Sunday, November 29, 2009
Babywearing in a winter wonderland!
It's hard to believe, given Ottawa's rather balmy November, but winter is just around the corner. I've packed away my birkenstocks, and I'm getting reacquainted with shoes and socks again, so you know I'm not fibbing! Canadian winters, particularly Ottawa winters, can prove to be a challenge when trying to get around with little ones. With two babies born in December and January, I'm all too familiar with the obstacles presented by slush and snowbanks -- I learned fairly early on that navigating the sidewalks with a baby carrier is far easier than trying to do the same thing with a stroller.
I'm sure it always comes off as a sales pitch at the store, but I can honestly say that with all four children, we have relied soley on a collection of carriers to tote them around, the requisite stroller purchased when I was pregnant with our first child gathered dust in our garage until we eventually gave it away. In terms of winter babywearing, wearing our babies has given them a birds-eye view of Winterlude, the Sugar Shack, and many a Santa parade (last night, in fact!). Not only is winter babywearing convenient, it includes your baby in what you're doing.
With respect to wearing your baby in the winter, you have two choices, you can wear him under your coat or over your coat. If you're giving birth in the winter, you likely have a jacket that accommodates your blooming belly, be it a loaner from your husband, or a maternity coat. The extra roominess that accommodates your pregnant belly may come in handy if you want to wear your baby under your coat. Wearing your baby under your coat in the winter is ideal because your body heat will help keep your baby warm (of course, you should still dress your baby accordingly). If you're wearing baby under your coat, be sure to leave your jacket partially open to ensure the passage of air (zipping your coat up entirely with a baby underneath is unsafe!). If you get chilly because your coat is partially open, you can wear a scarf, and put a neckwarmer on your baby -- I would bunch a scarf between the baby and myself to close any gaps.
If you don't have a jacket that accommodates wearing a baby underneath, you can always modify what you have by adding a zip-in panel. There are several free online patterns, if you know how to sew a zipper (even better, if you know someone who knows how to sew a zipper!), you can convert what you have on hand for a relatively low cost. Several of our customers have done this, and the results are impressive -- one of our customers contacted the manufacturer of her regular winter coat to enquire about the make/model of the zipper on her coat, and they were kind enough to send her a free extra zipper to be used in the construction of her babywearing jacket insert (how's that for customer service?).
When wearing baby under a regular coat, your are limited to a front carry -- if you want to carry your baby in different positions (ie, on the hip, or on your back), wearing your baby over your coat is the next best thing. If you're wearing your baby over your coat, you will need to dress your baby in more layers (a snowsuit is a must!), paying particular attention to their extremities (unlike you, baby is not moving his arms and legs, so he will get colder faster). Woollen underclothes are great for layering in the winter (look for them soon at both our stores, we're working with a small German manufacturer who makes lovely garments at an affordable price). Padraig booties are great for keeping little toes toasty and dry.
When wearing your baby over your coat, keep in mind the additional bulk of your winter clothes and baby's winter clothes will make your carrier fit differently. If you're using an adjustable (one-size) carrier, it should not be an issue, although I have found the body of certain carriers more accommodating to winter babywearing than others (I prefer a tall-bodied carrier for this purpose -- the Manduca, the Boba, and the Babyhawk "Oh Snap" are all good options -- a woven wrap is another great option because of its versatility).
If you want to wear your baby on your back, but you would like to keep your baby under your coat, another free online pattern provides easy-to-follow instructions -- again, you can modify an existing coat for this purpose. The finished product is reminiscent of a traditional Inuit Amauti, a babywearing coat that incorporates a baby carrier into its hood. If you keep an eye out, you'll likely spot a baby in an Amauti somewhere in Ottawa during the winter, they are truly beautiful works of art, a timeless nod to the virtues of winter babywearing.