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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Warm Weather Babywearing

There are lots of things to consider what to use when babywearing in the heat.  Some carriers are lighter and more breathable than others, while some offer sun protection or can be used in the water.  Certain fabrics have specific qualities that may make them preferred to other fabrics for summer babywearing.  This post is geared towards explaining some of these options without mentioning specific brands.  If you are looking for a more detailed brand breakdown, see our 2014 Guide To Summer Baby Carriers.

Babywearing in the heat

Babywearing is warm.  Those little heaters are great during the colder months, but when the weather starts getting warmer, so does babywearing.  While there is no way to be completely sweat free when there is a little body touching yours, there are carriers and fabrics that are cooler than others.

Here are a couple things to consider when deciding what kind of carrier is best for you this summer:
  • What is your budget?  There is a WIDE range in carrier options from do it yourself wraps to custom made carriers.  Knowing your budget will help you decide if you should buy new or used or what brands to consider.
  • Do you prefer a specific style of carrier already?  If you do, it won't matter if a gauze wrap is cooler than a buckle carrier if you won't like using a wrap.
  • Do you need a two shoulder carrier? Ring slings are great for little babies and up and down toddlers, but if you plan to wear for extended periods of time, a two shoulder carrier might be a better option.
  • Do you need sun protection?  Some carriers are made with special fabrics that offer UV protection.  Think about what parts of their body will be protected by the carrier and when to help you decide if this is an important issue for you or not.
  • Will you be spending a lot of time at a beach or pool?   If you think you will be in or around water frequently during the summer, it may make sense to make your summer carrier a water carrier.  Some people own and use both, but if you can only afford one, you will want to decide how important it is to you to have a fast drying, water friendly carrier.

Styles of carriers

There are pros and cons to many styles of baby carriers, but there are great summer options available in all styles.

Ring Slings
Ring slings are a great option for summer because there is very little fabric on you and your baby.  Some fabrics will be lighter than others, but short of fleece and wool, a ring sling will just naturally be a lighter, cooler carrier.  But because it is a one shoulder carrier, it's not going to be as comfortable for long periods of time, especially if you are wearing a bigger baby or toddler.
Pros: one layer of fabric, light and not bulky, tail can be used to shade baby from the sun
Cons: one shoulder carrier

Wraps
Wraps can be another great option for summer.  They come in many different fabrics and weights that are generally breathable.  They also can be wrapped in a variety of ways, many using only a limited number of layers on you and your baby.  Making your own wrap is also much easier than other styles of carriers, though they have the largest learning curve when learning to use them.
Pros: available in lightweight, breathable fabrics, can be wrapped/worn in a large variety of ways
Cons: large learning curve, can be expensive depending on the brand

Mei Tais
Mei tais are sometimes recommended for a summer carrier because they are generally lighter and less bulky than a buckle carrier.  Mai tais are available in a variety of fabrics, so look for one that is thinner and breathable, but make sure you don't sacrifice support for thinness.  The more layers there are in the body panel, the heavier and less breathable they will be.
Pros: two shoulder carrier, generally less bulk and padding, can be more affordable
Cons: slight more learning curve compared to buckle carriers, make sure you buy from a reputable maker

Buckle Carriers
If you prefer buckle carriers, look for one that is lighter and less bulky.  Some brands use heavy materials and a wide design.  These would be less ideal for summer since air flow would be restricted.  When trying to decide if a SSC would be summer worthy, look for one that is made with lighter fabrics, is narrower to allow air flow in the sides, and isn't heavily layered in the body panel.  You can also find SSCs that are made specifically to be light weight or have mesh or other breathable fabrics in the body panel to make them more airy and cooler.
Pros: two shoulder carrier, easy to use, "summer" options available
Cons: can have thick layers and padding that can make them hotter

Fabric options

Different fabrics have different qualities that make them ideal for a summer carrier.  But keep in mind that all fabrics can be different weights, so even a "hotter" fabric may feel cooler than a more summer friendly blend that is thick.  So the thickness of the fabric is just as important as the type of fabric.  Another thing to keep in mind in choosing a fabric is that thinnest is not always best.  Sometimes the thinnest fabrics are also less supportive.  So make sure you consider the weight and age of your baby when choosing your carrier.


Linen is frequently recommended for summer babywearing.  Linen is often used for ring slings, but there are also many linen blend woven wraps.  When considering a linen wrap, make sure the wrap is a thin wrap since thicker linen wraps will be too hot despite being linen.

Bamboo is a great fabric for summer for many reasons.  Bamboo fabrics are often used for exercise clothing and summer clothing because it wicks moisture and is very breathable.  It is also naturally protective against UV rays and is anti-bacterial.  Carriers made with bamboo fabrics will be cooler than their cotton counterparts, though you must always consider weight/thickness.

Gauze is often used for summer carriers because it is light weight and very airy.  It is easy to see why gauze is a cooler option than many fabrics because it is visually thinner.  The way the fabric is woven leaves a lot of space in the weave for air to flow through it.  Because it is so thin, gauze can be "diggy".  So it is important when using a gauze carrier to make sure you distribute the weight well so you don't end up with pressure points.

Cotton can also be a decent summer fabric.  Depending on the weave, cotton can be very breathable.  There are many cotton wraps that are very light and airy compared to some thicker linen wraps, so cotton can be just as much of a summer fabric as linen or bamboo.  But watch for thick twill or canvas fabrics since those won't allow much air flow.

Solarweave makes a great summer baby carrier.  This fabric is light weight, thin, breathable (though not in the same way as a more open fabric like gauze) and blocks more than 98% of the sun's damaging UVA and UVB rays.  This fabric dries quickly making it a great option for water carriers, but is still supportive enough out of the water.

Solarviel fabric is no longer being made, but because it is still mentioned regularly and can be found on the for sale by owner market, I thought it should be included in the list of fabrics.  Solarviel is very airy and open, even more than gauze, but can also be diggy.  The manufacturers of Solarviel claimed that it had UV protection, which made this open weaved fabric very appealing for summer use, but it was later tested and found that the fabric actually offered ZERO UV protection (read more about it here).  But even still, the fabric is still going to be extremely breezy when used for a baby carrier, so as long as you are not counting on it for UV protection, it is still a good fabric for summer babywearing.

Mesh is used in a variety of ways for summer carriers.  Some carriers use a mesh lining between their outer fabric and the baby's body to aid in airflow.  Some carriers use a sports mesh similar to a sports jersey to add a mesh center panel to the body of a carrier.  Some water ring slings are also made from this stretchy sports mesh, but these tend to be too stretchy when used alone to be very supportive outside of the water.

Do I NEED a summer carrier?

NO!  No one needs to have a summer carrier, plenty of people just own one carrier and use it all year!  Will you be more comfortable in a summer carrier?  Yes... but most carriers can be used in all kinds of weather and it is rarely necessary that someone to buy a special carrier for summer.  Now if your only carrier is a fleece pouch, a minkee lined mei tai, or a fluffy wool wrap, then you might actually NEED a summer carrier, but don't panic if the SSC you bought and love is a little on the thick side.  I wore a heavy brand of stretch wrap all summer one year and survived just fine and so will you.  You just might sweat a little more!

Sun safety

Babies have delicate skin, so it's important to protect their skin from the sun while spending time outside.  Many sun screens are not safe for regular use on very young babies, so sometimes it's important to find other ways to shade and protect them.  Here's a few quick options to consider:
  • Safe sunblock/screen.  Read labels, Google and ask your doctor.  Make sure you get a broad spectrum sunblock and know when to reapply.
  • Sun protective wear.  Hats, leggings, baby carriers, protective covers, etc. can all be found made using special materials that will protect against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Shade.  Always seek out shade.  But remember, you can still get burned standing in the shade of a tree... been there and done that.  So if you plan to spend a lot of time outside, consider bringing some kind of shade from the sun.  Personal umbrellas are easy and portable, but there are tents and other options if you plan to stay long enough to make it worth setting up.
  • Watch the time of day.  UVB rays are the ones that burn and they are most intense between 10am and 4pm.  UVA rays are also bad, but they don't burn the skin and remain more constant throughout the day.  (find out more here)  Be more careful when out between 10am and 4pm.
Remember, just because something offers enough shade to prevent a burn, it doesn't mean it is actually protecting you from UV rays.  When buying an umbrella or other protective cover, make sure the fabric has been independently tested to prove that it actually does what it claims.  There is no point in spending your money if it's not going to do what it says.

Tips & Tricks

 Here's a few quick tricks to make babywearing in summer a little more comfortable.

  • Stay out of the sun!  Seems obvious, I know, but it's probably the single biggest thing you can do to stay cool.  Bring portable shade if you need to.  Umbrellas on a sunny day may look silly, but they feel nice.
  • Bring ice!  Ice feels great when it's hot.  Drink it, carry some ice water in a spray bottle, or soak a bandanna in it and drape it around your necks!  Some people like to put frozen gel packs between them and baby to stay cool, but make sure not to let baby's skin get too cold!
  • Dress light.  Strip baby down before putting them in the carrier.  You can always throw their onsie back on as soon as you take them out.
  • Cover up.  It sounds weird, but sometimes adding thin, breathable fabrics that keep the sun off your skin can actually make you feel cooler.  If being in the sun is unavoidable, draping a thin layer of sun friendly fabric over you and/or baby can save your skin from those hot rays.

Enjoy!

To find out more about specific brands that are recommended for summer, see our 2014 Guide To Summer Baby Carriers.  There is bound to be some sweat this summer no matter what carrier you use.  But spending those precious moments snuggling your sweet baby makes it all worth it!  Drink lots of water, dress light, and enjoy your time together, your babywearing days will be over before you are ready!


Have a great summer!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, thank you! Our first was born at the end of November so I never got hot but we have baby 2 due in June and I want to be sure we are both comfy in the heat :-)

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