New England winters can be particularly brutal, especially when you have two cars and only one garage (as my house does.) It inevitably means that on any given day either my wife or I am shuttling our toddler to daycare in a frigid car. Granted, our daughter was born here and already flashes signs of being a hardy Yankee unfazed by dipping temperatures (unless it’s bathwater, that is). But as new parents in a cold-weather climate, we learned early: Never put a baby or child in a car seat while they’re wearing a thick winter coat. The extra padding creates enough space between the child and the harness ⏤ even though you can’t really tell when you tighten it ⏤ to effectively render the car seat useless. Kids can come flying out in an accident, and it’s horribly unsafe.
As such, I’m always dressed warmly in a nice puffy coat while my daughter walks to the car wearing a light fleece jacket. It’s too short a distance to bother wearing (and taking off) a bigger coat, but it hardly seems fair (or safe) to make her freeze. So when a fellow New Englander, a mental health counselor and single mom of three from New Hampshire, reached out to say she had invented a winter coat that solved the problem, I was all ears.
Her creation, Buckle Me, is a line of $99 winter coats that babies and kids can safely wear in a car seat. They’re handmade (although you’d never guess it from the professional construction), fleece lined, and boast a poly-nylon shell and elastic cuffs at the wrists. The machine-washable coats feature a quarter-zip front opening, cozy kangaroo pouch to keep hands warm, and are available for ages 12-months up to 10-years-old in six colors with fun names like “Indi-go-go-go” purple, “I Lava You” red, and the “Orange-inal.” Overall, it’s a nice-looking, well-made coat.
What makes is special though ⏤ and safe for car seats ⏤ is that the opening has been moved from the middle of the coat to the side, essentially turning the entire front into a door. Once unfastened, the front panel can be pulled back so the car seat’s shoulder harnesses can be secured directly over the child’s chest as you normally would, with no extra padding in the way.
Not only that, but the back of the coat is also designed thinner to reduce excess bulk. When the child is locked in, you then either fold the front of the coat back over to keep them cozy or rollup it up/tuck it out of the way to avoid any overheating. The coat stays closed thanks to Velcro strips and four outer snaps, along with two snaps on each shoulder. All of it’s been crash tested at an independent facility and come up spades ⏤ they’ve got videos on their website.
Admittedly, I requested a size too large by accident for my almost-three-year-old (she’s tall) and while a little big and boxy, it still fit well enough to try. We did have to roll up the sleeves, but that was expected ⏤ the sleeves run long by design as a way to extend the life of the coat for more than one season. It’s a feature no parent, I can imagine, would complain about but it may mean the coat looks as if doesn’t fit properly. Either way, neither size issue seemed to impede its use.
The directions are straightforward and easy to follow: Simply put your kid in the seat, pull the front of the coat back and thread under the opposite shoulder harness, and fasten/tighten as you would otherwise. Not especially complicated, but I will confess it took me a couple times to get it down smoothly. The main issue I had was tucking her arms through the harness with the bigger sleeves ⏤ it felt like I was twisting/forcing her arm at first ⏤ and wrestling the front of the coat under the harness and out of the way. Part of the problem was that we leave the shoulder straps somewhat tight after removing our daughter, which doesn’t leave much room to maneuver the excess material. Once I loosened them up, however, things got decidedly easier. That said, with a squirmy kid I can imagine it may still be a challenge. Not a big drawback, but something to be aware of.
All in all, though, I think it’s a cleverly designed coat that solves a real problem, and fills a void in the market. Sure, it’s easy to throw a blanket over your baby or child when you get in a cold car, but the fact is, you’re still then putting a coat on them when you get out. This kills two birds with one stone. And, more importantly, you know for certain that your child is safely secured in the seat. It may not be cheap at $99, but if it fits your kid for two winters than all the better. And if it doesn’t, they have a $20 trade-up program and will donate your outgrown coat to charity.