Thursday, March 20, 2014

2014 Guide to Summer Baby Carriers

Spring has had a slow start for some of us this year, but hot summer days will be here eventually and many are already wondering what babywearing is going to be like when the heat hits.   Babywearing in winter is a great way to keep your little one warm while you enjoy outdoor activities in the cold.  But when it's hot out, having a little body touching you is going to feel hot, no matter what.  Luckily, there are some carriers that are a little better at beating the heat than others.  While you still might get hot wearing your little one, these carriers can keep you and your baby a little more comfortable while babywearing this summer.

Before you start, check out our Warm Weather Babywearing post for general summer babywearing info as well as a break down of the pros and cons for each style of carrier.  When deciding what carrier to get for summer, you have to decide what your needs are.  If you have a little baby or a toddler that you only wear for a short period of time, a ring sling might be the best option.  But if you plan to do a lot of babywearing this summer, you'll probably want the comfort of a two should carrier like a mei tai, soft structured carrier (aka buckle carrier), or even a lighter wrap. 

Ring Slings
Ring slings are great for summer. They don't have as much fabric touching you and your baby as some carriers and they are great for quick carries when a busy toddler wants to be held for a few minutes and then wants down again. But ring slings are a one shoulder carrier and unless you are used to it, prolonged wearing with a ring sling can get uncomfortable since your child's weight will mostly be on one shoulder.

By nature, ring slings will be cooler just because of the lack of fabric, but some people prefer linen ring slings in summer.  Sakura Bloom, Comfy Joey, and Sleeping Baby Productions are some of the few brands that carry linen ring slings.  Wrap conversion slings made out of thin, light wraps like the Hoppediz jacquard wraps can also be breathable while being very comfortable.  These SweetPea Ring Slings are made from Wrapsody Bali Breeze wraps.  This lightweight gauze wraps are still breathable even as a double layer ring sling.  Maya Wrap ring slings are also nice for summer since the woven fabric is fairly breathable.

Realistically though, most ring slings are going to be fairly cool simply due to the open design, so unless you are planning to spend a large amount of time outside or live in a particularly hot area, you might was well just pick the ring sling you like most and will enjoy using year round!

For the wrappers out there, you don't have to stop wrapping just because it's summer.  There are a lot of great wraps out there that are lighter and better in the heat. Wraps can be a great option for summer since there are so many different ways to use them. What carry you do will determine how much fabric is wrapped around you and baby and makes the biggest difference in how hot you'll feel.  You can find lots of different ways to wrap using The Babywearer's extensive wrap instructions links page or by purchasing wrap instruction media like the Wrapsody DVD or Hoppediz instruction booklet.

If you are looking for a woven, the thinness of the wrap is easily as important as the fiber used.  Many people get distracted thinking linen is cooler, but a thin cotton wrap can be as breathable and summer friendly as a linen wrap.  For example, the Hoppediz Chicago are thin, light weight, and breathable, making them perfect for summer even though they are cotton.  The EllaRoo and Amazonas Classic wraps are other thin cotton wrap brands. Vatanai and Didymos linens are other brands of lighter woven wraps that people recommend for warmer weather.

Wrapsody makes two wraps that are great for summer.  The Wrapsody Bali Breeze are gauze wraps that are very light and airy. You have to be more careful when wrapping a gauze wrap to avoid pressure points, but these wraps are very cool and lighter than a woven.  The Wrapsody Stretch-Hybrid is thin with just the perfect amount of stretch to make them very comfortable, but they are not stretchy in the same way as a standard stretch wrap.  These hybrids can be used comfortably with older, heavier babies and allow you to safely do other carries, like back carries, that are not safe to do in a traditional stretch wrap.  But their thin lightness makes them a great option for summer.

If you just absolutely love stretch wraps though, or have a tiny baby you want to snuggle this summer, check out one made with a bamboo blend since bamboo tends to be a cooler fabric and helps wick moisture away.  Anaju, Happy Wrap and Lovey Duds all make bamboo stretch wraps and you can even make your own by purchasing a bamboo jersey at the fabric store.  The thinness of these brands makes them better than some of their thicker counterparts, but it also makes them stretchier and less supportive, so wrap tight!  Moby wraps aren't bamboo and are fairly heavy, but they do have some that offer extra UV protection if that is a concern for you.  Also, the Modern line of Moby wraps are thinner and lighter than their traditional wraps.

Mei Tais and Soft Structured Carriers
Mei Tais and soft structured carriers (buckle carriers) can be another good option for summer babywearing. If you wear your little one a lot and for long periods of time, you might want the support of a two shoulder carrier like these.

When looking for a Mei Tai or soft structured carrier, try to avoid anything made with heavy materials, lots of layers, or padding in the body panel. Thinner, narrower bodied carriers are going to allow more air around you and baby and help keep you both cooler.  You can also find carriers with panel of mesh or other extra venting material.

If you are looking for a buckle carrier designed specifically to be cooler, the Kinderpack with Koolnit is a summer favorite.  The Outback by Onya Baby and the ERGO Performance Baby Carrier are both made with mesh linings that wick away moisture. The BobaAir is a very light and thin option, though made out of nylon, so not as breathable as some carriers. The BobaAir does come in white now too!  And these carriers can't be beat for their portability.

If you prefer mei tais, Earthy Bliss has a wrap conversion mei tai called the Heavenly Breeze that has been designed to be light weight and cooler.  It is made using a single layer of woven wrap for the body panel, so it is lighter and more breathable than other conversions that are usually made with several layers of fabric.  Cotton mei tais, like those by CatBirdBaby or BabyHawk, are generally also decent light weight options, though some are made from thicker, heavier canvas materials, so make sure it's a lighter one if you are specifically looking for something for summer.

Water Carriers
A water carrier can be a really useful thing to own, especially in summer. These can be worn in the ocean or pool, as well as the shower. Many also provide some sun protection, but protection can vary. Water carriers can be found in a variety of styles, including stretch wraps, ring slings, and Mei Tais.

Wrapsody makes a stretch wrap water carrier with a UPF rating for 45.  SweetPea Ring Slings, Comfy Joey and TaylorMade Slings make mesh ring slings for use in water.  Mei Tais and buckle carriers designed for water are harder to find, but Connecta makes a Solarweave buckle carrier that is perfect for water use.

See our special blog post for more information about choosing a water carrier.

Sun Protection
As we mentioned, there are a few carriers that offer sun protection, but most do not.  Making sure your little babe doesn't burn is important while enjoying the summer together.  Make sure your baby has a hat, preferably one with a UPF rated fabric.  All fabrics will shade the skin, but just because a fabric offers enough shade to keep your baby from turning red doesn't mean that their sensitive skin is not still being damaged by the UV rays.  Some people also use umbrellas as portable shade.  You may look a little silly at the park, but your baby will thank you.

Tips and Tricks
Here's a few tricks to make babywearing in summer 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.

Final thought
Summer is hot and having your baby touch you is never going to be cool. That being said, a little sweat never hurt anyone and it's worth the added convenience and snuggles you get in exchange! So find a carrier that makes you more comfortable and enjoy your summer!

For more general information on fabric options and carrier styles when choosing a summer carrier, see our Warm Weather Babywearing post.

Have a tip you'd like to share? Contact us, we'd love to hear it!

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