Oh, car seats. You'd think something so vital to safety of little passengers wouldn't have so many issues that cause questions. Yet it seems that there is SO much room for error, and for everything you see being sold in the baby supply stores, there is someone out there telling you why it's unsafe and you shouldn't use it.

Seat protectors are a big one. These are mats that go underneath the car seat, protecting the actual vehicle seat from mess and damage. Expectant parents have seen the goldfish and spilled juice visions in the future, and they want to be as proactive as possible in keeping their back seat as clean as it was when it was child free.

If you were to ask a CPST, and wanted a black and white definite answer, they would most likely tell you no. They can't recommend using anything between the seat and the child restraint. Every car seat company has a different policy, and parents are so often confused that they misuse them.

Yet if you press them, they will say that specific seats allow the use of specific seat protectors. Sometimes, the car seat brand will also sell as seat protector, and they will say that is the only seat protector that can be used. Sometimes, the car seat brand will allow a thin towel to be placed under the seat. Ultimately, the car seat you have will dictate the answer, and the answer will most likely be very specific.

But why wouldn't they be safe all the time?

A seat protector introduces space into the installation. A car seat is designed to be installed directly against the vehicle seat. If the protector shifts over time, it can loosen the installation, making it unsafe. Sometimes, a seat protector with grippy sides will make the seat feel like it's tight, when in fact, it might not be.

If your car seat DOES allow for it, your best options are a thin towel (that has not been folded) or a thin receiving blanket.

But best practice seems to be to always and only follow the instructions in your car seat manual, and to make sure that your ultimate goal is a safe backseat, not a pristine one.


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