Newborns love to be swaddled. Wrapping baby tight in a warm blanket reminds them of being in the womb. It’s comforting, which helps your kiddo sleep and cry less. One thing many newborns do NOT like, though, is getting in the car seat. So, this begs the question, can you swaddle a baby in the car seat?
First of all, what a great question. Though swaddling in a car seat might sound like the solution to all your problems, it’s always a good idea to seek answers from an expert. At Safe in the Seat, that’s exactly what we are: car seat experts. So, today we’re dedicating our post to swaddling in a car seat. Here’s the 411 on car seats and swaddles.
Can You Swaddle Baby in Car Seat
You can swaddle your infant in a car seat. Absolutely! Putting your child in the car seat is an inevitable part of parenthood. However, this process isn’t always fun when your newborn is screaming to get out and be in your arms again. A child can wear a swaddle in the car seat as long as it’s safely wrapped. Here’s how to do it:
How to Swaddle in a Car Seat
First, find the right swaddle. If it’s warm weather, opt for a light muslin or bamboo swaddle. If it’s cooler, go with wool or fleece. Even if you think it might not be warm enough, don’t worry, you can layer on more later. Right now, you need something easy to tuck as a base layer! Pick a blanket and set it aside.
Next, strap in your baby as usual. Tighten the harness straps until the harness passes the pinch test at the child’s shoulders. Additionally, ensure that the straps are coming from at or below the shoulders and confirm it’s the right fitting seat for your baby.
Now it’s time to swaddle! Fold your blanket in half or in thirds if you need to make it a little smaller. Take the blanket and tuck it around baby’s arms. The blanket should go OVER the arms and hug them close to baby’s body. Once it’s snug around the arms, tuck it in under and around the legs. Wrap baby tight with no fabric touching the face or hanging loose. You now have a swaddled baby!
Once the first layer of blanket is on, feel free to keep going! It’s safe to continue layering as long as you’re taking the temperature into consideration and keeping the baby’s face clear. Also keep an eye out for posture. If you manipulate the baby’s posture in the car seat too much, you could put them at risk of positional asphyxiation. When you’re done swaddling, make sure you check baby’s positioning.
A swaddled baby in the backseat is content, warm, and safe. However, your baby is likely to fall asleep when swaddled. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but car seats aren’t made for sleeping, so make sure your car seat is installed correctly to help keep baby’s airway open, and move your sweet little one to a safe sleep space as soon as you arrive home.
Car Swaddle Blanket Safety Tips
Determine what your baby might need.
Swaddling isn’t the answer to everything. Before you start layering on the blankets, try to determine why your baby is crying. If, truly, they’re too cold or just need to be soothed, go ahead and swaddle.
But, if the baby is hungry or too warm, blankets just won’t do the trick. Even when those little screams are whistling in your ear, try to breathe, stop, and think about what your kiddo may be asking of you.
Always swaddle OVER the harness straps.
It is unsafe to tuck anything under the harness straps. Swaddling a baby before you buckle or threading the swaddle through the harness straps could compromise your child’s safety.
If you go under the straps, you may think you buckled your child securely when really you didn’t. Plus, the manufacturer warns to never put anything under the straps. Follow the steps above and always keep those swaddles on TOP of the harness straps. This means that those convenient Velcro swaddle sacks aren’t safe for the car seat — even if they have a slot in the fabric where a crotch buckle could pass through. Save those for baby’s crib or bassinet!
Ensure baby won’t overheat.
Though layering on the swaddles in cold weather months seems like a good idea, remember that the car is going to heat up! If it’s really cold, feel free to pack on thick, warm blankets. However, once your car has warmed up, make sure you strip your baby of those extra layers. Or, opt for thinner layers at the start.
Never compromise car seat safety for comfort.
When your baby is upset, it’s really tempting to do what you can to make them stop crying. Swaddling is a great technique, but when it doesn’t work like you hoped, don’t compromise safety to make your child more comfortable. Here are a few car seat safety rules to NEVER break, even when your child is uncomfortable.
- Car Seat Sleep: If your child falls asleep in the car seat naturally while driving, that’s fine for short periods of time. However, it’s never safe to let your baby continue to sleep in their infant carrier when it’s off the base or an approved stroller. This could put your baby at risk of positional asphyxia.
- Winter Coats: If you’re swaddling to keep your baby warm, it can be tempting to put your child in a puffy coat. These coats compress in an accident, which creates dangerous distance between your baby and their safety harness. Don’t go there! Put them in a thin fleece jacket and use blankets for warmth. Here are some of our favorite bundling products.
- Buckles: Like we mentioned earlier, keep your child buckled just the same whether or not you plan to swaddle. And, when your child gets fussy, never loosen or readjust the straps in a way that’s more comfortable, but less safe. Even when your child is unhappy, safety comes first!
Best Swaddle Blankets
This organic cotton swaddle is really soft and super stretchy, which makes it a great swaddle for anywhere! Including in the car seat. It’s also larger than most swaddles to make wrapping your baby with full coverage super easy. Plus, it doubles as a large nursing cover, car seat cover, or play blanket. So versatile!
This swaddle is super basic, but you don’t need anything fancy! With this cloth-eez swaddle, you get a large blanket made of woven muslin that comes in at just over $10. How perfect for a car blanket? Additionally, the unbleached and undyed nature of the swaddle makes it really easy to wash. Like the SnuggleMe swaddle, you could use this muslin blanket for a lot of different things. (Including a diaper in a pinch!)
Wool products are great for car seat use. They retain temperature well whether it’s hot or cool. So, you can use this in any season! Wool will also keep your baby dry in the rain or during a car seat blow-out. This swaddle blanket is 100% organic, hypoallergenic, and, as far as wool goes, it’s a good price.
Bamboo swaddles have some of the softest fabric out there. It’s cool and smooth, and it’s so comfortable for baby. This is a great swaddle for the summer, because overheating is less common with this naturally cool fabric.
You can’t beat the price of these four swaddles. They come in classic organic muslin with no toxic dyes and they feature an open weave texture that’s super soft and, again, super versatile. Since you get essentially a 4 for 1 deal, you can keep spare swaddles in the diaper bag, car, and even the stroller.
Here’s another bamboo swaddle option for those warmer days. They’re soft and stretchy and come with a super cute newborn hat. Bamboo is not only great to keep baby swaddled but cool, the unique fabric is also super gentle on eczema prone skin. We also love that this one comes in a stylish box perfect for gifting!
Here’s another multi-pack option with 100% cotton blankets. They’re super thin, which makes them perfect for car seat swaddling. Each pack comes with three coordinated cotton swaddles, so you can have spares. Perfect for your car seat emergency kit. Burt’s Bees has other blankets too that you could use to layer on top of the muslin swaddle.
With these tips, you can feel confident in all your future car seat swaddles!
Swaddling is a great way to soothe your baby. Luckily, it’s totally safe to swaddle your baby in their car seat as long as you follow these instructions. Remember to never tuck anything through the harness straps and keep your child’s face uncovered while you ride. Supervise your baby with a handy car seat mirror and have a quiet, peaceful car ride!
If you are going to ride with your baby swaddled in the car, be mindful that the blanket could move or shift on the ride. For our youngest babies, this could pose a risk because they can’t move it on their own! Best case, an adult is seated in the back when a blanket is in use for our babies who aren’t developmentally ready to have one unattended.
For more car seat tips, check out our blog. We have tons of content that’ll help you provide a safe ride for those you love most. And, follow us on Instagram and YouTube to get all the updates and answers to your burning car seat safety questions. Ride safe this season!
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