Autumn has definitely hit... so its not at all surprising that parents are starting to ask me about how to combine using their carrier with going out in increasingly cold and wet conditions!
When choosing how to dress baby the first thing to consider is that most carriers counts as 1 layer for your baby. As a general rule the NHS and the NCT all recommend your baby wears one more layer than you - so its nice and easy to remember that when using a sling or carrier the extra layer is provided by the baby carrier itself. I say 'most' carriers... if you have a particularly thick or warm carrier or are using a thick infant insert (such as the infant insert for an Ergo 360, Ergo Original or a Tula etc) then this maybe more like 2 layers.
The second thing to consider is where baby goes relative to your layers - under your coat or over your coat?? In general, unless you have a confidently walking toddler who will be alternating a lot between walking and being carried, it is better to have baby close to your skin and then put layers around you both. By having baby close to your skin, you'll intuitively know if the baby is too warm or too cold because you'll feel it, and your body will subconsciously respond to raise or lower your skin temperature accordingly as well as consciously signalling you to adjust your own layers. Amazing, huh?!! Additionally, by having layers around you both, when you do come in out of the cold it is really very easy to remove layers from baby without waking them up. Finally, by having baby close to your skin you are both able to more efficiently heat share, so efficiently in fact that you'll most likely both need 1 less layer just from each others body heat! I love babywearing in winter because it's like walking around with your own personal hot water bottle tucked into your coat!
When putting layers around you and baby start with both you and baby in indoor clothing only. They don't need a big snowsuit or bulky jumpers and these will again make it harder for you to intuitively gauge their temperature and efficiently heat share with them. Plus its harder to get a great position and fit in a sling while wearing bulky clothing.
Then protect their extremities - any parts not covered by the sling. Think hat for their head and socks/tights/booties to keep feet and lower legs warm. Slings can often cause trousers and leggings to ride up so it's often worth thinking about tights under trousers, leg warmers or long socks to compensate. One of my personal favourites are the MooMo Baby Leg warmers which we sell here at Sheen Slings and come in two sizes (baby and toddler) and two thicknesses - a lightweight jersey perfect for autumn/spring and slightly chillier summer mornings and a thicker jersey lined version that's snugglier on colder days. Although on the coldest days its hard to beat the love woolly warmth of these amazing knitted baby socks made by Mel Pinet of the East London based Wrap A Hug Sling Library and consultancy which are available here. The Hoppediz ones available through Amazon are a fab option too. For the crafty among you - my mother in law also made us some amazing knee high sling socks using this pattern. She also adapted it to include a drawstring to help keep them on after we lost the first pair she made!
Next add layers around both you and baby. There are so many options for this! Ranging from free, low cost all the way to specialist coats. Here are some ideas to add warmth;
- Raid your wardrobe - knit cardigans, larger coats, maternity coats can all work well. Raid your partners wardrobe too!
- A sling cover - waterproof and with ties designed to easily attach to a carrier or sling, these are an easy way of keep baby warm while working with your existing coats etc. There are a number of brands but we really love the Bundlebean cover because it is 100% waterproof and really does work on ALL different types of slings or carriers. It even works on framed backpacks and pushchairs! Choose from the lightweight rain cover (£29.95) or the toasty fleece lined all weather cover (£39.95). Update (Dec 2022) For those looking for something a bit plainer - a client recently purchased this one from Amazon and absolutely raves about it.
- A coat extender - simply works with your existing coat to add a panel for baby. We have a ZipUsIn and I love the joy on peoples faces when they test it out and find this simple low cost thing fits with their current coat! They cost ~£30 and there's a handy guide in the product description to ensure you buy the right one for your coat. Similar are the beautiful Miminku handmade inserts which again come with a variety of zips or solutions if your coat has a different zip style. Alternatively, if you are feeling crafty you can knit your own coat extender using this pattern. Or even simply tuck a blanket around the baby carrier and then pop your coat on as normal leaving it open. Not as waterproof but certainly cheap and cheerful!
- The most elegant but of course most expensive solution is to purchase a specialist babywearing coat. When my march born son came along I decided against this, as I felt it was a vast expense for something that I wouldn't use much. I mean he was a summer baby and I'd only carry him for a few months right? Hmmmmmm... turned out I was so wrong, I carried him regularly for 3 years and went through 3 winters. During the winters I struggled with warmth v comfort while carrying him on my back. Carrying over coats was so bulky and uncomfortable and I always worried he was cold. Just before Rachel was born my normal coat was in dire need of replacing and so I caved and bought myself one of these wonderful coats as I now knew that I would get the use from it. The other reason they appealed is that most also can be used as normal coats too, so hopefully can still be used for many years to come. These coats come in a wide range of styles to suit all tastes and bodyshapes. Brands I would recommend include Mamalila, MaM, Wombat&Co (review here), Angelwings, Lenny Lamb, and Lileputi. These are all brands that either myself or a close friend have used, loved and offer good quality and flexible use. There are also a number of cheaper more budget brands such as the Verbaudet coat or the Bonprix maternity coat but be aware that these coats don't offer back carrying functionality, so while cheaper than those listed above won't last as long and may prove to be a false economy in the end.
While not all of these ideas are waterproof, those that aren't can always be used in combination with an umbrella. In fact, given the unpredictability of the British weather, I highly recommend always having a small compact umbrella in your change bag just in case.
You can also see me chat through all these options and considerations here