What Should Baby Wear in Car Seat? Best 2022 Car Seat Safety Tips

Since the fall and the cold, unpredictable weather are already here, many parents are now preparing for the winter. However, wintertime is delicate for child restraints and children's clothes.

You must be wondering: Should I dress my baby in winter coats, and what should baby wear in car seat?

As a general rule, experts do not recommend thick clothes to keep your baby warm. So, refer to the guide below to discuss proper children's clothes and car seat safety standards during the winter.


Winter Car Seat Safety Rules: What You Need to Know?

Whether you have experience with winter car seat safety regulations or are a newbie, the guidelines below will help keep your little ones secure in the car seat. Let's see.

How safe is a child's coat or snowsuit?

what should baby wear in car seat in winter

Snowsuits, winter coats, and similar bulky clothing are not safe for children, as the AAP claims. Kids should not wear them under the car seat harness.


Dressing your baby in puffy coats and multiple layers prevents the proper work of a car seat. That extra fluff will stop the car seat harness straps from adequately securing your child.

For example, the fluffy padding in a coat instantly flattens out in a car crash due to crash forces. The flattening leaves extra space under the harness straps. In addition, the slack is usually between two and four inches big, leaving enough space for a child to slide through the car seat harness straps.

Once the child slides through the harness straps, the car seat causes severe child's chest and head injuries (from hitting the door frame, window, or seat in the front). Thus, winter coats and snowsuits should not be worn underneath the harness straps. You can refer to this video for more understanding.

How can you test if the winter coats are safe?

You can perform the so-called "chalk test" to determine your car seat safety standards. You will need:

  • Your child
  • Car seat
  • Child's winter coat, snowsuit, or a bulky jacket you're concerned about
  • A piece of sidewalk chalk.

The testing procedure is the following:

  • Get the harness straps snug with the winter coat on
  • Pull the shoulder straps up to ensure there is no extra slack. Check the straps at the collarbone. The snug is too tight if you cannot fit your finger under the straps. The harness is too loose if you can do two fingers or pinch the buckled harness straps.
  • Use chalk and draw a line on the tail where it emerges from the car seat.
  • Loosen the straps
  • Unbuckle the harness
  • Remove the puffy coat.
  • Re-buckle the harness
  • Tighten the straps to the chalk line
  • Check for the buckled snug. Pull the shoulder straps up to ensure there is no slack. Again, check the collarbone - if your finger can't fit, the car seat straps are too tight. If you can pinch the harness or place two fingers beneath the straps, the harness is too loose.

As a result, the coat will not be safe. The straps will be loosened with the jacket off than with the jacket on. In addition, you can check how unsafe the coat is. Follow the procedure below:

  • Tighten the car seat straps
  • Make the second chalk line
  • Calculate the space between the two lines. The more space between the lines, the more dangerous the coat is.

If your child has more coats or jackets, please perform the chalk test with all to determine which coat's line is the closest to the non-coat line. Again, you can refer to the video for a complete procedure.

Are car seat covers safe for a child & to what extent?

what should a baby wear in a car seat

Many companies provide thick car seat covers to warm the baby in cold weather. You can find products and similar items on Amazon and similar websites. However, aftermarket products often offer a car seat cover, a car blanket, a bunting, or a sleeping bag.

Parents should avoid car seat covers and similar items on the car seat or stroller before their child is snuggly bundled. Such products are not crash-tested and can interfere with the child's body in the buckling process. Therefore, experts do not recommend their use in the car seat or your stroller.

In addition, there are no federal guidelines for a sleeping bag, a car seat cover, and similar items, although many manufacturers state the products exceed all federal car seat standards. These additional elements also affect the harness, and many car seat manufacturers will oppose your car seat warranty if you use such aftermarket items.

However, if you use a car seat cover or a sleeping bag over the child's body (after your child is safely buckled), such items won't affect the car seat function in a car collision. Once you place the baby gear over the baby's body, the harness straps will still be snug, and you won't compromise your baby's security.

As a general rule, winter car seat covers that only keep your baby warm serve as a shower cap. Therefore, you can use them safely. However, a shower cap should not have any layer under your baby in the safety seat. Also, ensure the baby's face is not covered - such covers usually have a hole over the baby's face to prevent trapped air and suffocation.

Keeping your child warm & safe in the car seat

Below, you can find multiple tips to help you make your kids warm and adequately restrained in their car seat when the temperatures drop.

Note that the recommendations for extra warmth are appropriate for all infants, toddlers, and older kids, and seats (infant, convertible seat, and booster seat models).

  • Dress your baby in thin layers. Start with tights, long-sleeved bodysuits, leggings, or similar close-fitting thin layers on the bottom of the child's body. Then, add a warmer top like a thermal-knit shirt or sweater and pants to keep kids warm. Your baby can wear a thin fleece jacket over their top. Long underwear is another great option for freezing weather. It's also safe for keeping a child warm and secure in the car seat.
  • Add mittens, hats, socks, and booties. The units will keep the head, hands, and the baby's feet warm when wearing thin layers and won't interfere with the harness straps. Booties are excellent since they have snap closure around the ankles, so your kids cannot remove them. Consider half-gloves with open fingers, or bring an extra pair of mittens if your child is a thumb sucker. You will keep your young babies and young toddlers warmer rather than colder in such situations.
  • Moderate and tighten the straps of the harness. Although your baby might seem properly buckled in the car seat, multiple layers make it challenging to pull the straps optimally. If you can pinch the straps, you must tighten them to fit your child's chest and body correctly.
  • Apply a car blanket or a cover over the harness. You can place the baby's winter coat backward (over the straps) or add a blanket over the harness after you buckle your child properly. Some parents prefer a thin jacket zipping down the sides if the child desires so that the back can flip forward over the harness. They also use car seat ponchos. Remember that a top layer should be removable so your baby won't get too hot after your car warms up. Most cars have efficient heating systems, so adjust the temperature to fit your baby's body.
  • Apply a car seat cover only if the item doesn't have a layer under the child. Nothing should ever be underneath the child's body or between their body and harness straps. Ensure the child's face is also uncovered to avoid suffocation.
  • Store the infant carrier portion of the infant car seat inside the house when not in use. Keeping the car seat at room temperature reduces the child's body heat loss in your car.
  • Get an early start. Plan your routine and practice with your baby. You have a lot to accomplish, and your child might not cooperate reasonably initially. Besides, driving in winter conditions requires you to slow down and be extra cautious on the road. Practice dressing your child in winter clothes and a car seat routine to avoid further complications.
  • Pack an emergency bag for your vehicle. Store dry clothing, extra blankets, gloves, hats, and non-perishable snacks in your cars if your child gets wet on a winter outing or in an on-road emergency.


Infants should wear one more layer than adults. You're wearing a coat; the child needs a coat and a wearable blanket.

Remember to remove the blanket and coat inside the car before placing your child inside the car seat.

Here you can find additional tips and tricks to keep your child warm during the winter.

What should a child wear in a car seat in winter?

what coats can babies wear in car seats

No one says you should wear your child in shorts and a T-shirt in winter. Instead, kids should wear thin layers - two to four. However, how many layers your baby will wear depends on the:

- outside temperature (if it's icy, children will wear more clothes)

- if your car heats quickly or slowly (more clothes in slower heating conditions)

- how cold or hot your baby is on average (if children are often too cold, they need more warm clothing layers)

- other products you use to keep your baby warm (blankets, covers, jackets, etc.).

For instance, the "shower cap" seat covers are excellent for keeping your little ones warm in infant seats. You can dress babies in a long sleeve T-shirt or a thin jacket over and wrap your toddlers inside the covers. The JJ Cole Cuddly Car Seat Cover is one such unit.

You can also use fleece suits for children 0-24 months old. They are cozy without being bulky. Children can wear them over thinner layers underneath, and you can cover your little ones after you properly restrain them in the car seat. Again, you can find them on Amazon.

Car seat ponchos are another option for parents. Designed for babywearing, ponchos also cover babies in the car seat. The items are wide to keep your baby's legs warm and protected. They also have a plush lining to add more warmth to your children. Ponchos are also available on Amazon.

Wearable blankets are also an ideal option for winter. These items have holes for hands and a comfortable neck hole. Thus, the kids can stay covered, but their hands are free. The blankets work well with strollers and baby carriers facing out. Blankets can either be single or double-layered. They are ideal for babies and big kids up to three years old. The Woolino 4 Season Baby Wearable Blanket Sleep Bag Sack is one of the best baby products.

What do car seat manufacturers say regarding winter children's clothes?

Please refer to your car seat instruction manual to find specific instructions on how to dress your kids in winter appropriately. However, we have listed some car seat manufacturers here, so let's see.

Car seat manufacturers


Do not dress your children in bulky clothing or similar garments that can hinder the harness from being latched adequately between the children's legs and snug around their bodies.

The use of non-Britax covers, toys, inserts, tightening devices, or other accessories is not approved by Britax. Using items will result in the restraint failing FMVSS 213 and performing worse in a car crash. In addition, their use automatically voids the Britax warranty.

Never use clothing that interferes with tightening and fastening the harness. An improperly restrained child can eject in a crash or a sudden stop. Place the covers and blankets after you restrain the children correctly.

Do not use other manufacturers' accessories with the child restraint. Items not tested with the Chicco restraint can injure children.

Children must wear clothing that will not interfere with the straps. Never place covers or blankets underneath the children.

Children must wear clothing that will not interfere with the straps. Never use accessories other than those approved by Combi USA. Never place infants in carriers dressed in bulky garments or heavy clothing.

Using any non-Diono product with restraints is not allowed. Using other items will void the warranty and seriously impact the restraint to perform optimally in collisions.

Do not dress children in bulky clothes such as winter coats or snowsuits. The items can interfere with the harness and eject your child in an accident.

Do not use parts & accessories other than those approved by Graco. Those items can alter the restraint's performance.

Never use blankets or clothing that interfere with the harness system. Unsecured children will come out of the restraint if not properly restrained. Put blankets over children after the proper tightness.

Use only approved accessories. Any violation will cause severe injuries in car accidents.

Do not secure infants in carriers with extra padding, material, or clothing. Instead, place a blanket over children after the proper buckling.

Most manufacturers prohibit bulky clothes and heavy garments, as they can result in severe injuries in collisions if your children aren't correctly restrained.

So, follow the guidelines and find specific manufacturer-approved accessories to avoid complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should babies wear pants in car seats?

Yes, babies should wear panties in car seats. However, they should be thinner for tight straps to fit between their legs.

How should a newborn look in a car seat?

A newborn should be dressed appropriately to fit the tightness. For instance, they could wear thin clothes and garments, and you can cover them with wearable blankets, fleece suits, or ponchos.

what can an infant wear in a car seat

Can a baby wear a onesie in a car seat?

Yes, a baby can wear a onesie in a car seat. Ensure the harness fits their bodies and ensure they are not cold.

What should a newborn wear in a car seat in winter?

A newborn should wear the following clothing in a car seat in winter:

- Tights, leggings, or long-sleeved bodysuits

- Pants, sweater, or thermal-knit shirt

- Thin fleece jackets

- Long underwear

- Hats, caps,

- Booties, socks

- Gloves, mittens

Should babies wear snowsuits in car seats?

No, babies should not wear snowsuits in car seats. Generally, babies should not wear any bulky clothes, heavy garments, and similar clothing, such as snowsuits or winter coats, as the AAP states.

The clothing will interfere with the harness, so the straps won't properly secure their bodies. In addition, many kids can come out of their seats in accidents when adequately restrained.

Are bunting bags safe for car seats?

No, bunting bags are not safe for car seats.

Instead, parents should use fleece clothing, wearable blankets, ponchos, and similar units to cover the children. Just ensure nothing goes between the children's body and seat for the tight harness fit.

And, if you use these baby items, ensure they cover both the baby and the straps.

Final Words

We hope you learned more about the winter car seat safety tips to keep your little ones safely buckled in child restraints. Please follow the AAP rules and avoid snowsuits, winter coats, and bulky clothing when placing your children in restraints.

In addition, ensure nothing interferes with the harness for a secure fit. Otherwise, you will risk your child's safety on the road, and the improper seats can cause severe injuries to their bodies.

Avatar of Kathy Warner

Kathy Warner

Kathy is a busy mother of two and a CPS technician for more than eight years. Her mission is to awaken parents to the importance of child passenger safety and show them the right practice. You can read more about her here

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