Car seats are designed to get your little one from point A to point B safely, and with a little help from car seat accessories, the journey from A to B can be more comfortable for them.
But when you're considering buying different accessories, how do you know which ones are safe to use?
In this article, I provide evidence-backed answers to frequently asked questions regarding the safety of car seat accessories, including clothing items, to give you a better idea of what is and isn't safe to use with your car seat.
Car Seat Accessories Safety: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Are car seat covers safe?
In short, no. Car seat covers are simply an accessory that can be used to protect the car seat from spills, debris, and accidents.
In an article discussing the safety of car seat covers, Lorrie Walker, a Safe Kids Worldwide training manager and technical advisor, notes how most car seat accessories don’t meet the flammability safety standards. For this reason, most car seat manufacturers advise against using any product that wasn’t made by them.
Keep in mind that just because a manufacturer says you should use an accessory, that doesn’t mean that it’s safe to use.
Are car seat protectors safe?
The answer to this question depends on the manufacturers.
In most product manuals, manufacturers will state if the use of a car seat protector is safe or not. The main reason why it wouldn’t be safe is that it’s a product that comes in between the child and the restraint system. Also, most of the time, they’re installed incorrectly, which causes them to shift around. Over time, the shifting can loosen your car seat installation and put your child at risk for injury in the event of a collision.
Bottom line: using a car seat protector is up to you and your car seat manufacturer.
Are car seat blankets safe?
A lightweight and small car seat blanket is alright to use because it doesn’t hinder the function of the child restraints.
However, I will say that most manufacturers do not recommend using outside products with your baby’s car seat because they haven’t been tested for safety. That’s why a small blanket with little impact is typically fine to use, and a bulky, heavily padded blanket isn't.
Are car seat canopies safe?
Yes and no.
While car seat canopies are great for protecting your child from harmful UV rays and shielding them from the brightness of the sun, there are some that create a high risk for suffocation. For this reason, you should avoid using canopies that attach to the car seat handle.
You should also avoid canopies that zip too close to your child’s face.
Are car seat strap covers safe?
According to Car Seat for the Littles, car seat strap covers are one of many accessories that aren’t necessarily safe to use because they compromise the function of the car seat.
Harness covers can add bulk and pressure to the harness, making it harder to tighten. They can also change the position of the harness and negatively affect your child’s alignment.
As a general rule of thumb, if it wasn’t sold with your car seat, you probably shouldn’t use it. For any questions on specific products that are safe to use with your car seat, you should refer to your product manual or contact your manufacturer.
Are car seat belt extenders safe?
NO. Seatbelt extenders are NOT designed to be used with car seats and boosters. They are meant for larger ADULTS, not children.
Most parents think that this tool is a great idea if there’s not enough seatbelt webbing to secure their car seats, but this is NOT a safe accessory for car seats.
If the seatbelt webbing is not sufficient enough for your car seat, then you should simply buy a new car seat instead of putting your child at great risk for injury.
I highly recommend that you DO NOT use seatbelt extenders for your car seat or booster seat.
Are car seat head supports safe?
As I’ve mentioned, accessories that are sold separately from the car seat are not recommended for use. They haven’t been tested for safety, so there’s always a chance that they can compromise the safety of your car seat.
Most car seats will come with infant inserts or a regulated head and body support pillow that’s deemed safe to use by the manufacturer. If you find that your child needs a bit more support, you may want to switch them back to their previous car seat position, so long as they haven’t exceeded the height and weight requirements.
Child safety locks for car seats – what are they and where can I get them?
To put it simply, a child safety lock is a tool used to keep your child from accidentally unbuckling their harness and buckle. You can easily find child safety locks at local retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, and you can also order them online from popular vendors like Amazon and buybuy Baby.
Are fleece bodysuits safe in car seats?
In short, if the fleece bodysuit properly fits your child without any loose areas, then using one in a car seat should be alright. On the contrary, if your child is wearing an oversized fleece bodysuit, it could bunch up under the harness straps and make it hard to properly tighten and secure the harness.
Bottom line: only use a fleece bodysuit if it fits your child.
What should I look for in a car seat safe coat for an infant and toddler?
Honestly, I don’t necessarily think that there’s such a thing as a car seat-safe winter coat.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that winter coats should NOT be worn in the car seat. They then go on to provide a list of alternatives that parents can use to keep their children warm while they ride in their car seats.
If you’re still determined to keep your child in their coat, you can conduct the Pinch Test that’s outlined here to determine if the coat is safe to use.
What are some safe coats for car seats?
You can find a nice list of safe and reviewed 2020 car seat coats here. Some of these coats include the Snozu Jacket, the Patagonia Nano Puff, and the Buckle Me Baby Coat.
Car Seat Accessories: What's OK and What's Not
Accessories are cute additions that you can add to your car seat to offer your child more comfort and support. When looking for accessories, remember that most of them are non-regulated, so there's no way to guarantee their safety. Remember, if you want to use a specific accessory, refer to your product manual or contact your manufacturer to make sure that's safe to use with your car seat.
With two kids of my own, I’m passionate about child safety! I’m a research nerd who’s on a mission to make the world a safer place for kids – starting with car seats!
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