The key to keeping baby warm in the car seat is simply to cover the seat itself with a shower cap style car seat cover. Unlike “footmuffs” that go inside the car seat (i.e., between baby’s back and the back of the car seat), these covers do the trick without interfering with the crash dynamics of the car seat itself — which is key for the safety of your child.
This is the same reason we recommend against wearing thick coats or snowsuits in a car seat. While it may look allll squishy and safe, it’s not. In fact, if you take baby’s thick coat off and re-buckle her with the straps in the same position, you will notice all the empty space between her and the harness. This is illustrated visually below with a toddler:
Empty space is bad because it allows your child’s head to travel farther forward in a crash (what we call “head excursion” in the car seat tech world). Note that the same principle applies for toddlers and preschoolers, but it’s a little harder to cover them because those kiddos don’t fit nicely in a tiny little infant carrier.
Are Car Seat Blankets Safe?
Another option is simply to use a blanket on top of your baby. As long as it does not go between your child’s body and the harness straps, any blanket you want to put on top of your babe is totally fine. The problem, as you know, is that blankets have a hard time staying put. Hence… the popularity of car seat covers.
So how do you keep baby warm in a car seat all winter long? Here are our favorites…
Baby Car Seat Covers for Winter
The JJ Cole Car Seat Cover is a top economy pick. This machine washable seat cover is made of weather-resistant nylon with soft fleece on the inside. You can zip down the flap (or remove it altogether) to control the temperature.
While this cover is great for mildly cold temps, it is not the warmest option available. If you live north of the Mason-Dixon, keep reading…
A step up from the regular Jolly Jumper Sneak-A-Peek, this Canadian company makes an ULTRA warm infant car seat cover that has an additional blanket underneath, shaped perfectly to keep baby extra snug.
Cold weather mommies who have owned many seat covers swear by this one. Its thick, fleece-lined water repellent fabric protects baby from rain and snow, and dual zippers allow easy in and out. It looks so warm, I wish they made one for adults!
*Note: May not fit larger car seats well, like the Graco SnugRide 40lb model.
3. Skip Hop Winter Car Seat Cover ~ $39
Skip Hop recently added a car seat cover to their winter essentials, and people are loving it. It’s similar to the JJ Cole cover, with a front flap for easy access to baby and a soft fleece lining. The elastic edge makes it a good fit for any infant car seat.
You can keep the collar closed to block out cold wind, or flip it open and snap it to the outer layer for temperature control. Once inside, you can roll away the front flap altogether to let baby cool off.
4. 7 A.M. Enfant Cocoon ~ $74.90
Allow me to introduce you to 7AM Enfant… it’s a brand started by a French mother who is focused on versatile and stylish outerwear baby accessories for cold, urban environments. Yes, they are the priciest of all the brands, but extremely well made (and stylish!).
Similarly to the JJ Cole, the Cocoon is a puffy cover for your baby’s car seat. It fits all infant car seats and is so easy to slip on and off thanks to the elastic base. This one is wind and water repellent, which is great for riding around in the stroller (in the car seat) — or getting to and from the car in the elements. We also like that both sides can unzip, fold back and attach to a velcro piece on the sides, so it’s easy to keep the cover on while allowing some breathing room without having to take the whole thing off.
5. Woolino Sleeping Bag ~ $99
Cross-posted from Best Wearable Blankets, this beloved Merino Wool sleeping sack safely goes from crib blanket to car seat blanket thanks to seat belt slots that are sewed into the fabric that allow the harnesses to go inside the sack; this eliminates any puffy space between the harnesses and your child.
The Woolino is made from premium hypoallergenic Australian merino wool. This one-size product fits babes 3m – 2yrs, so you’ll get a lot of mileage from it. Seriously, I got years of use out of this one item – it’s a great value and VERY highly rated. However, this is not water or wind-proof and isn’t designed for the coldest of temps, though it excels in the other 3 seasons or in mild winters.
Car Seat Covers for Toddlers and Preschoolers
1. Kids Car Seat Poncho ~ $25
Put the poncho over your child before heading out to the car, then drape the back of the poncho over the back of the seat [as you put him in], fasten your child’s harness, then flip it back down.
Great for convertible or combination car seats (i.e., any seat with a harness). Plus, kids love them
2. Buckle Me Baby Coats ~ $59
Buckle Me Baby Coats have a built-in flap that makes them safe for use in the car seat. You unsnap the front of the coat and move it to the side so the harness still fits snugly over baby (see below), then snap the front of the coat back over the harness for warmth. It takes a bit of extra finagling to tuck the coat out of the way of the harness on either side, but if you don’t mind that, the Buckle Me coat is a clever solution to the car seat/winter coat dilemma.
The inside is made of polar fleece and an intact panel of fill which is quilted in so there are no “leaky” spots where cold air can seep in. Comes in sizes 6/9 months through size 8.
That’s all folks! Do you have a favorite way of keeping your baby or toddler warm in the car? Leave us a comment below ~