Consumer Guide To Winter Coats For Babies

Learn which type of coat or outerwear will keep your baby warm and safe this winter.

Parents shopping for winter coats and outerwear for their babies face a lot of choices and one big dilemma. Which type of outerwear will protect the baby most effectively without being too difficult to put on and remove? And what is the safest type of outerwear to use with infant car seats?

A winter coat alone is not the best protection for a very young baby, as it doesn't offer protection for the baby's legs. If you do use a coat, however, be sure the baby's legs are covered adequately by a blanket.

Snowsuits offer the most coverage and are the warmest type of outerwear, as they are a one-piece garment. Snowsuits for smaller babies are often footed or have shoe covers that snap on to the leg cuffs. When shopping for a snowsuit, be sure to look for one that has either cuffs that fold over the hands to form mittens or one that has snap-on mittens. However, while snowsuits offer great protection from the elements, they actually lessen the protection that your baby's car seat offers and are better for use with a stroller.

Buntings are similar to snowsuits, except that they are more like a sleeping bag with arms and a hood. (Note: Some people use the terms "snowsuit" and "bunting" interchangeably, but the bunting we are referring to here is the kind without separate legs.) Whether you will be using the bunting with a stroller, baby carrier, or car seat, make sure there is a slit near the crotch for the seat belt. Check with your pediatrician to find out if the type of bunting your baby has is recommended for use in the car.

Sweater sets consist of a cardigan or pullover sweater, often lined, and matching leggings or pants that go over your baby's clothing. These sets are often recommended for use with a car seat because while they offer warmth and protection from the wind, they are thinner than a snowsuit. Thus, the seatbelt can be tightened more snugly and can fit closer to the baby's body, offering more protection in the event of an accident.

However, sweater sets do not always include mittens or foot covers, and their lightweight material makes them inappropriate for colder weather. It is best to use sweater sets in the spring and fall when the temperatures are milder, or use them in the car along with a warm blanket.

One popular new style of baby outerwear isn't something the baby wears at all, but rather a snug sherpa blanket attached to the baby's stroller or car seat. The bottom part of the blanket attaches to the car seat with the seat belt threaded through it, while the upper part can be zipped on or off to keep the baby from becoming too hot indoors. There are several advantages to using such a device. First, it is the safest to use with a car seat because there is no bulky clothing between the baby and the seat belt. Second, it is easy for busy parents to use, but it still keeps the baby warm. Lastly, if the baby produces a dirty diaper right when it is time to leave and the parents are running late already, it's much better to just unzip a blanket than to struggle with a snowsuit. However, these blankets can be expensive, and you must still dress the baby's upper body warmly on cold days - don't forget the winter hat, warm sweater, and mittens.

Most parents will find that no one item of outerwear works best for all situations. A combination approach is best if you wish for your baby to be prepared for the winter: a snowsuit or bunting for the stroller, a coat and blanket for the car, and a lighter-weight sweater set for when the weather begins to warm up. To simplify things (at least a little), buy these items in compatible colors and shop for a hat and mittens that coordinate with all of your baby's outerwear. Bundle up, and have a fun winter!

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