Winter is coming! But you don't have to stop enjoying your outdoor activities just because it's getting chilly. Babywearing can be a huge part of being active with your little ones this fall and winter.
It has come to my attention that I have no pictures of babywearing in the snowy cold of winter. Hopefully these fall photos are helpful even though they aren't officially "winter" babywearing photos.
Basic Winter Babywearing
Babywearing in winter doesn't need to be fancy or complicated. There are two basic ways of wearing during winter; over or inside your coat/jacket. Over the coat is when you put your coat on first and then the carrier is worn on the outside of your coat. Inside is when you put the carrier on first and then wear your coat over the carrier. Here are a couple photos:
Babywearing outside your coat is simple and the most obvious. Unfortunately, babies worn outside your jacket will not benefit as much or at all from your body heat, so you will still need to dress them appropriately for the weather conditions. This technique is most useful when you do not plan to wear them the entire time you are outside since both of you will be properly dressed whether babywearing or not. It also allows you to wear baby on your front or back.
Babywearing inside your coat is the warmest option and the best method to use if you will be going from inside to outside or vice versa, though it can only be used for front carries. Having the carrier on before you put your coat on will allow you to share a lot of your body heat with your baby. It also makes it easier to tell if baby is warm enough since they should be as warm as you are. If you have a younger baby that you plan to wear the entire time you are outside, or you plan to go inside and don't want to have to wake or remove baby from the carrier when you head indoors, wearing your baby inside your carrier will be easier and more convenient.
When wearing baby inside your coat, you just need a jacket or coat large enough to zip over you both (you will NOT be zipping the carrier up all the way, the zipper should not go above the back of baby's head). You can buy a larger coat specifically for this purpose, borrow one from a larger friend, or even use a maternity coat if you happen to have purchased one. They also make coats designed to be used for babywearing, but these are necessary to winter babywearing.
If you are using a normal coat and not an actual babywearing coat, the space between you and baby will be exposed since the zipper will stop at the back baby's head. This area should be small, but you and baby should both be dressed in something warmer since this part will be open to the cold air. You can also use a scarf to cover this area, but make sure that baby's face is uncovered at all times. Purchasing a babywearing hoodie or vest will cover this area, but again, it is not necessary to own one of these to successfully babywear in winter.
When baby is worn inside your coat, it is not usually necessary for baby to be heavily clothed. Your baby should be as warm as you are inside your coat, so dressing them in normal clothing plus a hat may be all that is needed. Make sure you use long socks or leg warmers to keep baby's legs warm since pants tend to ride up when their legs are bent. If their feet are inside the jacket or coat, shoes/boots shouldn't be needed and might actually be uncomfortable.
Cold Weather Products
If you have the means, you may enjoy buying a product specifically designed for cold weather babywearing. There are carrier covers, vests, hoodies, ponchos and coats designed specifically to use while babywearing. You don't need any of these to enjoy winter babywearing, but many people love their cold weather accessories.
Covers are the most basic option. These are usually something similar to a fitted blanket that covers your baby while they are in the carrier. These are worn over the carrier, whether wearing them inside or outside your jacket. Most cover their back and legs, though some covers come with hoods for baby's head.
Vests and hoodies are worn over the baby carrier and can be worn alone or as an added layer under a coat or jacket. Most of these can be used to do a front or back carry, though you can only do a back carry when used alone or with a babywearing coat that allows back carries.
Coats and ponchos designed for babywearing usually allow for baby to be worn on the front or back. These are the most expensive option, but some can be converted into a normal coat when not babywearing. If you know you will spend many winters babywearing or you are very active outdoors in the colder months, you may want to splurge on a babywearing coat.
For a list of some of these great babywearing products, check out Cold Weather Babywearing on Babywearing Unwrapped.
Tips and Tricks
Here are some tips and tricks that might make babywearing in the cold a little more comfortable.
- Keep baby's legs covered with long socks, leg warmers or extra long pants. Pants tent to ride up when baby is in the seated position, so the skin on their legs can end up exposed to the cold air.
- If you don't have a babywearing cover, tuck a warm blanket into the back of the carrier and let it hang down over their back and legs. You can tie the corners at the bottom together so that they wrap around baby's legs. This can be used as an extra layer under your coat or jacket, or alone if it's not too cold.
- Dressing baby in a light jacket or hoodie under your jacket will keep their back, neck and head warmer than clothes and hat alone.
- If baby likes to have their arms out when in a carrier, make sure they are dressed warmly enough so their arms and hands don't get cold. Mittens will be necessary if baby won't keep their hands tucked warmly inside your jacket.
- Make sure you keep zippers, snaps and other objects clear of baby's face. You don't want to wear baby over your zipped up jacket and have their face resting on your zipper.
- Use your hands and face to warm baby's cheeks. Kiss them often and if baby's cheeks get cold, take off your gloves and use your warm hands to warm them up.
- Don't get too hot. It is possible to over dress. Make sure baby isn't getting too sweaty. If they are, just remove a layer, take off a hat, or uncover their legs. Just make sure you check in often to make sure baby doesn't need the layers put back on.
- Make sure baby's face is visible at all times. This is always a good safety precaution, whether baby is in a baby carrier, car seat, crib, etc. But with all the added layers of winter babywearing, it is important to make sure that baby's face is not accidentally covered by the extra fabric from blankets, scarfs, hoods (if being worn on your back) and any other material that could obstruct your view.
To and From the Car
Going from the warm car to the cold outside with baby often leaves parents with the dilemma of how to keep baby warm when the temps get super cold. I don't have the answers since there is no right or wrong way to do this, but people have asked me, so I will tell you what works for me.
First, I have to start by saying that my baby's never have more than a light jacket on in their car seat. Bulky coats in car seats can cause you to loosen the car seat straps to a point that is no longer safe. (read more at Consumer Reports) So they are usually only in a fleece jacket with a blanket over them when I arrive at my destination. What I do when I take them out of their car seat depends on what I am doing.
Helpful Tip: Before running errands in the winter, I almost always put on the baby carrier before I leave the house if I am planning to wear my baby. Stretch wraps and ring slings are both easy to pop baby in and out of. If I am going to use a mei tai or buckle carrier (soft structured carrier), I leave the straps adjusted too loosely. This lets me put baby in from the top and then make any adjustments without needing to put on the carrier when I reach my destination.
If all I am just trying do is get from my warm car into a warm building, I usually just unbuckle my baby, cover them with the blanket I brought, and walk quickly into the store. I don't put my baby in the carrier until I am inside the store when temperatures are that cold.
If I knew we were going to be outside for an extended period of time and needed to put my baby in the carrier directly from the car, I would just take my coat off in the parking lot and put on the carrier before getting my baby out of their car seat. I would put on their hat and any extra layers they might need and then put them in the carrier as quickly as I could so I could put my coat back on over the two of us. It was cold for me, but I would rather be cold a little longer if it meant less time my baby was out of the carrier in the cold air.
Later I learned it was easier to put the carrier on at home since I didn't need to take my coat off in the cold if I did this. Some people prefer to sit in the back seat of the car and put their baby in the carrier before getting out of the car at all. Whether this is something you can do depends greatly on what kind of vehicle you drive and how much room you have.
So it's that easy. Go out and enjoy being active this fall and winter, no reason for you to sit inside with the baby unless you want to. And be sure to share your tips and stories with us!