An FAQ guide to baby carrying in the cold.
I get asked a lot about how to use slings and carriers in cold weather so I’ve put together a quick FAQ guide:
Are there any benefits to using a sling over a pram or pushchair in bad weather?
Definitely. You and your baby will be able to stay warmer and more cosy by sharing your body heat than either of you would separately. You can also closely monitor your baby to make sure they are at a comfy temperature much more easily than you can if they are in a pram or buggy.
Buggies are nearly impossible to push through snow or slush and are very difficult to handle on uneven, icy ground, let alone mud. Provided you have good footwear, you can carry your baby anywhere at all, regardless of terrain and ground conditions.
Fresh air and exercise are great for your physical and emotional wellbeing, whatever the weather.
What are the risks of winter babywearing?
Some parents find that they worry more about falling with their baby in a sling when the ground outside is icy or muddy. This is why good footwear is essential and you might like to think about planning a route that avoids very treacherous ground in particularly bad weather conditions, or if you are front-carrying and may not be able to see where you are placing your feet. Having said that, using a sling means you have your hands free to protect your baby and yourself should you slip.
Will my baby be warm enough?
Babies are really not good at regulating their temperature on their own. We are tempted to wrap them us as much as possible but remember that overheating from too many layers can be as dangerous as letting them get too cold. Keep in mind the rule of thumb – your baby needs one more layer than you, in most situations. Multiple thin layers are better than bulky, thick layers (which may interfere with the comfort and fit of the sling), and don’t forget that the sling itself counts, so a stretchy wrap may be three layers while a ring sling might only be one.
What about the sticky out bits?
Your babies’ hands, feet and face are likely to be cooler than their core most of the time anyway; you will know whether and to what extent that is the case for your baby. As long as their extremities don’t feel icy cold and they are not changing colour this is ok. You can buy or make lovely arm and leg warmers, and cosy socks, booties and a snuggly hat are likely to come in handy.
Over coat or under coat?
This is a tricky one and depends on many factors. It’s important to note that your baby will be much warmer carried under your coat than over it as there will be considerably less heat transfer through your coat. Fitting a sling over a bulky coat can be difficult and can compromise the safety and comfort of the fit. Likewise, slippery fabrics can make securing the sling and your baby inside it more problematic.
In general, smaller babies in front or hip carries may be better under your coat, in which case, you can both be dressed in normal indoor clothes, you can secure your baby in the sling and then put the coat over both of you. A coat a couple of sizes too big for you should do the trick Cover any bits that stick out with hats and gloves etc and maybe a scarf to cover the gap between your chin and your baby as you won’t be able to close your coat all the way up to your neck unless you have a special babywearing coat or insert. Check regularly that your baby isn’t too warm, and off you go.
Older babies who want to get up and down frequently, babies in back carries, and slings that need to be spread over the shoulders might be better going on over your coat. In this case, your baby will need their own coat as well as they will not be benefiting from your body heat. The advantage is that you don’t have to take your coat off and get cold while adjusting the sling or getting the baby up or down, but you will have to think carefully about getting a safe fit and a comfy carry as both you and your baby will be bundled up in squishy layers. In general, fleecy coats are better than very stiff, waterproof type fabrics but you may need to think about a waterproof layer over the top of the sling to keep your baby dry.
How can I tell that my baby is ok?
The usual sling safety checks apply. Keep a close eye on your baby and watch for their cues; hot babies tend to be upset and fussy, cold babies may cry but are more likely to be quiet and less responsive. You can tell how warm your baby is by slipping a couple of fingers down their top to feel their chest or back. They should feel neither chilly nor sweaty but warm and dry.
Are some sling styles better than others for winter babywearing?
It depends totally on the age and stage of your child, the outing you are planning, and your babywearing preferences.
If you don’t want to be dragging fabric through the snow and mud, a pretied wrap (which you put on before leaving the house) or a buckle type carrier (which may involve fewer long straps and passes) may be better options. But, equally, you may want a longer wrap as you will then be able to have multiple layers to keep you both warm.
Think about the fabric and the structure of the sling; does it allow airflow? In which case it may be less warm than a thicker fabric or a more wraparound style. Can you wash and dry it easily if it gets muddy or rained on? Some sling styles will absorb a lot of water and quickly become heavy and soggy.
Do you like to spread your sling down over your shoulders? In which case you may not be able to get your coat on over the top so you will need to adapt your technique or consider wrapping on top of your coat and putting extra layers on your baby.
There are some marvellous accessories out there including special coats, covers and gadgets to make baby carrying in the cold easier. You probably don’t need any of it but some things might be useful or just nice to have.
What tips and tricks have you discovered to help you wear your baby all year round?