When it comes to babywearing, safety should be your number one concern, says Britt Pegan, mother of three and owner of Milkface Nursingwear, which sells carriers. “The slogan we use is that your baby should be ‘visible and kissable’ — in an upright position with her face near yours.” Health Canada spokesman Gary Holub elaborates: “Caregivers should ensure that the baby’s face is always visible, free of obstructions and above the fabric of the sling at all times. Ensure that your baby is in a slightly slanted or upright position, and check often.”
Babywearing requirements don’t change in winter. Here are some ways to safely wear your baby, while also bundling up against the cold:
1. Inside your coat
Put your little guy, in his indoor clothes, inside the wrap or carrier. Put a hat on him. “Your baby is warmed by your body heat, so don’t overdress him,” says Pegan.
Put on a large coat (such as a maternity coat) on yourself or add an extension to your coat to make extra room for baby. Do up the coat partway so you can still see the top of your baby’s head and his face. Holub adds: “Do not zip up a coat around a baby in a sling or soft carrier. Babies have suffocated.”
Mittens and warm socks or slippers will help keep your baby’s hands and feet warm if they peek out. You can also tuck or safety-pin a blanket around the sides of the carrier for an extra layer of warmth. Watch your baby to make sure he’s not too hot or cold. Touch his cheek or nose occasionally, or check his neck to see if he’s sweating.
Look online for babywearing coats, vests and ponchos that can be worn over a carrier.
2. Over your coat
Dress your baby in his winter wear. Put on your own coat and loosen the sling or carrier so it fits over your coat. Then put your baby in and adjust so it’s snug. This works better for older babies; younger ones usually want more contact with the parent’s warm body.
3. The amautik
Want the ultimate in winter babywearing? The Inuit have carried babies around in a parka called an amautik for generations. “It has a pouch in the back where the baby rides against the mother’s back,” says Arie Brentnall-Compton, mother of three, who owns five handcrafted amautiit (plural form). While the baby isn’t visible to his mother, Brentnall-Compton points out that traditionally, at least in some areas, he’s naked inside the parka against his mother’s bare skin, helping her to be aware of any changes in breathing or signs of distress. In traditional Inuit communities, the amautik is sometimes used with swaddling, which helps to keep the baby upright. Today an amautik may be made of caribou or sealskin, or modern materials such as Thinsulate. It may be most appropriate for an older baby.
Boots are best
Either way, invest in a good pair of snow boots to cope with icy sidewalks — your centre of balance can shift with the baby’s additional weight on your body. Adds Pegan: “With a well-adjusted carrier, your baby should be positioned so that you’re in good balance.”
“In Canada, you need to find ways to be active in winter. Otherwise, you’re at risk for depression and physical health problems,” says Arie Brentnall-Compton, an Edmonton mom of three. “Knowing how to safely wear your baby in cold weather means you can cross-country ski, snowshoe or just go for a walk in the snow. Otherwise, you can be stuck indoors for a long time.”
Can carriers be dangerous?
In 2010, after three infant deaths were reported in the US, two styles of slings were recalled in Canada. These were both pouch-type slings that tended to position the baby curled up with his chin against his chest or his face against the caregiver’s body or the sling’s fabric, making breathing more difficult. For more info, check out Health Canada’s baby slings and carriers safety guidelines.
Are you planning on carrying your baby around? Check out this video for more tips: