It’s well and truly autumn and we’re all feeling it! Whether we’re using a sling or not, we’re having to think a lot more about what we dress our babies – and ourselves – in when we go out, and whether we’ll need to take any extra coverings or accessories with us when we leave the house.
Here at the South London Sling Library we’ve been getting lots of questions about how to keep everyone comfortable when using slings and carriers in cold weather. So we’ve put together a few thoughts for you on Carrying in the Cold (or Slinging in the Snow or (baby)Wearing in the Wind and Wet) to help you out!
Don’t let the changing weather put you off getting out! Fresh air can be a miracle cure for a grizzly baby or a restless toddler and helps to keep everyone healthier and happier. And using a sling or carrier offers real practical benefits in cold or wet weather…
The great thing about using a carrier that holds your child close to your body is that you get to share each other’s warmth – carrying a baby is like having your own snuggly hotwater bottle!
AND… using a carrier allows you to boldly go where no buggy can! On foot you can get across uneven or slippery ground safely (do wear appropriate footwear though!); the carrier also gives you your hands free to support yourself or a bigger child, or hold an umbrella!
First things first – the safety and comfort of your baby is important!
Babies and small children can get hot or cold much more easily than adults do and the smaller the baby the more careful we need to be with extremes of temperature. In cold weather a baby could get too cold, but with all the layers they might have on a baby might also get too hot!
Check if your baby is getting too cold or too warm: If you’re worried that your baby may be getting too cold or warm, the best way to check (without a thermometer) is to pop a couple of fingers down the back of their neck – they should feel warm and comfortable, not cool, cold, hot or clammy. A baby with a sweaty back is probably the most reliable sign that they don’t need so many layers!
You can also check their face, hands and feet for colour and touch temperature. And their behaviour may also give you a sign – hot babies often fuss or get agitated; cold babies may be less responsive.
But there are still lots of questions to answer…. Do I carry my baby under or over my coat? Should they wear a snow suit? Do I really need an expensive babywearing cover or coat? How does all this work for back carries/wraps/toddlers etc.? We’ve had lots of experience with various options and talked to lots of you about what you think too! Here’s what we’ve found….
Do I carry my baby under or over my coat?
For front and hip carries it’s usually most comfortable and practical to carry your baby in their sling or carrier close to your body, with your own coat, cardigan or a cover over the top. This will allow you to share body heat (your baby will get much more warmth from you than from any coat or blanket!) and also gives you the best weight distribution for comfortable carrying. Trying to use a sling or carrier over bulky coats tends to result in the carrier not fitting as well against either of you.
When carrying under your coat think about: how you like your carrier straps – if you prefer spreading Wrap, Ring Sling or Mei Tai straps over your shoulders then you may not be able to do this under a coat. Don’t over-dress your baby – see below!
For back and toddler carrying it may be more practical to carry them over your coat, especially if they want to be up and down a lot. Soft Structured Carriers can work really well for this as they don’t have dangly ties keep off the floor and you can leave the carrier fastened around your waist while it’s not in use.
Fully covered back carries can be more awkward than front or hip carries, even when using special babywearing coats. Unless your toddler is going to be napping then you don’t want to be taking your coat off every time they fancy hopping down for a bit!
When carrying over your coat think about: which carry positions and sling/carrier you’re going to be using, and how much of the time your child will need to be carried. You may need to weigh up optimum comfort/fit of your carrier versus ease of getting your child up and down.
Or when needs must why not try both!
Which carriers work best in autumn and winter weather?
This will depend on you, your child, the weather and what you need your carrier to do – basically (as with everything slingy – and parenty!) it all depends on you!
Things to think about when choosing your carrier for wintery carrying:
- Warmth: Though most of the heat within a carrier comes from you and your baby, some carriers allow more/less airflow than others. Wraparound slings can hold in a lot more heat than those with less fabric, and can really help to keep you all snuggly warm!
- Long straps: You may prefer to avoid carriers with long straps that may get wet or muddy on the floor, or that might be less practical to manipulate when it’s windy! Soft Structured Carriers can solve this really successfully, as can slings that can be put on before you leave the house and not need to be re-tied while out, such as Stretchy Wraps, Ring Slings and Pouches. Some methods of using a Woven Wrap or Wrap-Tai can also allow you to pre-tie in this way.
- Wide Shoulder Straps: As noted above, you may find it less easy to spread wider shoulder straps both under or over a coat and so your wrap or ring sling may fit differently to normal.
- Washing and Drying Carriers: If your carrier is likely to get wet or muddy, then you’ll want one that can be washed easily or at the very least will stand up well to getting soggy. If you use your carrier a lot then you’d probably prefer to use one that will dry quickly.
- Your baby/toddler’s needs and preferences: The age and stage or your baby will make a big difference to what works. Take into account how long they’ll need to be in the carrier for, when/whether they’ll need to get out for walks, feeds, changes etc. Also think about how your child feels about being able to see and move. Some babywearing coats or covers can make a baby feel more restricted than normal; for these children you may need to use a carrier over your coats and go for something that would be more practical for this.
What do I dress myself and my baby in?
This will obviously depend on the weather! The usual guide is that your baby should wear one layer more than you would feel comfortable in. Thinner, breathable layers may be more comfortable than one thick layer, and this can also help with keeping good weight distribution and fit in a carrier. This applies to both you and your baby – layering long sleeved tops and jumpers can be easier and comfier under slings than a bulky coat.
- Carrying under your coat: If carrying your baby under your coat, simply dress yourself and your baby in whatever indoor clothes are appropriate, then put on the sling and then your coat over the top. Your baby won’t need to wear their own coat too. The great thing about this is that you don’t need to wake a baby up to put a coat on/off – they can nap comfortabley in the sling without needing to be disturbed.
- Keep extremities layered up: your torsos may be snuggly warm under all those tops and carriers, but those bits sticking out may need more help keeping warm!
- Hats: For small babies make sure that they also have a hat on as this will often be the most exposed part of their body. If back carrying, a hat that fastens under your child’s chin will help to stop it getting lost! You may also want to wear a scarf or snuggly collar to keep your neck warm.
- Leg and Arm Warmers: We love our Hugalugs leg warmers to keep baby and toddler legs and arms warm too – they’re great for layering under or over clothes and add a layer where you need it (i.e. the bits of the baby that are sticking out of the carrier!) plus they can be easily taken off if your baby gets too warm. Here at the SLSL several of our team also use Hugalugs as arm warmers – we’ve found that we need fewer layers on our torsos when carrying a Hot-Water-Bottle-Baby, but our arms still get cold so arm warmers are a great solution!
- Footwear: Make sure your baby’s feet are warm – extra socks (securely held on by Sock-Ons if needed!) and snuggly wooly booties can be a great way to keep little toes toasty!
- Snowsuits and Coats for Babies: If carrying your baby over your own coat, then they will need to be dressed appropriately for the weather. They’ll be getting less of your body heat and so an all-in-one snowsuit can be a great option. Bulky padded suits can affect how well a baby fits in a carrier, wrap or sling, and so some parents favour Fleece suits – these are less bulky but still very warm. And you can still add extra layers underneath including socks, legwarmers etc. In wet weather you may prefer for your baby to wear a raincoat or all in one waterproof to keep them dry; large brimmed rain hats that tie under the chin can be very practical too!
- Don’t Overdress Your Baby! Though it may be cold, in the UK the weather generally isn’t Arctic and a baby held close to your body with their extremities protected isn’t going to suffer from exposure to the cold. Some babies (and adults) get hotter than others and so do let yourself take off layers if you feel that your baby is too warm. We’ve had babies arrive at the sling library in December dressed in just a vest and nappy, but perfectly snug under 3 layers of wrap and their Mum’s coat!
Do I need a purpose made cover or babywearing coat? What are the options available? Can I make something myself?
Now this is a whole new topic by itself! In our thoughts above we’ve not assumed any particular coat or cover as there are so many options out there. In short; no, you don’t need a specially made coat or cover, but you may find that there’s a product that makes you and your baby much more comfortable for wintery carrying. There are even clever inserts to fit your existing coat or jacket, and various DIY solutions that might work for you too!
If you’ve got any questions about getting the most out of slings and carriers in different weather conditions, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or pop along to a Workshop or Private Consultation and we’ll be happy to help! xx