DIY & Hacks · Health & Safety

Baby It’s Cold Outside: Babywearing in Winter (part 1)

Today quite a bit of Iowa saw snow and we’ve had our first freeze warning. So what to do about babywearing when it’s so cold?

There are A LOT of options out there, depending on your preference, skills, or budget. We’ll cover options for improvising, DIYing, or buying winter babywearing gear, as well as covering some safety tips on travelling. Grab some warm cocoa and here we go!

Improvise:

An example of baby hat that covers head and ear, secured under chin, which doesn’t block baby’s peripheral vision. For the pattern check out CrochetGeek.

Option 1:
Bundle up your baby, bundle up yourself. Put carrier on over top of your coat and then put your baby in it.

I recommend baby hats that are snug, secured under the chin and allow for peripheral vision of the baby while still covering their ears. The hat should not slide forward over their eyes, or shift side to side. Mittens, if you have them, should be the kind that attaches to the sleeves of the coat or thread through the arm span. Personally, I find toddler socks, layered, to be ideal baby mittens as they go up the elbow and can’t be pulled off by baby, (bring extra pairs for drooly, teething babes). Baby Legs or very long socks or tights are a must for cold-weather babywearing. The leg-gap, caused by the pants riding up when a baby is seated in a carrier, needs to be covered to prevent skin being exposed. Onesies, or Singlets, are nice to have as undershirts to prevent exposed bellies or backs if baby’s shirt rides up when placed in a carrier.

The downside to this option is that everyone is wearing a lot of stuff and neither are sharing body heat. Further, it is amazing how much bigger people are when in a coat, requiring major adjustments to most carriers to get the fit you want. Often times, winter outerwear is a bit slippery, creating a safety an issue with wraps and slings.

Option 2:
Find your biggest warm coat, maternity coats are great for this, and wear your baby on your front and close the coat around you both. IF your coat will close around you and baby it is important that you leave the top open for baby to get fresh air. Your baby will still require a hat (see note above about ideal babywearing hats) and likely mittens or hand-socks. Even though you will be sharing body heat, baby should still have a sweater to ensure they stay warm. Now, the neck of the wearer is exposed. If you use a scarf make sure that it stays out of baby’s face. You can use the ends of the scarf to block strong winds or shield baby from snow/rain


Option 3:

A Blanket. There are many indigenous cultures that used blankets, straight up, for carrying their babies in winter. You can take a number from those cultures — OR continue to use whatever carrier you prefer, with a blanket or large shawl around both of you, allowing space for baby to get fresh air.

navajo babywearingOn the left is an example of traditional Navajo Babywearing using a blanket. Under the outer shawl the child is in a ruck-style carry, secured over the shoulders of the wearer
with a belt made specifically for the purpose.
Traditional Welsh Babywearing

On the right is an example of traditional Welsh babywearing using a shawl.


DIY:

Option 1:
Make a fleece poncho. Fine and Fair blog has a no-sew tutorial! Be sure to check around for other patterns it you would like something more form fitting, or prefer to sew, for example, this pattern by Jan Andrea.

Option 2:
Make an insert for your existing coat. This is much easier done with a coat that buttons rather than a zippered coat. Here is a tutorial from Kiddies Games for a front-carry only insert that can also be used as a maternity panel.

Option 3:
Retrofit a coat for babywearing using a tutorial, for example this one from Ocah Handmade Babycarriers. Some tutorials advise you to only use coats that have slippery fabric on the inside to make it easier to get on and off. However, many of the tutorials use inexpensive fleece jackets. This tutorial on LoveitLiveitLaughitUp (originally posted on DrMomma’s blog , but for some reason, the images are broken) uses a somewhat puffy winter coat and allows for backcarries.


Buy Stuff:

Option 1:
Go buy a new coat for the express purpose of cutting it up and making a babywearing coat out of it. There are lots of babywearing coat retrofitting patterns available online. There are also incidental babywearing coats or jackets– they weren’t intended to be babywearing coats but ended up working for that purpose. Related: check out our Target Hoodie Review.

 

Maternity.Baby Wearing. Babywearing Coat. Ships TODAY. Maternity Coat. Baby Wearing Coat. Plus Size, M. L. XL. Babywearing Jacket.
Fleece maternity + babywearing coat on Etsy

 

Option 2:
Buy an actual, factual babywearing coat. There are SO many to choose from, but they can be costly.  Brands of babywearing coats include Suzie’s Kindercoat, The M Coat, MamaLila, and LennyLamb to name a few. There are also ponchos for cooler, but not cold, weather for example, MamaPoncho, Mam Designs and Babyette. Generally, contemporary babywearing coats are simply coats fitted for an adult and a child, the child being inside a separate infant carrier.

However, there are some traditional babywearing coats that act as coat and carrier in one, such as the Inuit Amauti.  They are only made by Inuit women (by law, no one outside of tribal lines can manufacture and sell true “Amauti” coats). However, if you would like to have one made it will be a one-of-a-kind creation, check out AmautiBaby to inquire about a custom order. On the right are some very fuzzy photos of me trying out Leslie’s Amauti. It was not custom made for me and that is the reason for the photos. I couldn’t figure out why the hood wouldn’t go over my head. Answer: I was too tall for the coat. But the ankle-biter didn’t care, she took a nap all warm and snug inside the coat.

See an Amuati in action:


 Safety:

About falls:
If you are wearing your baby on your front, please take extra caution about where you step. It can be very hard to see where you are stepping with a lump of baby on your chest.  Stairs and uneven sidewalks can be treacherous in icy weather. Falling is a real possibility, however for the most part, your baby is safer in a carrier than in arms as our first reflex is to throw our arms out when we fall. It may sound ridiculous, but practicing falling with the consideration of how you will be wearing your baby can help. Even if you just visualize it in your mind. You can train yourself to fall safely– and even non-babywearing folks should consider it. Here are some video tutorials about walking safely on ice and falling safely.

Getting Around:
If you live in town, public transportation can be ideal while babywearing in the winter. You avoid having to clean off a car/drive-way, avoid having to heat the car, avoid the hassle of driving in winter weather and taking your baby in and out of carrier + whatever coat situation you developed for yourselves, AND you’re saving the world.

Iowa City Transit
Cambus (it is free, and no, you don’t have to be a student to ride)
Coralville Transit
Cedar Rapids Transit

Carseats:

If you do own a vehicle and/or don’t have access to public transit, then we need to discuss car seat safety. Remember that note above about how coats can make us bigger than usual, forcing us to readjust carriers? Same thing happens with a car seat. Recall that bit about coats often being slippery, causing safety with regard to carrier straps slipping? Same thing goes with car seats, only at much faster speeds. Coats and car seats don’t mix. Your baby or child should never be buckled into a car seat with a coat on if it requires you to make any adjustment to the length of the straps. Yes, you will likely need to heat up the car (especially if you use the convertible car seats that never leave the car, like I do). Yes it will take more time getting baby into and out of the car due to putting on and taking off the coat all the time– but it may save your child’s life should there be an accident. I am a strong advocate of the remote car starter.

Check out this tutorial from PatternSchmattern for a DIY fleece car seat poncho! Or buy one at Car Seat Poncho. 


Car-to-Carrier Transitions:

When it comes to parking and getting your child into a carrier there are a few things to consider:

1. Parking far from destination: 
You will probably want to get your baby wrapped right out of the car. If your child is newborn a stretchy wrap is ideal. You can tie it on before leaving the house and pop baby in and out of it without any re-tying. Your body heat keeps the wrap toast warm while baby isn’t in it.

If your child is larger/older you can pre-tie woven (non-stretchy) wraps but they will require some finessing once you’ve re-wrapped your child, however, pre-tying will keep the ends off the gross slushy ground better than not pre-tying.

Ring slings and fitted pouches can easily be worn in the car under or overcoats, and SSC or ABC’s can be put on fairly easily once you’ve parked. If you own a large vehicle, like a minivan, then you’re in luck: you can attempt to do all the wrapping inside the lovely warm vehicle. For car owners, you may want to check out some video tutorials on keeping the tails of your carriers out of the muck.

2. Parking near your destination
Your best option may be to carry your child, in-arms, to your destination and then wrap them inside where its warm and ostensibly cleaner (in terms of slushy muck). As always, when wrapping in public, be vigilant about not-so-helpery-helpers. I usually find a corner, near the wall to wrap, so I can “guard” the baby while I wrap. If I am not feeling so confident in my wrapping swag on a particular day I will use the restrooms (mirror, slightly more private)– being sure to keep my carrier from touching the ground… or anything. Assuming that you don’t want strangers “helping” you put on a carrier, be prepared to say, “Thank you, but it is easier if you don’t help.” in a firm but friendly mannner. But if you want help, by all means, accept it and tell them exactly how to help you.

_____________________________________

So, whether you choose to improvise, DIY or just buy something– regardless of your budget or your sewing ability, there is an option for your winter babywearing adventures. I hope this has been informative and given you some ideas on how to safely and warmly babywear this winter!

Please feel free to submit your own cool/cold weather babywearing photos and ideas!

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