After Market Car Seat Products - Are they Safe?  

Harness covers, infant inserts, bundling blankets, attached toys, custom covers. If you walk into any baby supply store, there will likely be aisles full of these products, right next to the car seats they're intended for. It seems to be implied that you'll make your car seat cute, warm, and comfortable in order to make it complete. But actually, there's nothing further from the truth. Most of these products actually make your seat less safe to use, and in many cases, will void your warranty on the car seat.

Before doing anything to your car seat, especially something that adds an element that was not sold with the seat, check the manual. Most of this is explicitly stated.

Most of the time, the issue is that these products, which are not sold with the car seat, is that they come between the straps and the baby. When you add bulk - a plush bundling blanket, a padded pillow - you are compromising the tightness and security of the harness. It's a similar issue to wearing a winter coat in the car seat. In a crash, the head and chest react differently with this extra bulk.

It gets confusing. Because, you may think, why would they be allowed to sell these products if they aren't safe? And why do they say things like "crash tested" and "to FMVSS standards", but this is actually misleading. Nothing in FMVSS covers these items. There is no way to know how a mirror, pads, or anything else that doesn't come with the seat will change how it performs in a crash. There's no crash test standard or benchmark for testing.

If a product comes WITH your car seat (as some do come with infant inserts or harness straps), it has been tested WITH the seat, and is approved to use.

So what CAN you use? No one wants a cold, uncomfortable, bored baby in the car. There are some things that are safe to use.
  • Rolled up receiving blankets on the side can provide extra support for an infant.
  • "Shower cap" style covers for winter weather (they go over the top of the seat only and don't come between the back or the seat or the harness)
  • Soft toys that are NOT attached to the seat (if you would be comfortable throwing it at your baby, it will be ok as a projectile in case of crash).
If you're unsure, check with your car seat manufacturer for suggestions!

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