing Essentials.
If it's absolutely necessary to cover your baby for a brief moment to protect them from extreme cold (whether in a baby carrier, a car seat or a stroller) please use a breathable blanket, keep a very close eye on your baby and uncover them immediately.
Our babies are really cute. Let's make sure we can always see their adorable faces.
*This is not a sponsored post.
Please comment below with any questions or topics you would like me to cover in the future.