How to Choose the Best Winter Coat for Your Baby

Baby in thick winter coat.
Getty/Tanuki Photography

Bundling your baby in a winter coat or baby snowsuit is one of the best ways to keep the little one warm when the weather is frightful. Coats and snowsuits come in so many styles and weights, it can be hard to choose the right one.

Here are some things to consider when choosing which type of winter coat or snowsuit will be most convenient for you and work best for your baby and your local weather.

Winter Coat or Baby Snowsuit?

Baby snowsuits are one of the warmest options available in winter wear. However, snowsuits can be inconvenient for diaper changes or quick trips.

Winter coats are much easier to take on and off of your baby, but won't provide full-body coverage as a baby snowsuit does for extended outdoor activities. Urban families that use a stroller as a commuter vehicle might get a lot of use out of a full-coverage snowsuit. Most add a ​sleeping-bag-style foot muff to the stroller for extra coverage.

Consider how you will use baby's winter wear most often before deciding whether to buy a standard winter coat or baby snowsuit. Remember that most coats and snowsuits are too thick to be safe in a car seat.

Weight Matters

Thick winter coats and snowsuits, while very warm, can restrict the baby's movement and make your baby uncomfortable. Toddlers may have a hard time moving and walking with a thick coat on. If you'll be outside for long periods of time in very cold climates, your baby may need a very thick, warm coat or snowsuit. For most climates, and for quick trips in and out of the cold, a thinner baby coat will do.

Zips, Snaps, and Velcro

As you shop for a winter coat or snowsuit for baby, test the closures on the coats you're considering to be sure you can get the coat on and off of your baby easily. Remember that you may also be wearing winter gloves that make small zipper pulls hard to grasp.

For toddlers, look for a coat or snowsuit with a closure that's easy for little fingers to master for when they reach the "I-can-do-it-myself" stage.

Give zipper pulls and drawstrings a tug to be sure they are firmly attached.

Winter Coat Sizes

For infants, it's unlikely that you'll be able to buy a coat that lasts more than one winter since babies grow so much in the first year. You can buy infant coats a bit big to allow for growth over the season, though.

For toddlers, buying a coat that is one size bigger may allow you to use the coat for two winters, but be sure the coat isn't so big that it restricts movement. When trying on winter coats, remember that baby may have thick clothes underneath the coat and choose sizes accordingly.

Winter Coats and Car Seats

If you plan to keep baby's coat on while traveling, you must choose a thin winter coat that will not interfere with proper car seat harness adjustment. Thick winter coats should not be used with car seats. Fleece coats and snowsuits are often a good option for use with car seats, providing warmth without bulk. The fleece needs to be flat, not sherpa (sherpa fleece is always too bulky in a car seat).

If you choose a thick coat, take it off in the car and warm baby with blankets placed over the car seat after buckling, or buckle baby in and then put the coat on backward over baby's arms. You could also try a coat that's specially made to be safe for the car seat, such as the OneKid Road Coat. If your baby is riding in an infant car seat, a winter car seat cover that goes atop the seat might also be a good option instead of a traditional coat or snowsuit.

Watch for Overheating

Infants usually need one additional thin layer of clothing (like a long-sleeved onesie) beyond what adults need to stay warm. Dressing in layers is the best way to stay warm and avoid overheating by being able to take off layers. Young babies do not sweat effectively to cool themselves off, so they are at risk of overheating more quickly than an older kid or adult.

Toddlers don't need to be overdressed, either. If you are comfortable with a sweater and light coat, it's likely that your toddler will be comfortable in similar cold weather gear. For both babies and toddlers, multiple thinner, tighter layers are key to keeping kids warm and safe when in a car seat.

By Heather Corley
Heather Wootton Corley is a mother, freelance writer and certified Child Passenger Safety Technician-Instructor.