It’s summer! (At least for those of us in the northern hemisphere.) Summer means beating the heat by wearing sandals and short sleeves and sunglasses and … a baby? This article will give you some ideas for how to tie on a baby when you’re already sweating buckets.
Mikko, my four-year-old, was born in June, and I currently have a May-born newborn to wear as well, so I know something about summer babies. Granted, we live in Seattle, which is about as temperate as they come, but I hope these tips can help even those of you in the midst of summer-long heat waves.
Hot weather babywearing concerns
First of all, some allaying of fears:
- Are you going to get hot if you wear your baby in the summer heat? Well, yes, but you were going to be hot anyway.
- Will your baby be overheated next to you? In all but the rarest cases, no, if you’re both dressed appropriately (as in, less is more). Parents and caregivers in even the hottest of locations on earth wear their babies, so obviously it’s doable.
- Will you be more comfortable not wearing your baby? I’m going to suggest no, because you’d be carrying him or her anyway. At least with a sling or wrap, you’ll have your hands free to fan yourself and keep your water bottle at the ready!
So, first I will give you some general tips, and then I’ll talk specific carriers and positions that are helpful for hot weather.
Tips for Hot-Weather Babywearing:
- Dress lightly, both of you. Indoors, our babies live in a diaper and t-shirt, sometimes without the t-shirt, sometimes without the diaper. I live in a camisole and shorts, sometimes minus one or the other. We’ve done some absolute skin-to-skin, but sometimes in the heat, that gets too sticky. I find a light layer of clothing between us is usually the best bet for comfort.
- If you’re breastfeeding, drink a lot of water. If you have a caring volunteer, assign the task of keeping a cool drink at your side at all times.
- Make sure your baby stays hydrated. Let her drink to thirst, whether from the breast or bottle. If she’s breastfeeding, your breast milk and your baby’s instincts will adapt to the warm temperatures and the slightly more watery foremilk will provide all the liquid needed. Don’t ever worry about needing to supplement young nursing babies with water or other drinks (particularly under 6 months, but really at any time with an avid nursling). Formula-fed infants might need additional water if dehydrated, but supplement only under a pediatrician’s care, because it can be very dangerous if not done in the proper amounts or with very young babies.
- Keep moving, or unwrap as needed. I find that I do most of my wearing while walking, which sort of provides its own breeze. When we sit down, I tend to take my baby out of the wrap or sling (neither of my little ones have allowed it any other way, actually — they demand movement), so I get a release of any trapped heat with the unwrapping breaks.
- For older babies, a back carry might allow you more air circulation. I know I feel more wrapped up if my front is covered than my back. So it’s worthwhile to figure out how to do a back carry and try it out if you and your baby are ready for it. (Some people feel comfortable doing high back carries with newborns, but most prefer to wait till the baby has more head support. I enjoyed front carries up until the distribution of weight up front was uncomfortable for me, at around 30 pounds, and then switched to back carries.) Here’s a mei tai version of a back carry; here’s a back carry for a ring sling; and here’s a rucksack carry for a wrap, which puts only one layer of fabric over your baby and doesn’t put as much fabric over your chest in front.
- Protect tender skin from the sun. Putting a wrap over your baby will shield some skin, but most cloth does not have a high SPF, and usually parts of your baby will still be peeking out. Try to seek shelter during the sunniest times of day and shield skin with clothing, a hat, and perhaps the tail of a sling, hood of a mei tai, or similar light coverings to shade your little one and prevent excessive exposure (though keep baby’s airways clear). Particularly if your baby is on your back, remember to check his sun-protection levels frequently or ask a trusted spotter to do so. It’s not recommended for young babies to use sunscreens, but older infants and children can do so as long as we remember sunscreens aren’t a substitute for commonsense behavior.
What to Wear: Wraps and Slings and Things
I’ve used several options during warm weather with a newborn: stretchy wraps, woven wraps, ring slings, and two mei tais I’ve made: one from fleece and one a canvas mei tai with intentionally light padding and small dimensions.
My favorite choices have been the mei tais, because the amount of fabric touching/encircling the wearer is really limited, and there’s a lot of air flow through the sides. I know fleece and canvas seem like counter-intuitive warm-weather choices, but it’s not a whole lot of fabric. With the fleece, there’s a no-sew option to make your own mei tai easily, so you can cut it as narrow as you’d like to promote breeziness around your babe.
For older babies, a soft, structured mei tai-type carrier like the ERGO , Beco, BabyHawk, Kozy, Boba, or Freehand, would give heavier babies and toddlers the support they need without adding cloth bulk.
As far as wraps go, although we loved our homemade stretchy wrap (similar brand-name stretch wraps are the Moby and Sleepy Wrap, for comparison), the amount of thick fabric isn’t ideal for hot weather. A double-loop wrap like the Baby K’tan (enter our giveaway here!) is sized to fit each babywearer and therefore has less bulk than a typical stretch wrap.
Another good option is to go for a lightweight woven wrap, which would be airier than a typical stretch wrap. Good options include making your own out of a strong but see-through cotton gauze or buying a woven wrap that’s known to be a lighter weave, such as the Ellaroo, Vatanai, Didymos Waves, Bali Baby Breeze, or Hoppediz Light. You might try a shorter wrap and/or carries that put only a single layer of fabric over your baby — such as the kangaroo, rucksack, or Tibetan.
A ring sling can also work well, particularly if it’s not too bulky and is in a lightweight fabric such as a fine linen or silk. Babies who are able to sit unassisted can be safely worn in a hip carry position, which keeps a minimal amount of fabric touching each of you, and minimizes skin contact as well. A pouch is similar and is even more streamlined since it’s fitted to the wearer.
For really, really lightweight babywearing in sweltering temps, mesh wraps and slings are ideal. They can also be worn into the water (bonus!), which is often what they’re marketed for (i.e., showers or wading). Options for mesh include some lovely wraps and ring slings at BabyEtte on Etsy, the TaylorMade Water Sling from The Sling Station, Summer Solstice Sling from Zolowear, Solarweave Baby Sling from Wallababy, and The Portable Baby Wrap Carrier, among others. (I found these while searching online and haven’t personally used any of them, so if you have experience, share in the comments!)
If you can sew, it’s quite possible you could find a sling pattern (e.g., Jan Andrea’s from Sleeping Baby) and some mesh fabric at the store and give it a go. It would be even easier to make the mesh fabric into a wrap style, though be careful not to choose a slippery mesh if you’re trying to keep it knotted. Be sure any mesh or other lightweight fabric you choose is sturdy and doesn’t have too much stretch to it, and if you make a ring sling, you need to order the special reinforced rings (I would choose nylon over metal if you expect to wear it into the water). Please use your parenting sense and be sure any homemade sling is safe before using it with a baby.
For UV protection, remember that any fabric covering skin is a good start, but fabric alone, particularly mesh fabric, is not going to have a high SPF. If you want or need specific sun protection, look for fabrics like Solarweave. But no matter what type of wrap your baby is in, remember to keep the sun protection tips above in mind.
For mesh and sun-protection slings, you can also try to score something WAHM-made or secondhand by checking out eBay and Etsy, as well as consignment shops. Or ask local and online friends in similarly steamy locales for hand-me-downs.
With a little babywearing adjustment, you and your babe-in-arms should be able to breeze through the dog days with sunny smiles.
What are your hot-weather tips for wearing a baby? What are your experiences with staying comfortable?
All other products are the author’s own or were used for illustrative purposes.
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This article has been edited from a previous version published at Hobo Mama.