Infant Car Seat Cover Safety

Avoid car seat covers that go underneath your child

A baby girl in her car seat
David Aaron Troy / Getty Images

Infant car seat covers go over your baby's original car seat pad, but still allow the harness straps to fit through. You may want one to add a stylish flair to your child's car seat or because it seems easier to clean than the original padding. A cover might also seem like a good way to keep her warm in winter. But are these products safe? See what the experts say before you go shopping for one.

Infant Car Seat Cover Safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says to use a car seat cover only if it does not have a layer under the baby.

They recommend against any product that goes underneath your child's body between her and the harness straps. They remind you that just because the product is on the shelf, it doesn't mean that it's safe.

Infant car seat covers are sometimes marketed as a way to allow you to reuse an old baby car seat. While a new car seat cover can make an old car seat look like new again, it is important to remember that you usually shouldn't use a car seat that is more than five to 10 years old. Also, you should never use a car seat that has been in a moderate or severe crash, and it is impossible to tell the crash history of a car seat if you buy it used or second-hand.

Keep in mind that car seat covers typically aren't officially supported by car seat manufacturers, so make sure that your car seat cover is safe, fits well, and doesn't interfere with the harness straps on your baby's car seat. You might even check with your car seat's manufacturer or visit a car seat inspection station before using a car seat cover or other after-market car seat accessory.

Car seat covers are available for most infant and toddler car seats. It's important to know that many car seat covers are not made with flame retardant materials. In addition, some of these covers will not fit perfectly in some car seats, and unfortunately, testing of car seats does not include the safety of car seat accessories such as covers.

In other words, it's impossible to know if and how these covers could impact safety in the event of a crash.

Cover Your Baby's Car Seat

You might also want one to help keep your baby warm since wearing a coat in a car seat can be unsafe. It's been recommended that babies never wear coats in car seats. Depending on the fabric, a thick, soft infant car seat cover can be like laying on a warm blanket.

If your main concern is keeping your baby warm in cold weather, instead of a car seat cover, which is more precisely known as a car seat pad cover or car seat slip cover, you could use a cold weather boot or cover that goes over the whole car seat after your baby is buckled in.

A cold weather boot or infant seat boot just goes over your baby's legs, but if you usually have your baby in an infant carrier with a canopy, then she will be fairly well protected from the weather.

A cover with an elastic edge that goes over the top of your baby's car seat, with an opening for her face, is another good way to keep her warm. They usually include a zipper down the middle to make it easy to get your baby in and out of her car seat.

Since neither a car seat cover or car seat boot actually touches the car seat's harness straps, they should be as safe as tucking "a blanket around your baby over the buckled harness straps," as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends doing in the winter.

A Word From Verywell

Use caution when choosing an infant car seat cover. Remember that the original liner is also removable and washable. You shouldn't buy a product that goes underneath your child and you need to be cautious that you don't cover her face as well.

Sources

Winter Car Seat Safety Tips from the AAP. American Academy of Pediatrics. Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/on-the-go/Pages/Winter-Car-Seat-Safety-Tips.aspx

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