Before I start this post let me get something out there that needs to be said: DON'T EVER EVER EVER LEAVE A BABY (OR CHILD) UNATTENDED IN THE CAR! Alright, now let's move on.
Here in south central Texas the heat has really taken it up a notch. August and September are always the worst with 100+ degree temperatures daily. I also live in an apartment and we have chosen not to pay for a garage or covered parking which means our cars REALLY heat up during the day. (A car's interior can easily heat up to 130 degrees during the Summer) It has become imperative to find ways to cool that back seat down before putting my 11 month old in her scalding to the touch car seat in that cursed furnace of a car. I've decided to share some tips that I've come up with in the hopes that other moms will find it helpful.
1) Start your car about 10 minutes before you have to leave and turn the AC up full blast while cracking windows to let some air flow through. 10 minutes really isn't enough time to cool the car down but it sure helps. Run it longer if you want to. I live on the 2nd floor and have decided to risk the small chance of someone stealing my car while left running and unattended in order to get rid of some of that suffocatingly stale hot air before mom and baby enter.
2) Utilize sun shades and reflectors! Get 2 windshield ones - use one on the windshield and drape one over the car seat when not in use. Make sure to have one that adheres to the window on the side that baby is on as well.
3) Car Seat Coolers. The best idea ever. There are various tutorials out there for car seat coolers. The basic idea is that you have a fabric holder for ice packs that you drape over the car seat to keep it cool when not in use while out and about. I haven't gotten around to making one yet but I did come up with a similar idea before I ever saw the tutorial.
I started out putting ice in a ziploc bag and I'd run it all over the car seat (especially those burning buckles!) before putting my baby in it. (This works great but DON'T leave the baby with the bag of ice. I was feeling terrible for having to put my daughter into the hot car one day and thought, "she'll be fine, she can play with the bag of ice and it will keep her cool". Bad idea. She got the bag open and had ice spilled all over the car seat. I pulled over within half a mile of it happening but I'm lucky she hadn't put an ice cube in her mouth and choked on it!)
After using the ice method once or twice I realized I had first-aid freezer packs and that those would be much more effective and easier. Now I put the two freezer packs in the car seat for a few minutes (it really only takes about one minute to cool it down) and then rub it over the rest of the car seat before putting my daughter in. Put them in the car seat while you are in the store, the bank, the park, at a friend's house, etc. They don't stay frozen for long but they do usually stay cool for a couple of hours. * Don't leave the ice packs in your child's reach when not in use.
4) Frozen teething toys are your friend. Even if your baby isn't teething. I grab one from the freezer on my way out the door and give it to my daughter after setting her in her car seat. Not only is it refreshing when she chews on it but it cools her legs and arms down as she plays with it. These don't stay cool for long (maybe 30 minutes?) but they do a lot of good for the initial entry into the car at it's hottest temperature. Keep it cool longer by taking it inside with you when you leave the car so that it is in an air conditioned environment.
5) Water, water, water. I like to throw a bottle filled with water in the diaper bag just in case. Often it is so hot and miserable that I know my daughter needs some hydration. She doesn't need formula or anything, just a bit of water to quench some thirst.
6) Park in the Shade. No explanation needed.
7) Wear less. I have pretty low standards of modesty when it comes to my baby. I try to dress her in the coolest outfits I can find. Sometimes that's just a onesie, other times it's a breezy sleeveless sun dress. Use your own judgement.
8) Tinted Windows. This is huge. My husband's car has the darkest legal tint level. Mine has none. We actually switched cars for the Summer but sometimes we switch back and forth for various reasons (i.e. he has no trunk space because of his speakers), and there is such a big difference. Not only for keeping the temperature down but for blocking out that sun. Whenever we are in my car and my daughter starts screaming out of nowhere, inevitably I look back and see that the sun is shining directly on her through the back windshield which has got to be not only hot, but blinding as well. Tinted windows keep this from happening.
9) Air vents. Both my husband and I drive 4 door cars that only have air vents in the front. Since having a baby we have realized this is NOT preferable, especially while living in Texas. We are researching and getting an idea of what vehicle we want when we are in a financial position to trade a car in. SUV's, vans, trucks, whatever - just look for a vehicle that has air vents in the back seat(s)!!!!!
What are some ways you keep your car seat and baby cool in the Summer? Please share!