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.

10 comments:

  1. I made myself a poncho to use when wearing my son during the winter. I based it on a pattern found at http://www.gypsymama.com/sew_poncho.htm.

    I also made a smaller one for my son to wear himself underneath the main poncho (but also over top of the carrier) to give him an extra layer of warmth. This smaller poncho also works for in his carseat to keep him warm instead of a snowsuit.

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  2. Great suggestions for inexpensive ways to adapt coats for babywearing. I would love to buy one of those gorgeous 3-in-1 down coats that are made here in Canada (not sure if I can/should use the brand name) but they're soooo expensive! The patterns for the jacket inserts essentially let you do the same thing to jackets you already own - brilliant!

    I also have a Peekaru vest and love it - I plan to keep wearing it this winter until I feel we need something warmer (either over top of, or instead of the vest). It's so nice to share body heat!

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  3. I don't think you currently sell this in your stores, but I recently bought a "Suse's Kindercoat" (the deluxe edition), and am finding it hands down the best money I've spent in a long time. It's incredibly versatile, and will allow me to do front, back or hip carries. We've only done front carries so far (we only got it earlier this week), but my son loves being able to poke his head out and look around, and when he gets tired I can just zip the little flap up and he's kept warm and naps against my chest. I've gotten so many comments and compliments on it as well -- it's not exactly a fashion statement, true, but it's really convenient and everyone loves seeing a baby head poking out of my chest!

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  4. I'm actually going to give the modified jacket a whirl... The M coat looks lovely, I've seen lots of customers wearing it, but most of them purchased it this past Spring when it was dramatically reduced... um, that's when I (cheap, cheap, cheap!) would buy it, lol. That's how I roll! But I'll post my coat handiwork, then Melissa can point and laugh, lol.

    susie ;)

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  5. Anna, we actually sold the Kindercoat 2-3 years ago, and we got 100% of them back due to manufacturers flaws, everything from the zippers to the snaps were failing... I'm sure they've fixed the problems, the year we picked them up was the first year they were manufactured overseas, I think the QC was lacking... we did try though! I'm glad you're happy with your new coat!

    susie ;)

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  6. Susie, I had heard of the manufacturing flaws during my search of online reviews, however it sounded like they'd sorted out some of the issues so I decided to take a chance. So far I don't have any complaints. (Except that the double-direction zipper is a huge pain to get started, but I think that's true of all double-direction zippers... I'm not sure I understand why they exist!)

    By the way, love your store! I'm in Waterloo, and am getting into a at-least-once-a-week visit routine these days!

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  7. The free online patterns are nice and easy instructions make knitting and handwork a very simple and enjoyable experience.The internet has really helped in this regard.

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  8. I spent some time writing up a comment when you first posted this then my computer crashed and I never got back to it. But here I am... finally. The Suzes Deluxe Coat. I have one. I ordered it a year ago, just after my son was born. We have two Labrador Retrievers that absolutely MUST be walked every day and we go out into the woods so they can run free and off leash (illegal, but... well...). Anyway, I wanted a jacket that I could use with my mei tai to get my son out with me every day. I've used it in the dead of winter on freezing cold days since he was newborn and I can say that it is a warm jacket that keeps babe and me cozy. Now a year later, we still use it. On cool days, I find it easier to bundle him and me separately in fleece and to just use the shell part of the jacket (rather than the shell and fleece). I have used both together, but when he's on my back, I struggle to get the thing on right with all that fleece and without a draft at his neck.

    All in all, the jacket has worked great for me (although the attached hoods - both mom and infant - are useless) and I've certainly gotten my money's worth out of it. I am out every day, rain or shine with my son on my back, wearing my deluxe coat. On the down side, I contacted Suze right after I received mine in the mail to let her know about what I considered to be shoddy workmanship. Her response was that they were having "issues with quality control" in China. I found this to be a poor response but I didn't push the issue. So far the jacket has held up, but honestly, I was disappointed in the workmanship and the zippers and I tend to take it pretty easy on this jacket compared to others that I own.

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  9. What a great and timely post! I was just discussing winter babywearing with friends - one despaired of it herself, another suggested an amauti...this gives me plenty of ideas to consider. Thanks!

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  10. I knit my own coat-extender, without a pattern, just a little rectangular panel that was slightly bigger at the bottom (a simple decrease if knitting bottom-up). I knit button holes to match my pea coat, and sewed buttons on the other side, so the panel buttoned to my coat, and the holes lined up with the existing coat buttons.

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