Winter Babywearing! … the hows and whats of figuring out how to leave the house in the cold and the rain!

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.

IMG_20170910_191725_171The 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 its 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.

IMG_20171003_104159_822Then 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 its often worth thinking about tights under trousers, leg warmers or long socks to compensate. My personal favourite solution are JoJo Maman Bebe’s slipper socks simply because they stay up and stay on the feet while keeping them warm (and because I am a sucker for a rainbow!).  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 which folds up small and costs ~£30.
  • 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 on their website to ensure you buy the right one for your coat.  Even better these are also available in Boots so if your anything like me and have boots points you’ve forgotten about it might be an even cheaper option!  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.  In particular, I really struggled keeping him and I warm while carrying on my back and I hated carrying over coats as it 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 once 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, 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.

-Madeleine

Furry Snuggles Guaranteed – the Wombat&Co Wallaby v2 Babywearing Coat Review

20170920_142458First sign of Autumn always brings a flurry of questions about keeping warm while babywearing and so I was so excited when Wombat&co kindly offered to let me try out the new version of their Wallaby coat.  Even more excited when the box arrived on my birthday!

The first thing that stood out as I unpacked the coat – was just how soft the faux fur lining is.  It is lush.  Over the two weeks I had the coat, literally everyone I encountered ended up stroking it and commenting on just how soft and luxurious it is.  Really snuggly to have around you and baby.  And the outer doesn’t disappoint either.  Waterproof, sleek and everything you’d expect of a good quality well made coat.

IMG_20170923_230640_378The second thing that stood out, was just how warm it is.  This coat is WARM!  Super snuggly and extra warm.  In all honesty, it is too warm for London in September.  I did get out a few times with it but particularly while wearing my daughter I was roasting.  However, this isn’t a criticism at all because it is still pretty darn mild in London this year… so I took the Wallaby up to Derby with us for the weekend.  Here, several degrees cooler… the Wallaby was perfect – kept me nice a cosy while standing around waiting for fireworks on a brisk hillside!  So I’d say this coat is a great choice for the coldest months, or for late Autumn to early Spring if you live somewhere a bit cooler than London and its weird micro-climate that makes it 2-3’C hotter than anywhere else in the UK.  In fact I found myself wishing I’d had this coat back when I lived in New York and winter meant walking to work in temperatures of around -10’C!

I love that this coat presents the wearer with plenty of options – the Wallaby can be worn as a normal coat (with the panel zipped out) or as a maternity or babywearing coat with the panel inserted. The panel can be inserted in either the front the back thus accommodating both front and back carries.

20170920_173940Being able to use as a normal coat is a huge draw for me as it means it will still be useful when I am no longer carrying my children and, more immediately, that I don’t need to swap coats on a day out if I set out wearing our our daughter but my husband carries her home.  Nor do I need a separate coat for the rare baby free evening.

And when wearing the Wallaby as a normal coat, you’d have no idea it was designed with babywearing it mind.  It looks clean, simple and sleek and is well designed to keep you warm and dry.  From the soft ribbing at the sleeves, to the deep fur lined hood and huge amazingly soft snuggly fur collar.  Both the hood and the collar attach via poppers so you can wear one, both or neither depending on your own personal taste and how warm or dry you need to be.  Additionally, the coat can be cinched in at the waist to give a more fitted look if desired.  I love how these features all mean that you can personalise this coat to fit in with your own style and preferences.

For the other 3 modes, you add the panel into the mix.  Its great that the same panel can be used for maternity and babywearing – you simply alter the panel to the right shape using the drawstring toggles at the top or bottom.  The advantage of having just one panel that can accommodate either a bump or a baby means that you don’t risk losing the babywearing panel while using the coat as a maternity coat and visa versa you don’t risk losing the maternity panel before your next pregnancy while wearing your current baby.  The disadvantage, however, is that you only have 1 panel.

So if you do get pregnant again and want to still use this coat while back carrying this coat – as it comes – can’t accommodate both without a second panel.  Likewise tandem carries (for twins or siblings) require a second panel.  While not on their website, Wombat&Co state that additional panels can be purchased from them by emailing them directly and these cost £20.

 

20170921_162511While front carrying my daughter, I liked how high the panel reached on her and I liked that you can close the neck of the coat with poppers if you’d like to, or even employ the huge faux fur collar to keep extra warm.  Although as it was September and still fairly mild I mainly just work the neck completely open.  But I could see how this coat would really keep us both warm and the wind and rain out in the cooler and wetter months to come.  One thing I didn’t like as much was that this coat doesn’t come with a hood for baby.  There’s a lovely big hood for the adult, but nothing for the baby.  While the panel does reach up very high, Rachel’s head still got a little wet on the one day we went out in rain.  And I seriously regretted not thinking to pack a hat for her.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the pockets.  They are probably big enough but the main problem for me was that they fasten with a single popper.  This popper sits right over where Rachel’s feet were so I simply couldn’t do up the pockets without pressing down hard on her feet.  Without being able to do the pockets up I felt like my phone or wallet might fall out if I sat down (or be susceptible to pickpockets).  For me I’d either prefer deeper pockets so that my phone felt less likely to fall our or better still pockets of the same size but fasten with a zipper.

For back carries, I found this coat the easiest to get on and off of any I have ever tried.  They key to this is that you can undo the collar at the back of the coat … giving a very wide opening that allows you to put the coat on almost as normal without trapping babies head.  With other babywearing coats I have always found it pretty tricky to line up the head hole and the child without getting into a bit of a mess!  The Wallaby is so much easier!  And as the collar can be easily closed with poppers once the coat is on, you don’t get a cold back either.  Win.

 

20170923_115040Finally a word on the all important sizing.  I am a size 16.  Well my top half is probably a 14-16 but I usually err on the side of size 16 for coats in case I need to wear layers underneath.  They sent me a size 12 – it was a bit snug on me but by no means too snug.  I think their size 14 would be perfect for me. Based on this I would say their sizes run slightly on the bigger side.  Thus, if like me you are a bit between sizes err on the side of the smaller one.  Also if like me you allow a size up for wearing jumpers under coats…. this coat is soooooooooooo warm you’ll never need to wear a jumper under it, unless you are going to the Arctic Circle or somewhere similar, so you can feel free to size down!  Sadly though, Wombat&Co don’t currently offer these coats in a huge range of sizes – at the moment just UK size 6 through to 14.  I am told they do also offer a size 16 but this is currently sold out.  As someone who is a size 14-16, I find having to buy the biggest size available a bit disheartening, and considering that the average UK dress size is a 16 – there will be many who are simply not catered for in the current sizes offered.  I really hope this is something that Wombat&Co will look into further and offer a more realistic range of sizes in the future.

 

All in all the Wallaby is a really lovely, toasty warm coat that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone.  Currently priced at £156.90, it isn’t exactly cheap… but as this coat is well made and very flexible in its use, it should last you years and so I am sure would be worth the investment.  And men needn’t feel left out either – Wombat&Co also make a babywearing coat for men – the Bandicoot.

 

-Madeleine