Thursday, January 17, 2013

Winter baby wearing

Baby wearing is an art as old as humans and mothering, and the list of reasons to keep it up in the cold goes on and on but for me one of the most compelling is that you can nurse your baby on the go, while doing almost anything, if you are wearing them. This means you don't have to stop life, or make a scene to nurse. And since all the experts are calling for AT LEAST 2 years of breastfeeding these days, that's 2 full winters you will have to get through. SO unless you intend to find a park bench in a snow storm, or take off all our layers in the super market or bus stop- baby wearing is the way forward!

I wont lie, baby wearing in the cold can be frustrating. I'm not generally a winter loving person, mostly because I don't like tight clothing.  What stinks about it most about winter baby wearing is that you have to wear all those layers of clothes that make you feel "bungled" as Saule always says.

You may remember the scene in "A Christmas Story" when the younger brother is so dressed up he can't move and Ralph says he looks like "A tick about to pop"- that's how I feels. Now, combine that with a screaming, kicking, biting baby, and strap both of us into a wrap and try and nurse and get Saules winter boots on at the same time....leaving the house these days is NOT a pretty picture.


How can this possibly be so? Partly because with Saule (round 1 in which I was a new mother...) it was so bad I pretty much gave up on leaving the house until spring thaw.  But that's not the only reason.

Now I have a much better system. 2+ years living in Denmark and 5 winters under my belt and I will share with you the information I couldn't find when I needed it most.  It took trial and error, and allot of people watching to see how they were doing it.

A couple of tips, from a budget minded, thrift shop loving 24/7 hour baby wearing/nursing mama-

1. Find your inner peace. Kids and babies generally don't like getting all bundled up, but they do enjoy and NEED to have time outdoors (and so do you!). So find your zen and allow them to vent their own frustration. It will all be over in just a second or two....

Saule telling me how upset she was to get dressed

2.  Having the right combo and wrap/carrier, jacket, boots, etc really does make all the difference. I have tried many.  If its not keeping you both warm and dry its no good. Piling more and more layers will not help, it will only make things more uncomfortable. However YOU DON'T NEED TO SPEND A FORTUNE TO MAKE IT WORK! My first wrap I made from an unhemed piece of cloth I simply cut and used. I have always just used my own clothes- I have never invested the big bucks in a Amuati or a baby wearing jacket, but I would love to try one.

3. If there is a hole is your getup (like your have everything warm except your feet or babies hands) you might as well be naked. Really! Its true! Because you will have to go inside after a short time due to this single spot. So buy yourself a decent pair of boots and a good winter jacket, and they will last YEARS. And get baby a full outfit including quality mittens (that come all the way up and are water proof), booties (that reach the knee so when the pants ride up the leg isn't exposed), hat, and snowsuit.

4. A little yoga goes a long way! If you can think of baby wearing as a sport, and limber up a little prior to starting the day, your body will thank you!

So here are some combinations that I found worked well, and some that... didn't.

YES! Lets cut straight to the chase, if its not raining a good infant snow suit (see note below) and an Ergo over my own jacket worked great from the start. Its easy to use, get on and off, and you can nurse in it.

Again, the simple Ergo and jacket combo. So fool proof even Uncle Jesse can do it.
Then there was the wrap we made out of stretchy material, cut to the right size. This worked great in many ways! It fit better under out jacket in the case that it was wet out- so Saule's tiny snowsuit didn't need to be waterproof (it is very difficult to find a quality infant snow suit! They are rarely waterproof, rarely warm, and almost always bulky).

Again our homemade stretchy wrap, with Paulius wearing her on a cold but not wet day.

Saule LOVED to face outward like this and watch the world go. It isn't the best to the babies hips I know, but for short time periods she really loved it.

So then we decided that it was REALLY cold out and Saule should have a warmer snow suit. This is what we ended up with, we call it "the lion suit". Can you see her? NO?! OK....she hated this, and so did we. WAY WAY WAY TO BULKY TO BABY WEAR (or move...)

Here it is, the lion suit, all wrapped up. she looked like one of those pull string dolls 

After 4+ years of baby wearing we upgraded from our homemade wrap to this Didymos woven wrap (purchased at paxbaby), which gives way more support. It holds Ursa nice and close to me, with very little give, so I feel like we are moving as one body, not two. She can happily nurse in it, and it can be tied in many different ways (front and back). It took a long time for me to commit to this expense but so far I am very happy with it. On the down side it is more difficult to tie, takes longer to get on (no fun with a screaming baby), and is almost impossible to get on with out it touching the ground which means that getting it on here in Denmark where the ground is always wet is a bit of a problem. It does hold her close enough to my body that I can wear it under my normal jacket on wet days, this is me wearing her on a cold, not wet day.

My all time everyday workhorse fall back baby wearing getup. Ursa in her PERFECT WARM WATER PROOF hand-me-down non-bulky snow suit from H&M, in the Ergo, under my jacket so she can nurse. She is wearing her Stonz booties because after trying to do multiple layers of warm socks with Saule I was finally forced to admit that 1. they always fall off 2. they aren't waterproof and 3. they aren't really all that warm. These booties solve all of those problems, and give Ursa a way to walk and crawl outside, totally waterproof, for any length of time. Which is a blessing if you plan to spend any real time outdoors with your kids in cold weather. Yey! 

After all, if you still can't find a jacket that fits over your carrier, or a carrier that feels great all the time,  have no fear. It will soon be spring and you run naked through the hills with your naked baby strapped to your breast like you always dream of doing.  Summer time baby wearing is so much more fun.

One final note- one carrier will not work for ever. As soon as you figure out how to make it all work, your baby will grow or change her mood and you'll have to start all over. So try and be flexible!

and here are a few true fails we found along the way.....

Don't think that buying a "top of the line" infant snow suit from Patagonia will solve your problems. They may make great adult gear but the baby stuff stinks. The inseam of this was WAY to short for her to straddle you in a normal pose, riding on your hip or in the carrier. The only position a baby can be in while wearing this suit is laying flat on his back. Plus, its not water resistant or even warm. In the USA its very difficult to find good infant size outdoor gear. the company Molo or Reima are two that have great quality suits which you can find used for better prices than they go for new.
Again, another total bust, Kelty Adventure child carrier. Kelty packs are for stuff. The structured carriers stink. Saule kept on coming un-clipped making her wobble and threaten to fall out of the pack. Plus she is far away from your body making her feel heavier, and not keeping her warm at all. Fail. 

Not a winter picture here, but another structured frame carrier we tried. This is the Sherpani Rumba, which we got for out trip to Central America when Saule was 3, and should have held her as an older child better then the Ergo. You can read my review here. The Ergo would have been better on this trip.

You can find some great resources about baby wearing  here

1 comment:

jtink said...

Hi there
In one pic you have your little one in an ergo carrier sideways...I have one also but my one and a half month old hates her legs being separated. I have the infant insert which makes it hard. Is she too young to put her in like you have your little one? Your feedback is greatly appreciated. Thank you :)