I was recently wearing my daughter in a ring sling to pick up my older kids from daycare. Another mother noticed us and said that it must be uncomfortable to wear my baby in this heat. It was indeed hot, but that can’t be avoided. If I had put her in the stroller instead I would have had less heat from the contact, but I would be stuck pushing the stroller uphill back to our house. It’s a bit of a toss up, but for me in that particular situation I preferred wearing my little body-heater rather than pushing her (9kg) and her 15kg stroller uphill in the sun while trying to coax the older two to hurry up. With Nora in the sling I had both hands free for the older two, which isn’t always necessary but it’s a good option to leave open.
So, if there’s no avoiding the heat, here are a few tips on how to stay (relatively) comfortable while babywearing in the summer:
1. The most important thing is to make sure that your baby gets enough air.
Like the well-meaning gesture of putting a blanket over the stroller to provide shade, many parents want to put something over their babies to protect them from the sun while in the carrier. In both cases it’s important to think about the airflow (or lack thereof) as well as the sun. Make sure you can see their mouth and nose when you look down and that their chin isn’t touching their chest (this often happens when they fall asleep and makes it difficult to breathe). Hats with brims are ideal for babies being carried.
This is obviously important whether or not you’re carrying your baby or even have a baby, but it’s especially important for moms and babies. If you are breastfeeding you can expect your baby to feed more frequently in the heat in order to get enough liquid in them. And when they need more from you, you need to be sure you are drinking enough as well. Pack a water bottle for yourself and be prepared to nurse. A lot. For tips on how to do it on the go, check out my post on how to nurse in a wrap/carrier.
3. Choose your wrap/carrier wisely.
It’s true that whenever you have your baby’s body close to your own in the heat, you will get hot and sweaty. The good news is that your sweat is helping your baby cool off as well and your body temperature can help regulate theirs and keep them from overheating. The bad news is, you’re hot and sweaty.
Some manufacturers do provide “summer edition” wraps and carriers, made with bamboo fibers or mesh backing. These may help a bit, but the main source of heat is your baby’s close contact, so wrap material makes only a small contribution. A bigger impact comes from choosing cooler wrap techniques. A stretchy wrap used for a newborn should have three layers over baby’s back, which is a lot. A woven wrap can be tied such that there is only one layer over baby’s back, making it a cooler option. However, woven wraps have different thicknesses and if you’ve got one that’s too thick even one layer is too much. Carriers (full buckle and half buckle) can let air in on the sides to help keep both you and baby cool. Ring Slings are very lightweight and don’t require layers of fabric over you and baby – just one.
4. It’s not just what you’re using to carry baby in, but how you use it that matters.
Depending on the age of your baby, the type of carrier, and your own comfort, it may be more comfortable to carry your baby on your back rather than in front. Most people find carrying something (or someone in this case) in front to be hotter than on the back. If you’re uncomfortable putting your baby on your back, find a babywearing consultant near you who can help you out and give you tips to make sure you’re doing it safely.
5. Dress appropriately.
For you this means wearing something thin and breathable on top. If you’re nursing you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle by wearing a nursing top that allows you easy access to your breasts while babywearing. Your baby will have at least one layer of wrap/carrier around them, so they really don’t need much clothing in high heat. You may want to put them in a long-sleeved onesie just to protect their arms from the sun without having to use sunscreen. Pants and socks can serve as sun protection as well. Another option is using “baby legs” (also available with UV protection) which cover baby’s legs (and feet if you pull them down over the feet) but can be removed easily once you’re inside or in a shady spot, without taking the baby out of the carrier.
Again, a hat with a brim helps protect baby’s head and neck from the sun. If you plan on wearing baby on your back be sure to put the hat on first and get one that ties on so you don’t lose it on the way. Lastly, you can use a muslin cloth to put on your chest between you and baby’s head so you don’t sweat too much where your skin touches. Make sure it’s nicely spread out and doesn’t bunch up by baby’s face.
So go out and enjoy the sunshine, stay safe, and snuggle your baby!