Infant Car Seat Cover Safety

There are several different types of car seat covers, but only one type is safe to use: the "shower cap" style that goes on after a child is secured in the seat, and/or has zippers that mean the cover can stay on but the child can be buckled snug without interference. It's also critical for the cover to have openings or mesh panels so that a child's face is visible, and there is proper airflow and a lesser risk of overheating.

Seat covers meant to replace or cover the car seat's original padding are not safe and should not be used. Nor should a sleeping-bag style, two-layer cover that goes both under and over a child's body. Both are unsafe because they can affect the performance of the seat in a crash.

Shower Cap-Style Car Seat Covers

You might want a cover to help keep your baby warm in their car seat; many coats are not safe in a car seat. Use a cold-weather cover that goes over the whole car seat after your baby is buckled in, or unzips to allow full access so you can buckle your child in snugly.

The shower cap-style covers have an elastic edge that goes over the top of the car seat, with an opening for the child's face. This type of cover does not affect the car seat's ability to protect your baby in a crash, since the cover goes over (not under) the child's body and over the harness. Since these covers do not interfere with any part of the harness, they are safe to use.

However, it's important that whatever cover you use have an opening or a large mesh panel for your child's face. You need to be able to see your baby without lifting or moving the cover. Fabric that completely covers the seat also increases the risk of the child overheating. Even thin, "breathable" cotton significantly reduces airflow and creates a greenhouse effect in the car seat.

Car Seat Slipcovers

Another type of car seat cover is more precisely known as a car seat pad cover or car seat slipcover. These are used instead of, or directly over top of, the fabric cover on the child's car seat, meaning they go under the child's body. The goal is to make the car seat look prettier, or to replace an original cover that is soiled or missing.

These slipcovers are not safe. You should only use the original cover that came with the car seat, or get a replacement directly from the manufacturer that is for that specific make/model of car seat. That's because the cover that came with the car seat is the only one that is crash-tested to work with that specific seat. Using a different seat pad (or adding a prettier slipcover over the one that came with the seat) can affect the performance of the car seat in a crash and reduce its ability to protect the child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against any product that goes underneath a child's body, between them and the harness straps. Just because the product is on the shelf 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 cover can make an old seat look like new again, it is important to remember that you shouldn't use a car seat past its manufacturer's expiration date. Also, you should never use a car seat that has been in a crash, and it is impossible to tell the crash history of a car seat if you buy it used or second-hand.

If a cover is purchased separately from the car seat (it didn't come in the original box with the car seat), then to be safe to use, it should either:

  • Be purchased from the car seat manufacturer and specified as safe to use for that specific make/model car seat, or
  • Be put on after the child is completely buckled and the straps are fully snug, with the child's face left completely uncovered and fully visible

Sleeping Bag-Style Car Seat Covers

Some car seat covers have a layer that goes under the baby's body and harness and a layer that goes over the baby's body and harness, similar to a sleeping bag. The layer that is under the body and harness makes these types of covers unsafe.

There are a few snowsuits, buntings, and wraps that are safe for car seats because they are specially designed to allow babies and toddlers to be buckled in snug. These are helpful if you will be wearing the baby and then transferring them into a car seat.

A Word From Verywell

Use caution when choosing an infant car seat cover. Remember that the original liner is removable and washable. Never use a product that goes underneath your child, and be cautious that you don't cover their face.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Winter car seat safety tips from the AAP.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Car seats: Information for families.

By Vincent Iannelli, MD
Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years.