Babywearing on sweaty summer days
Putting your baby in a carrier, wrap or sling for getting around in the warmer months can be really convenient. Going to parks, farmers’ markets, hoping on and off public transit, keeping your tiny one close as you keep your eye on your older child at the wading pool… There are a few points I have to offer both for your comfort and your baby’s safety.
No matter the time of year, babywearing is a heat-generating activity because there are two bodies smooshed up against each other. That’s just par for the course. My kid was 8 months in July of her first summer, and I remember wearing her in a standard buckle carrier on a particularly hot day — although she had no words at that point, she started kind of… not exactly crying but moaning at me, and I really got the impression that she was saying “It’s just too sweaty for this!” I knew I had to rethink my approach for getting around in the heat.
Before we go any further, I should mention that infants under 6 months are physiologically not great at regulating their own temperature and it is possible for them to overheat. “Too hot” might be uncomfortable/tiring/annoying for you, but it can be dangerous for your babe. So on the hottest days, maybe pull out the stroller with a mesh UV cover (don’t let them cook under a draped blanket or muslin — it’s not breathable enough, as this article explains.) to travel, stay in the shade when you can, or stick to air conditioned places (at my AC-free place we settle for multiple fans at once) as much as possible. If your wee one seems to be overheated, take immediate action to cool them down (get out of the sun, take them out of the carrier, offer breastmilk or water, wipe them down with a cool cloth, etc).
If you’re into (or interested in) wrapping, that can be great option as it uses woven and breathable, natural fibres. Something linen, or a cotton-linen blend might be best. Bamboo and wool (even though we think of the latter being so valuable for keeping us warm in the winter) are said to be good for wicking sweat away. Some wraps are thinner than others (like the Wrapsody Breeze) and marketed for summer use. While I can’t speak from personal experience with thin wraps, I can imagine they’d feel like they’re digging into the wearer sooner with a heavier baby or with prolonged use, so see if you can test-drive one before making an investment.
When it comes to buckle carriers, brands like Beco (Gemini Cool or Beco 8), Tula, and Lillebaby (Complete Airflow or All Seasons pictured above) have options with a mesh panel for breathability. I would recommend against using a carrier that’s all-canvas (or similarly not-well ventilating material), and especially any buckle carrier that requires an infant insert because it’s so much bulk in the heat.
There are water slings for use in and around the water (like for wading, at splash pads and around sprinklers, not to go swimming with your baby on you) made of a mesh or other quick-dry fabric. It seems the mesh ones need to be wet in order to be grippy, and are not a good option for use dry. The polyester ones say they’re okay for dry use, too, but polyester doesn’t provide great breathability, so I would recommend only using them for short periods.
More generally in the realm of summer safety, do remember:
Stay well hydrated. Breastfeeding + sweating can really take a lot out of you. Carrying around filtered water (and/or coconut water) in non-plastic bottles is just common sense. Room temperature water is more quickly absorbed by the body, but who am I to keep you from ice cubes if you’re craving them? If you’re going to need to refill your bottle while you’re out, you might like to have a Santevia Power Stick in your bottle. Breastmilk is a great electrolyte drink for your wee one, and filtered water is great, too, after 6 months of age. (If you’re out with a sippy cup, throw in a Santevia Power Pouch and refill often.)
Cover up. A wide-brimmed sun hat (or a parasol!) would be a great choice for you as the baby-wearer, and baby should have their head protected. Covering your baby’s face with a receiving blanket is not safe at any time. However, I have tucked a muslin blanket into the sides of a carrier to drape down and protect my babe’s juicy thighs from the sun. Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months, so covering up to block UV rays is vital. For babies over 6 months, and for you too, I recommend something with zinc oxide as the active ingredient, like ThinkSport and ThinkBaby or Green Beaver. For more info on health-supporting sunscreens, see my environmental-health-expert-pal Emma’s post for 2019 here.
To wrap up (pun-intended!), always remember to check in to assess baby’s well being when you’re carrying them, and make sure that their face is always “visible and kissable”.
Enjoy the summer and stay cool!