I've always thought I was really militant about car seat safety. I researched car seats thoroughly before little A was born. We got the Chicco Keyfit (which we LOVED) as her infant seat, and went with a Britax Advocate 70 CS (the top of the line at the time - great seat, but a different post) for her convertible when she outgrew it.
We live in the midwest, so winters get really cold. I saw the JJ Cole BundleMe (LINK), and got one immediately:
We actually got a thinner one than this, the Lite, but the issue is the same, as a friend told me - nothing should go between a child and their carseat. It's a hazard, and it can also make it so that you can't file an insurance claim if you're in an accident, since you're not using the seat properly. This is a great item for strollers and the like, it's just not an approved device for a carseat. Since this was a hazard, we stopped using it immediately - and I became even more vigilant than I already was about car seat safety!
Since A was so little and still in her infant seat, we tried another JJ Cole product. We used the Car Seat Cover (LINK):
We loved this item, and it was entirely safe. It is called a "shower cap" style cover because it works just like a shower cap - as shown in the photo above, you simply put it over the top of the car seat. It's got an elastic band that squeezes around where it gets narrower. Nothing goes between the baby and the car seat, and it unzips easily so that you can get the baby in and out without removing the cover every time. Ours was an older model and it had a piece of velcro up by where the top of the baby's head is, and that's an additional way that it kept the wind from getting in. It doesn't look like this newer model has that, which is too bad, as it was one of my favorite features until I got fuzz from blankets in the velcro enough that it didn't work anymore. I am guessing that someone crafty could easily sew that in, however. (I wish I were that person.)
At $29.99 it was a little more expensive than, say, the generic ones you can get at Wal-Mart, but this one is very durable, had the zipper and the velcro, and was a little thicker. We would put baby A in the seat, clip her in, cover her up with a receiving blanket (or six, depending on how butt-cold it was that day), zip up the cover, and then velcro it up. We didn't need anything else that entire winter (which is good, since coats are also not recommended in car seats).
The next problem came the next winter, when she was in a convertible seat. The cover didn't fit that, so we needed to look for something for her to wear directly. We started with a Car Seat Poncho (LINK), about $39.99:
Little A was about 17 months around this time, and VERY active. I loved the idea of the car seat poncho - you put the little in the car seat, buckle them in, and put this over the top of the car seat. It can get them from the house to the car while staying warm enough, and you can put an additional blanket over them both on the walk and in the car.
As I mentioned, A is active - and stubborn. She had zero desire for this to be over her arms hampering her from whatever she wanted to be doing (oftentimes shredding paper all over the backseat). Usually she tore it off in about three minutes. And since she had also kicked off the blanket, she was left with not much warmth protection. Since we keep the car plenty warm, that wasn't much of an issue inside of the car, really, but it meant sort of a struggle when getting her in and out when she didn't want to put the poncho back on. Trying to wrap a flailing child in a poncho was not as easy as it sounds. The theory of the poncho is absolutely great, though, it just didn't work in our particular household.
What we ended up with what an Osh Kosh B'Gosh/Carters 3-in-1 jacket. I can't link it, as they don't seem to have them on the shelves yet for winter, but the theory is pretty simple. You have an inner jacket that is Thinsulate on the interior with a waterproof shell outside. Then, you also have a thicker outer coat that zips onto the inner shell for double warmth. We would wear the thin inner jacket in the car (as it was car seat-safe), and then put on the thick outer jacket right before we took her into stores, daycare, preschool, whatever. We've been doing this system the last two winters, and it works quite well. Carters and Osh Kosh have huge sales pretty regularly on their website and in stores, so I could pace myself and pick it up at a cheaper price than the $60 or so at which it was regularly listed. I'm sort of hoping that she can still wear hers from last winter again this winter, since we bought one a little big back then (I think). I should probably pull it out and see.
I noticed upon reviewing these blogs that it must seem like I buy a lot of junk and then it doesn't work...