So the weather has turned cold and we’re all wanting to keep our little ones nice and warm – especially the ones who haven’t experienced a British winter before! So how is best to keep them snuggly and safe at the same time? There’s an article and video that gets shared around a lot at this time of year, and it’s and important message – it’s called ‘Winter coats and car seats don’t mix‘
The basic premise is that the more padding you add under safety straps, the less well the safety straps can do their job when needed. It’s a hard thing to think about, but very necessary. And in many ways the principle is the same with slings and carriers – the clothing interferes with the fit, makes the safety guidelines harder to follow, and can have issues with overheating.
Here are some reasons why coats and bulky clothing for babies aren’t always ideal and some things you can use instead!
In slings and carriers, babies benefit from your body heat. Imagine walking around on a snowy day strapped to giant hot water bottle! It can be a lovely feeling, but to benefit from that body heat your baby should be as close to your body as they can be – so put your carrier on at the earliest stage of getting dressed that you can, and add layers over the top – being careful that no layers obscure the baby’s face.
Going outdoors and staying outdoors is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the time we’re outdoors for a bit, in a hot shopping centre for a bit, cold street, having a coffee, school run, back home, dog walk, corner shop… layers under the carrier mean to adjust the baby’s temperature you need to remove the baby from the carrier, disturbing them. Adding your own coat or a cover means outdoor layers are easily removable when entering a warmer environment, keeping baby at the ideal temperature – and meaning you’re not stuck in a coat under a sleeping baby either! You don’t need a special coat unless you want one. Most coats can do up around a baby just fine, and some will fasten under the baby’s bottom, making a great windbreak and covering small hands and feet. A small fleece pram blanket or simple woollen scarf tucked under your coat at the shoulders will cover pretty much any gap if required. Again, we keep baby’s face visible, their head kissable – but maybe add a hat!
Bulky clothes can reduce the support a carrier will offer to the spine and hips of the infant, leading them to slump down inside – a non- optimal position we are trying to avoid. Very small babies often disappear inside snow suits and similar items, with the neckline covering the face – an obvious hazard. Instead of bulky clothing, simple fleecey sleepsuits can work very well, with extra attention paid to any uncovered parts – the feet can benefit from an extra pair of socks, and the head from a hat – especially good are the types that cover the neck a little like a cardigan hood.
Poncho type outerwear can be great for older babies, as they can be placed over the baby’s head and shoulders without removing them from the carrier. The poncho itself will cover most of the carrier, and they can be acquired in waterproof and warm varieties. They also look super cute at toddler age when they are walking independently!
Remember that when you share space with your baby you automatically keep yourself comfortable and your baby benefits too – you turn out of the wind and rain, shelter both of you, turn from direct lights, preserve your personal space in crowds, all without thinking about it.
So here’s the rule of thumb!
If you wouldn’t let them wear it in the car seat, don’t use it in the carrier either.
Consider the carrier an outdoor layer, and your body heat another one.
Add layers until both of you are comfortable.
Keep your baby visible and kissable.
Check extremities regularly.
I confess I will miss my little hot water bottle under my coat this winter! It can be one of the loveliest, toastiest feelings to be out and about sharing space with your little ones, enjoying a secret warmth only you two can feel.