Picture the scene, it’s cold outside, your baby is 9 months old, you are going to put them in a carrier on your back, but you’re acutely aware of the temperature outside, how do you dress them? It’s a question we get asked all the time.
Babies can’t control their temperature as well as an adult, that doesn’t mean however that they can’t control it at all. Even a newborn baby can to some extent control their temperature, what we as caregivers have to ensure is that it stays constant. Layering clothing is fundamentally the best way for anyone to retain body heat, the same is true for a baby. Light, natural fabrics such as cotton or bamboo will not only be soft on skin but also breathable, allowing the transference of heat in and out.
Under normal circumstances we would typically clothe a baby in a nappy, vest and sleep suit. With perhaps a light jacket or cardigian and hat or even a layered blanket once out. Some use a snowsuit, but like the term suggests, it’s not really something that should be used in normal temperatures only bitterly cold weather, such as snow or icey conditions.
Body heat plays a crucial role in temperature control when babywearing, as with kangaroo care involving a preemie or newborn baby (also known as skin to skin). The caregivers body heat transfers to baby keeping them warm. The same theory can be applied to babywearing. Heat will still be transferred between both parent and child even through clothing.
Beware of overheating
Its all too easy to overheat a child, especially under too many layers, overheating is linked to SIDS so we need to get the balance right between too hot and too cold.
So how will I know what to put on my child?
As a rule of thumb they only need one more layer than you. So depending on what carrier you use a jacket may not even be required, as the carrier can be used as that extra layer, don’t forget your body heat will be keeping their core temperature steady. What is important is their extremities, little hands, feet, legs and arms will loose heat quickly if not covered well. A layer of tights under clothing or baby leg warmers over clothing, which can both be removed once in the warm again will work to keep those extremities cozy. Hat, booties and gloves will act as a final layer and keep baby snug.
I am using a 3 layer carry now what?
Again this about layering, how many existing layers baby has on (typically 3) and another 3 from the wrap and body heat and really all you need to be addressing is babies extremities, so by adding baby leg warmers, booties and a hat, baby will be cozy and warm and not over hot whilst outside. When your are back inside however, remember to take off layers.
If they have hands out, I would suggest having a light jacket or cardigan on, to keep their upper body warm.
Can I use a babywearing cover or coat?
In very cold weather such as snow or ice, you may feel clothing is not enough, so using a babywearing coat or cover can be useful. It’s worth noting though that you should adjust the under layers if this is the case and use the ‘one more layer than you’ rule.
What I would never suggest, unless it’s well below freezing and the carrier is quite open is a snowsuit. A great alternative would be a fleece onesie and counts as one layer. With all the extra layers its worth making sure that your child’s position is not affected and they are still in a good seated squat position with no clothing or part of the sling cutting into their legs reducing blood flow.
Whatever method you choose to keep you and your baby warm, enjoy it, carrying your child is such a fleeting part of parenting, make the most of it.