Summer is here, heat warnings are on the horizon, or maybe already on your weather forecast for today. You have a hot sticky situation and a baby to carry, or even a toddler who just WON’T stop treating you as their favourite climbing gymn, what is a parent supposed to do?
How can you stay cool in the hot summer months while wearing your baby or toddler?
There are somethings you can do that will make a difference, but you need to keep things in perspective. Your hot body, squashed up against the little heat sinks that are our children, well, there’s only so much relief you can expect. A baby, quite simply cannot adjust as well to the summer heat — they sweat less AND they generate more heat when they move.1 Normally, a mom’s body can act to thermoregulate your infant’s temperature if they are worn while touching your chest. You will sweat more as a result, but the reality is there’s only so much that you can do and that your body can do. Warm is warm and hot is hot. A thing also to watch out for is that a man’s body will overheat more easily than a woman’s.
And let’s be honest. There are adjustments we can make to keep cooler and comfortable while babywearing. But there are limits, when you babywear in hot weather, you must accept facts. Not a lot of carriers that will truly leave you feeling cool and breezy while carrying a child.
So I will tackle both carrying solutions and other options to stay as cool as possible.
The general rule of thumb is to use something that:
The style of carrier you use also has an impact. Let’s take a look!
These carriers are already relatively thin. They only require layer of fabric around a baby’s body, and even the thickest are made with natural fabrics. The thinner the fabric, the more able it is to capture the sweat, bring it to the surface so that it can dry in the heat of the day. They are a medium hard carrier to master and are great for quick ups and downs, transitioning to sleep and for exploring. There are even versions which are made of mesh or a swimsuit material to enable you to go wading without worrying about bleach damage from local park pool water. You can also use the tail of the sling as a head cover to protect your little one from the sun. Just remember to keep their face clear and in view!
The disadvantage, no matter which type you use is that they are an asymmetrical carrier. The weight is on one side of the body and pulls on a diagonal making ring slings a short term carrier for most parents. Short term carrying is usually defined as an hour or less.
I am grouping these all together because they all use some sort of panel that holds the baby against the parent’s body. These carriers are automatically cooler than some other styles. They tend to have open sides, which allows for more airflow than a tightly wrapped child.
However, some brands can be made from thick canvas or synthetic materials which aren’t breathable. Choose one made with natural fibres that allow for “breathability,” such as a wrap conversion or a carrier made with natural cotton, linen or blend which automatically allows for more airflow and for the heat to dissipate from the body. Another thing is that many of these carriers also come in a summer version and have a cool weave mesh panel that allows the sweat to wick off your baby’s back. Some brands even have an all-seasons options, like the Lillebaby, with a panel that can be modified, allowing you to unzip it or remove it for summertime.
These carrier styles are among some of the easiest to master, but may not be suitable for every body type. Particularly the ones which are full-buckle.
If you love wrapping, you’ll want to look for a wrap that is thin enough to be supportive, yet allows the sweat to come to the surface and dry off faster. If your child is small enough, a gauze wrap could do the trick. You might also consider trying different fabric blends like linen or hemp. But don’t always rely on the fibre content listed on the label: Do your research, as some of these wraps can be quite thick! So much so that a thin wool blend wrap can be a good option too, when compared to a very thick wrap.
When wrapping, I would also consider using different tying techniques. A carry with three passes (this is when the carrier is wrapped around the body three times) is too warm for a hot day. Consider trying out new wrapping techniques that rely on fewer passes. A supported ruck is always a favourite of mine on those sticky days.
We feel heat differently on different parts of our bodies, so use summer as a reason to switch things up. Change positions if you’re out for the day and find you’re getting too hot, or bring your partner along so you can take turns carrying.
Wraps have the highest learning curve, but also the greatest amount of adaptibility.
It is not recommended to use sunscreen on babies under 6 months of age. Thankfully, the easiest way to avoid sunburn is prevention.
The sun is strongest between 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.2 One option is to limit your activities during peak hours, but this isn’t always a realistic option. Getting out of the house and enjoying what the community has to offer is part of what makes summer great. And it’s bigger than that, as parents know, baby doesn’t always accommodate leaving the house on a predetermined schedule – somedays it’s a get out when you can! Moreover, there’s nothing worse for baby blues or postpartum depression than feeling trapped and stuck inside your home. Getting out of the house, no matter the weather, can be one of the best things to help you enjoy your maternity or parental leave.
Thankfully, there are many things we can do to protect us during peak sun hours, go out and have fun.
I would recommend wide brimmed hats for both you and your little one. However, if you’re wearing baby on your back, check that the brim of your hat isn’t hitting your child in the face. Especially if you like to wear high on the back with a wrap or an onbuhimo.
If you have a baby who hates wearing hats, or just manages to get out of all of them, consider using a parasol. There’s nothing like a golf umbrella to provide you with a portable shade blanket as you enjoy a summer festival or garage sale.
Finally, take a good look at what both you and your child are wearing to head outside. Most carriers will provide coverage of the baby’s torso, so many of us use one piece baby suits or just take kids outside in their onesies. Which leaves only their legs and feet exposed. Consider using baby legs. Choose fibres that allow for the sweat to be wicked away on both your bodies.
Warning for stroller use…
Putting your child into the stroller may be a great way to give each of you a chance to cool down, but please remember, placing a cloth over top of the stroller cuts air circulation and creates a heat sink. Temperatures can rise quickly to 30 degrees Celsius as is shown be experiments conducted in Sweden.3
Things to remember
And most importantly of all, enjoy summer!
I would like to extend a big thank you to all the families who provided me with their babywearing pictures.
1. This webpage by the state of New South Wales in Australia is one of the most comprehensive out there on how to take care of yourself in the heat. ↩
2. Caring for kids is the web portal for information to parents from the Canadian Pediatrics Society. They recommend staying in from 10:00 am until 2:00 pm. Read more of what they suggest here.
3. Read more about this experiment here.