Before creating Buckle Me Baby Coats, Dahlia Rizk had earned a BA in Economics from Rutgers University and a Masters in Counseling from the University of New Hampshire. She established a counseling practice in Londonderry, NH, specializing in treating PTSD, anxiety and depression.
When she became a mother, however, she experienced her own anxiety over the proper use of child car seats, and came up with an extremely creative solution. As every parent knows, there are a few critically important things necessary for a car seat to be most effective. It needs to be placed in the back seat and attached properly with the automobile’s seat belt system; the car seat harness itself needs to be adjusted to the particular child using the seat. All of these requirements are not too difficult to follow.
Except for one other important factor: according to guidelines set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, bulky winter coats lessen the effectiveness of the seat in a crash and recommend that they be taken off before strapping a child into the seat.
Most parents have probably experienced the scenario of trying to seat a child properly in the car seat while said child has turned themselves into a stiff, solid board because they do not want to sit down. Add in the need to take off a bulky winter jacket, and it is likely many parents would ignore the recommended guideline.
But there are actually serious considerations to this recommendation. In order to be effective in a crash situation, the straps must be fastened securely against the child’s body. According to Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, medical director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, bulky winter coats pose a serious threat by creating too much space between the child and the harness. (Today, 12/14/15, Article by Jeff Rossen and Jovanna Billington)
Dahlia Rizk often felt defeated by the “No Coat Thing,” and one day had an aha moment when she realized that one of the problems was the coat zipper being in the way. Rizk came up with a design for a coat with a center panel that could be opened up so the straps can be fastened correctly against the child’s body and then the panel refastened so the coat would still keep the child warm. In a January 27, 2019 interview, she told Murphy Moroney of PopSugar that she felt instant excitement, and after coming up with a design, applied for a patent. She then spoke with numerous coat manufacturers, thinking they would be very interested. But none of them seemed to believe that coats and car seats “had anything to do with one another.”
As a mother of three living in a cold, winter climate, Ritz knew coats and car seats were very much interrelated and she was determined to make it easier for parents to follow the “no coat” guideline. Buckle Me Baby was founded in 2016, and on January 27, 2017, a Kickstarter campaign was initiated with a goal of $5,000. The campaign went swiftly, with 50% of the goal being reached in the first five days, and 71% within the first week, receiving recognition by the Backers Club. By the end of the campaign on March 29, 2017, $6,088 had been pledged by 48 backers.
Ritz discussed her design with three different manufacturers and reviewed samples from all three before making her decision. The Buckle Me Baby coat is designed with a front panel that opens up, allowing the car seat harness to be fastened in direct contact with the child’s body. The panel can then be closed over the harness and snapped back into place, or can be rolled up to the side and fastened with a Velcro strip.
These ingenious coats come in a variety of warmth (Toasty, Toastier and Toastiest), and many vibrant colors and lining designs. Some of them have expandable sleeves and magnetic, removable hoods. The coats were crash tested in an independent facility, and a video of the test is available on the website.
Buckle Me Baby has a “trade up” program, where customers are given the opportunity to return their gently used coats for a $20 reduction on their next purchase. The coats are donated to organizations such as New Hampshire Girls, New England Pediatric Care, and Nuday Syria.