Babywearing is hot. Just in general. But how do you combat extreme heat when you have literally tied a little space heater to your chest? In Chicago we see highs in the 90s to low 100s, and humidity levels that make the rainforest seem like a desert. Combine that with a sweaty, needy hotbox and… wait, where are you going?
Overheating can be very dangerous for babies, especially for infants under 6 months, who lack the ability to regulate their own temperatures. Use common sense, and go back inside when baby seems to be overheating. Take breaks from the sun when you can, and make sure baby and you stay well hydrated. Don’t feed a baby, less than 6 months old, water without your doctor’s permission, and don’t add excess water to their formula, or any water to expressed breastmilk. Use sunscreen according to the directions, and according to your pediatrician’s recommendations, to prevent burns. Take your baby out of the carrier if it seems to be causing them to overheat.
- Soft structured carriers (SSC) are usually fairly cool. Any heavier fabric SSC may be a little more uncomfortable than one with a lighter fabric or a breathable panel, but just because you have a heavier SSC doesn’t mean you can’t use it comfortably in the summer. Infant inserts, on the other hand, can cause overheating. Use caution with infant inserts and speak to one of our VBEs if you have a younger baby and a SSC in the summer. There are often tricks to remaining cool that we can help you with, depending on the brand of carrier
- Asian baby carriers, such as mei tais, tend to remain nicely cool in the summer. The exception being where they are made out of a heavy fabric or cover most of the body (as in a traditional, wide blanket podaegi). You can often work around a heavier fabric by using ice packs and remaining in the shade.
- Woven wraps – depending on the weave and fabric, wovens can either be the coolest choice or make you feel as if you are descending to the depths of hell. If you have a warmer wrap, try one layer carries and use shorter wraps so there is less excess fabric. If you have only long wraps, still aim for one layer carries that eat up some of the length, like a Front Wrap Cross Carry (FWCC) with the passes bunched.
- Stretchy wraps are very warm. They don’t breathe well and you absolutely have to have all three layers of fabric over baby. See ‘Remaining Cool’ in the below section, and stay in the air conditioning as much as possible!
- Ring slings are your summer friend! By their nature, ring slings have only one layer of fabric, and it is often a very breathable one, like linen or cotton.
Planning on hitting the pool or beach this summer? There are some great carriers specifically made for water usage you can find! Although you can often use regular carriers in the water, they will become heavy, and the colors may fade or bleed in chlorine, or even regular water. ***For safety reasons, use caution in the water, and don’t attempt to actually swim or go in deep water with a child tied to you. Nor should you babywear on a boat or anywhere else a safety device is needed that babywearing would interfere with.*** The most common types of pool carriers are mesh/SolarWeave ring slings and mesh/gauze/nylon wraps.
You don’t need a special carrier for warm summer wearing. There are a few tips for staying cool in the heat no matter what your carrier is:
- Dress for the weather. Remember that your carrier is another layer. It’s fine to dress baby in just a onesie and diaper, or just a diaper, when you’ll have another layer over them (watch for sun exposure though).
- Dress yourself for the weather. Wear moisture wicking clothing, and make sure you and baby aren’t skin to skin. When your skin meets, you both get hotter. Wear a thin shirt with a higher neck to keep you both from sweating.
- Dribble water on their heads, arms, legs, and any other part sticking out. Some people I know carry around a spray bottle to add a little mist, but letting a few drops drip from your water bottle works as well.
- Frogg Togg Chilly Pad! These became popular a couple years ago, and really hit the babywearing community last summer. You can find them in big box stores and online. They are similar to a chamois – you get them wet, and the evaporative technology keeps them cool for hours (or even days!!). Lay them over baby’s legs, dab baby’s cheeks and the back of baby’s neck. We just got back from the desert, and this is what helped the best to keep baby from overheating.
- If you don’t want to buy anything new, you don’t have to! Wet a cloth diaper, paper towel, sponge, or anything else absorbent, and put it in the freezer. It makes a great moldable ice pack that absorbs the water as it thaws. Just don’t soak it, then it will drip, damp is fine. You can also use a Ziplock bag to keep it from getting you wet.
- Stay in the shade as much as possible. The sun is hot, and it’s not great for the skin anyway. Keep baby in a hat to block the sun, and put a light, breathable blanket over baby (Aden and Anais blankets work great for this if you have them).
- Since sunscreen isn’t recommended in large amounts for infants under 6 months of age, try to keep younger babies in the shade as much as possible. This is easier said than done, especially if you have an older child to chase after. There are a few companies that make carrier covers that are 100% UVA/UVB. Monkey Pocket and Rain or Shine Kids makes them, and you can sometimes find old Peekaru ones that were discontinued. Bjorn makes a UVA/UVB cover that fits over their carriers too. Outfits that have sun protection are also recommended. A light blanket as stated above can help too.
*A note about sunscreen: Sunscreen is going to be a necessity on any day for a baby older than 6m (and even under 6m according to the AAP), but it can stain your carriers. Follow the general guidelines for using sunscreen by applying 15 minutes before going out. That should be enough time to protect your carrier.
Shameless plug: Don’t forget about your local lending library! If you need to borrow a carrier for a vacation or want to use something lighter in the summer without actually buying a new carrier – check one out from the group! You can borrow one carrier a month for $30/year.
Happy wearing, and stay cool!