Monday, June 30, 2014

Baby, It's Hot Outside! - Your Guide to Summer Babywearing

Baby, It’s Hot Outside!

Staying cool by enjoying Popsicles at the Farmer's Market 

Let’s face it one of the top concerns, other than basic safety questions is, “but won’t we be hot?!” when discussing babywearing. This is especially a common concern in the South, where I happen to live. Sometimes, starting in May, temperatures can get up up 80-90 degrees. In July and August it’s not uncommon to see temps in the 100’s.  I’m not the type of person that spends my life indoors either. .

Again, let’s face it, there are also some  real concerns associated with being too hot so we need to address a few good tips, some good tricks, and some overall good practices when it comes to babywearing in the heat.

Babywearing in the Water
Any time it’s about 85 degrees I like to have water available. Thankfully because I am in the South there are no shortages of splash pads, water parks, pools, and other streams and creeks that one can find themselves near to cool off when needed.
Water comes with its own potential dangers that I do take very seriously so it is important to me to be very cautious of this element during the warmer months. One of my favorite ways to keep the baby cool with me AND safe is to use a babywearing product designed for water wear. My personal favorite is a babywearing water sling which is made out of a mesh sturdy material that threads through two rings and drapes over the wearers body, allowing you to drop the baby into a ‘pocket’ created with the fabric against your body. You can either wear baby tummy-to-tummy against your chest or an older baby with head control can be moved onto your hip.
The water sling is wonderful for splash pads or other shallow water scenarios to allow baby to get wet and enjoy the water without the safety concern of drowning. A water sling can be used in SHALLOW WATER but should never be used to “swim” with the baby attached to your body. If you are able to comfortably stand in the water with it coming no further than the babies waist in the sling you should be okay aside from places the ground could drop off or the water moves quickly. These are places children should not be enjoying the water at all.
Getting ready to play in the sprinklers in our water sling

There is another product called a Water Wrap which is made from a long piece of mesh sturdy material which is wrapped around the users body and baby to secure them closely just as the sling. Some people prefer the wrap over the sling because the wrap allows a two shoulder carry versus the single shoulder on the sling.
Knoxville CoLeader Carrie
in her Water Wrap
Both of these options are amazing when you have a smaller baby and older children to watch over. You don’t want to be stuck on the side lines with a stroller in the heat while your other kids are out in the water having fun without you! (Or possible dangerous situations where you could not get to them easily)

Some more fun ideas that other moms have used are; the Bali Breeze wraps which are made of thin gauze cotton that dries quickly and the ever creative mom using a beach towel for torso
Torso Carry using a beach
towel by co-leader Ashley
carries on the beach as needed.

The pod is a lot like a mei tai and tends to be
fairly cool in the summer months

Which Carrier is Best?
There are a lot of personal preferences for this question. In general there are some specific products made for babywearing in the heat.
Ergo makes a soft structure carrier that has a panel in the back to allow breathability called the Ergo Performance. It is a lighter weight and less padded option than the original Ergo to make it cooler in the summer or when being used out on hikes or walks.
Boba makes a product called the Boba Air which is made of a very thin, super strong material that provides the option of folding it into its own tiny built in carrying bag which folds down super small and can be dropped in about any bag. However, most people do find that it is not as supportive as the regular Boba soft structure carrier.
Bamberoo soft structure carriers have a product line that includes a middle paneling of Solarveil which is a very light weight almost mesh fabric that makes the carrier very breathable. Solarveil is however no longer being created so the only way to find these products are on the used markets.
Kinderpacks are another popular SSC carry brand that offers a Cool Knit and Comfort Mesh options for the heat.
Many people enjoy Mei Tai’s and Pods during the summer months without having to purchase a specific carrier just for the summer as well.
My Eldest wearing
my second in a Mei
Tai at a Street Festival

When Talking About Wovens, What materials and carries are best?
First, there are again some specific brands that market to keeping you and baby cool. The Bali Breeze is the most known of those choices. They are made of cotton gauze and are very lightweight.
Other than that the material will be the most important when choosing a woven wrap for the heat. Linen is often looked upon as the coolest material to use in the heat. I have found that linen is helpful but it also needs to be a thinner wrap such as Vatani, Ellaroo and some of the thinner Ellevill Zara’s, like Triblue. Cotton is often the second choice with Dolcino and India Jani being at the top of the list.
Ellevil Zara tends to be
light and airy

Now that you have an idea on material, let’s talk about sizing and carries to look for.
I find the less the material the better when it comes to a true woven wrap. (The Breeze is a tad different as it is so lightweight you’ll want several passes) so shorties, wraps size 4 and under, are most often preferred. If you are very new to wrapping you might want to choose the longer side of short as shorties can be a little harder to get the hang of.
A simple easy carrier to do with even the shortest of wraps is the Rebozo carry which is fashioned much like a sling, instead using a knot to secure a fit. It’s a single pass carry that will help keep the wearer and the baby cool.
Another favorite of mine is the strap carry which goes across the baby’s back, under the arms (must be used for babies with good trunk control only) and then crosses under the bum to keep them in
The Strap Carry 
but only uses a thin strap instead of full body coverage.
The Reinforced Rear Ruck Rebozo (Also known as the “Pirate Carry or RRRR) is also a very common summer back carry which is great with short wraps and does not create very much material over wearer and baby.
Sticking with less passes over the user and baby is generally going to keep everyone the coolest.

What are some other ways to keep cool and protect baby from the heat?

First dress the part. This is for both you and the baby. Keep baby in less clothing. Cute outfits are great and serve a purpose but if baby is riding with you no one is going to see them anyway. Some people will leave baby in a diaper alone. Others may opt for a light onesie or T-Shirt. You can always add clothing when baby is not in the carrier. The same will apply to you. Many people will prefer to wear a light tank top when wearing in the summer. If you or your baby tends to get extra sweaty and sticky you might opt for a light t-shirt.
Everyone needs to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water yourself. If you are nursing, nurse frequently. Make sure everyone is taking in lots of fluids.
Another important tip to wearing in the summer is big floppy hats. You can provide sun coverage to both you and baby in a great big floppy hat and they are never out of fashion in the South ;-) Baby can wear their own adorable little sunhats too. 

Ashley using a DIY linen sling
and a cute summer hat 

Wear sunscreen and if baby is old enough they can use some too. If not be aware of body parts that are in the sun and use a thin muslin like blanket to keep the direct sun off of their tender skin. Thin babylegs and similar options are also better than having no protection from the hot summer sun. There are products such as the Peekaru Ozone and Monkey Products which can be used to protect the baby’s skin in a carrier as well.
Wet everyone down. Use spray bottles to spritz yourself and baby on occasion. Remember sweat is your friend. You can wet down the muslin blanket to keep baby cooler. Or use specific products like the Frog Toggle or Water Bandanas. Anything you can wet down and drape over baby or lay across the back of neck and shoulders are going to be your friend.
More than anything you need to be smart about being out in the summer months. Find shade and shelter. When possible avoid going out during peak sunny hours. Be aware of how both you and your children are reacting to the summer heat.

We hope you enjoy the summer! 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dads and Baby Wearing

Like most, I was reluctant to start baby wearing. Scratch that... I absolutely did not want to do it. I don't know if it was a masculinity thing or an apathy thing, but nonetheless, I did NOT want to wear a baby.

My wife got into the whole thing when our eldest daughter was six months old. She got a knockoff brand Ergo and I used it a couple of times before the buckle broke and made it a safety hazard. Luckily, no kids were injured and we learned that if you are going to wear your child, invest a little more than 16 bucks because it's well worth it. I think of it like I think of guitars. You can absolutely find a cheap Burswood or Peavy guitar to play and get the job done, but the more you invest, say like in a Parker or Gibson, the better the guitar will be. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but for the purposes of this blog, let's just say that it's worth it to do your homework and get something good. If you are going to go with something cheap and it breaks, you're still just wasting money. not cool.

So we forked out the cash and got an actual Ergo and it was immediately more comfortable, for me and baby.
     So I used that for a while, but while I was still getting comfortable with the idea of baby wearing, my wife had already discovered the very large realm of wraps, pods, ring slings, and wrap conversions. I quickly learned that there is a LOT to this whole baby wearing thing, and I had just scratched the surface.
     Then I discovered how amazing a pod is. A pod is essentially two long straps and a flap that becomes the baby's seat. AMAZING!!!!

Ok, overenthusiastic. I get it. But still, this thing got some serious daily use.
     When our second young un' was born, we were in an awkward phase for the pod. Big One was a little big for it to be terribly comfortable for long periods of time; while Little One was a little too small to enjoy it. So I learned a few new tricks. I'll admit, I can really only do one carry with a regular wrap. The front wrap cross carry (FWCC in wrapper lingo). It's the only one I know, but it is effective. I am proud to say that Little One only wants me to lay her down to sleep now because I would use the FWCC to lull her to sleep every night as an infant (I totally played NCAA football until well after she fell asleep on multiple occassions).
      We then had a few wraps converted into different things: ring slings, full buckles, etc... I now have a hot pink full buckle that I use nearly every day. Both kids fit in it well, and it is very fast and handy. I took Aria to the Orange and White game this year (GBO!), and if that carrier hadn't paid for itself by that point, it certainly earned its keep that day. We parked about a mile from the stadium. I wore her all the way to Neyland Stadium; then let her down at our seats to enjoy the game. No big stroller to push, and no worrying about her being trampled. After the event I put her back on my back for the trek back to the car. She passed out before I made it to the sidewalk and dangled limply (and happily) all the way back to the car.
     Look, I'm not going to try to convince every dad out there to wear their kids. Although, it is a fact that wearing kids will lead to a 76% increase of chicks checking you out. I will say that if you are too cool to try it, you are doing things the hard way. Oh, I'll just carry her/him sounds nice and easy until you have another kid (or two... or three) or several things to carry simultaneously. To be fair, you have a kid. You will ALWAYS have a lot to carry. Everyday tasks just become easier. Cleaning with a little one screaming at your feet or shopping with a child afflicted by Restless Leg Syndrome can be at least combated in a comfortable way.

       So all that to say, try babywearing. Seriously, it's awesome. And manly.