Thursday, January 27, 2011

Babywearing in a warm climate

Yes, it's an odd time of year to write about babywearing in hot weather, but this is the time of year when some of us are lucky enough to escape the frigid Canadian winter, fleeing to a warmer climate if only for a brief respite from the cold. If you walk into the Ottawa store on a particularly cold day, and I'm behind the counter, you will likely be greeted by some comment about the weather, and it likely won't be favourable. I am not a fan of winter. I don't ski or snowboard, so I view snow as a pointless inconvenience. Fortunately for me, I'm not in Ottawa right now (!!!).

My husband and I have escaped with the kids to Hawaii for a couple of weeks, a trip that's been over a year in the making has finally come to fruition, and we are enjoying the tropical weather of the Pacific islands. One of the must-haves on our packing list was our Manduca carrier; on the various trips that we have taken as a family throughout the years, slings have been an invaluable tool, a convenient way of toting our children around that gives them a birds-eye view of whatever we might be doing (on tomorrow's agenda: a whale-watching tour!). Grace is over two and a half years old, but still in need of being carried from time to time. Navigating through a busy airport with a walking two-year old would be impossible, and when we're sightseeing, sometimes she just gets too tired to walk (like today in Lahaina) -- it's nice to be able to scoop her up and pop her onto my back without missing a beat.

If you will be babywearing in a warmer climate, whether you're enjoying a hot Canadian summer, or you're lucky to be vacationing somewhere warm during a Canadian winter, there are things you can do to ensure a comfortable experience for both the babywearer (that's you!) and the babywearee (that's your child!).

Use a light-colored sling. Look around our store, and you may notice the lack of dark-colored slings. Yes, I stock a few in each brand, but I will freely admit that I often try to talk people out of buying dark-colored slings. From a practical point of view, they show dirt more readily than their lighter counterparts (a black sling with a baby prone to spit up = a nightmare!). Furthermore, dark-colored slings will feel hotter in the sun - your baby will feel a lot hotter in a black Ergo than she will in a camel-colored Ergo!

Use adequate UV protection. Young or old, when you're in the sun, UV exposure is a concern for everyone. If your baby is six+ months old, apply a safe sunscreen to any exposed skin, and put a brimmed hat on her head. If your baby is younger than six months old, consider using an umbrella with UV protection to protect her skin (added double bonus: the umbrella will protect your skin too, and it will keep you both cooler!).

Carry a spray bottle.  When water evaporates off of skin, it has a cooling effect (a fine mist will give you the benefit of sweating, without the sweat!).

Apply a cool, wet cloth to your (and your baby's) pulse points.  Wet cloth (any cloth!) applied to pulse points is an effective way to lower your core temperature.  The blood vessels in a pulse point are closer to the skin, so as blood passes through the vessel, it is chilled by the cool cloth.

Avoid being in the sun during peak hours. The sun is the strongest between 10am and 4pm. Avoid being outside with your little one in a carrier between these hours. You don't have to barricade yourselves indoors all day, use common sense to plan your outings -- go for a walk early in the morning, or before supper.

Dress yourself and your child accordingly. People are often concerned that babywearing in the summer will be too hot. It's not the sling that will make you hot, it's the little heat box nestled against you -- babies are naturally warm little creatures! Grace was born in early June, I was back to work within a week of her birth (one of the many 'benefits' of being self-employed). As a result, Grace spent the first three months of her life (the hottest months of the year) in a Boba stretchy wrap all day. I dressed her in nothing more than a onesie and a diaper, on particularly warm days, she wore only a diaper; I wore light t-shirts and tank tops to keep myself cool.

Keep yourself and your baby well-hydrated. Breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby frequently, and don't forget to drink plenty of liquids yourself.

Traditionally, many cultures in hot climates around the world have employed carriers in one form or another as a method of transporting babies and children; from Rebozos in Mexico to Kikoys in Kenya, hot climates are not a barrier to babywearing. With a little planning (and a lot of common sense), babywearing in warm weather is a safe and comfortable activity. Aloha!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this post! (And the A**hole one too, actually, good on you for how you all dealt with that interaction). I am due in early June and am kinda the opposite of you - NOT a summer person. We have just been given a sleepy wrap (luckily in orange, which I have tested on our 27-lb. puppy)and look forward to using it, but I was obviously concerned about carrying around a little furnace on my chest all summer. In my mind, light tees & tanks were my plan and it is very reassuring to hear that this works - also that diaper + onesie will suffice (I guess the wrap counts as a layer). This is my first, so everything is a guessing game for us, so thanks again. We're in the Toronto area, but will definitely pop in when we visit family in the Ottawa area!