Thursday, June 29, 2017

Beat the Heat in Kansas While Babywearing


It's that time of year again, with the average temps in the 90's, humidity at 100% and the Great Plains weather is.... well, not so great. But you can't hide in the air conditioning forever! Those little ones are going to want to get outside and go to the zoo, the splash pad or the park. Do you know everything you need to know about baby wearing in warm weather? If not, read on!



First and foremost, let's cover some basic safety tips.

-Hydrate, this means you and baby. Seems like a no brainer but it doesn't go without saying. Wearer gets plenty of H2O and baby gets water or milk. If you're feeling extra hot, use one of those nifty little handheld water misting fans.


-Hats- You can put baby in a hat and (adorable) sunglasses or you can wear an extra wide brim floppy hat. Baby gets some shade and you look fabulous!

-UV protection. Also seems like a no brainer, but for the under 6 months crowd your options are not as easy as slathering on a bunch of sunscreen. Furthermore, avobenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient may stain your carrier (and your clothes!). Some carriers are made with material with UV protection. When you can't use sunscreen, you may be better off finding or creating a source of shade with a large hat or UV-blocking umbrella.

Baby T, son of VBE Laura, models his shades
while being worn
-Take breaks. You can do everything to make babywearing in the heat more comfortable and you still will need to take breaks. I know we advocate wearing babies around here but this is one time the stroller has a leg up on the baby carriers.
Infographic: Babywearing in the Heat
Babywearing in the summer is hot, there is no way around it, but there is no need to buy a "summer" carrier. Any carrier can be used successfully in the summer with these tips. Put baby in a lightweight, wide brimmed hat. Watch for signs of overheating such as rapid breathing or a hot chest, overly red or a rash, baby seems unhappy and uncomfortable. Stay hydrated, bring a water bottle wherever you go. Dress yourself and baby in light layers. Use cooling towels like EndroTowel or FroggToggs. Do not apply directly to baby's skin or sandwich between you and baby. Additional tips: use a misting bottle with a fan, take breaks from wearing when needed, keep to the shade as much as possible. 

Image description: There's an image of a mom carrying her baby in a purple carrier demonstrating ways to wear in the heat. Baby is wearing a hat, she's watching for signs of overheating, they're dressed in light layers, she's carrying a bottle of water, and has a cooling towel around her neck.

-Ice packs and cold towels. A lot of blogs out there are going to recommend using cooling towels (eg. Frogg Togg) or ice packs wrapped in a hand towel. I'm not going to advise against these tools, but there are few words of caution.
When using a cooling towel, you should not place them on or around a baby. Babies cannot thermoregulate properly and due to their smaller size, cooling towels may cool baby down too much, which is just as unsafe as overheating. They are perfect, though, for the wearer to wrap around his/her neck to keep cool while wearing baby. Children and older toddlers who can communicate their discomfort may also be able to use them on their necks for short periods.  Also, you may be tempted to put these towels in between your and baby's bodies, but don't. These towel need airflow to work. Placing them where they can't get airflow makes them pretty much just a damp, hot towel. If you're interested in using a cooling towel, I saw them on sale at Menard's the other day for $5.

VBE, Laura, cooling down in the shade
on a sunny day
Image description: a light skinned woman
wearing sunglasses with a light skinned
infant on her front facing out. The infant
is wearing a hat and looking away from the
camera.
Similarly, do not put ice packs directly against baby's or your skin. Even if you have it wrapped in a hand towel, an ice pack left against the skin too long can cause burns. Yes, even when it is hotter than the surface of the sun outside. Some baby carriers allow you to place a gel ice pack (like the ones used for icing a muscle injury) in an outer pocket of a carrier where it will not go directly against baby's skin or go between your bodies. However, it is still advised you not leave the ice pack in for longer than 20 minutes for older children and don't use them at all for infants. If you want to be extra safe, try chilling them in the refrigerator instead of the freezer. Better yet, try some of the other safety measures to cool down.
Infographic: Hot Weather Babywearing Tips by James A. Lang, PhD, Thermoregulation Expert
NEVER use an ice pack either directly or covered to cool baby. I can burn the skin after 20 minutes in adults, and a shorter time period in babies or children.
DO keep both baby and wearer hydrated by frequently drinking liquid
DO stay out of the sun.
DO keep as much skin uncovered as possible. Bare skin will help the body cool itself.
DO wear baby in a carrier that is breathable or made of breathable fabric.
In dry climates, DO wet baby's garments to assist in cooling.
As always with babywearing, use your best judgment! If the wearer or the baby are too hot, take the baby out of the carrier and cool down.

-Water- For those of you who intend to take baby swimming, hold your (sea)horses! You can definitely enjoy the pool or the lake with baby with a few caveats. Front or hip carries only and don't submerge baby, which means don't submerge yourself higher than your waist. If you have a very young infant or newborn, I wouldn't recommend going into the water at all. However, hanging out poolside or beach side to watch your older kiddos swim and splash is perfectly fine. Also, use a carrier that is designed to be submerged in water. Using other types of carriers that have not been tested for water use, especially with prolonged exposure to chlorine, can cause damage to the material, webbing or buckles.

Dress for Success
Dress yourself in light layers with cool, breathable, natural fabrics, like cotton and linen. Dress baby lightly. A single onesie is probably sufficient. You may also want to have a light muslin cloth diaper or burp rag to lay across your chest. That precious sleeping baby face on your bosom gets sweaty and sticky fast!

VBE Whitney rests in the shade with her newborn in a mesh ring sling

Overheating

Despite our best efforts to avoid it, our little ones can still be at risk for overheating. Know the signs of heatstroke and seek medical attention immediately. Don't second guess yourself. The consequences of being wrong and calling an ambulance are embarrassment but the consequences of being right and not calling for help could be deadly. If you think you or your baby are getting too warm, seek shade or, preferably, an indoor area with air conditioning. Remove baby from the carrier and pat down skin with a cool, damp cloth. If baby is simply overheated and not in heat stroke, make sure you and baby drink plenty of cool fluids (or milk for babies younger than 4 months) and then take the rest of the day off from outdoor adventures.

Infographic: Watch out for Heat Stroke
A child's body surface area makes up a much greater proportion of his overall weight than an adult's, which means children face a much greater risk of dehydration and heat-related illness. Risk factors include prolonged exposure to high temperatures, direct sun, and high humidity, without sufficient rest and fluids. Watch out for these warning signs for heat related illness in your infants and children:
Early signs of dehydration include fatigue, thirst, dry lips and tongue, lack of energy, and feeling overheated.
Heat cramps: Painful cramps of the abdominal muscles, arms, or legs.
Heat exhaustion: Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness, muscle pain, and sometimes unconsciousness.
Heat stroke: A temperature of 104 F or higher and severe symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, seizures, disorientation or delirium, lack of sweating, shortness of breath, unconsciousness, and coma.
Wear a Cool Carrier
And, probably the information you really wanted to know, what carriers are good for the summer heat. One important thing I want to note first is that you really don't need to run out and buy the latest xyz mesh, fancy fiber blend carrier for the summer. Even the meshiest, linen-iest baby carrier will still be warm. You will still have to take breaks. You still must follow the safety tips listed above. However, if you're in the market and you are looking specifically for something to beat the heat, read on!

Infographic: Choosing a Summer Carrier
Choosing a summer carrier. There is no magical blend that keeps you cool in summer, but these can keep you comfortable. Linen, wool, tencel, repreve, bamboo, mesh. 
Linen is strong, breathable and naturally moisture wicking. Linen wraps take a bit of effort to break in, but are perfect for summer. 
Wool is not just for winter! Wool will keep you cool in hot, sticky weather. It controls odor and is great at absorbing and evaporating moisture. 
Tencel is a sustainable fabric made from wood cellulose that keeps you noticeably cooler during summer heat waves. 
Repreve is made from recycled materials and gives you great breathability and temperature regulation along with wool-like bounce and cush. A super soft fiber, bamboo is breathable, insulating, and moisture wicking. 
Polyester mesh panels are used in a variety of soft structured carriers to provide a cooler babywearing experience. 
The more fabric you have the less airflow you'll experience. Ring slings, meh dais, buckle carriers with mesh panels, and single layer carries in an airy woven wrap are all ideal choices for hot weather babywearing. You can continue to babywear as you cool off pool side with a lightweight, quick drying water carrier! Water carriers can be found in a variety of styles, including full buckle SSCs, ring slings, wraps, and meh dais. Exercise caution with mesh wraps and ring slings as they are unsupportive and slippery when dry.

Wraps

If you are a wrapper, there are plenty of options for you. Lightweight wraps (such as Wrapsody, Elleville, Ellaroo, Soul) work best. You can also look for fibers that are better for hot and humid weather such as cotton, linen, hemp, wool (you read that right-wool), tencel, repreve, bamboo or any blend thereof.
VBE Rachel in in a double hammock with the library's Wrapsody Breeze gauze wrap
Image description: A light skinned woman with glasses wearing a blonde light skinned toddler on her back in a blue and orange graduated wrap. 
Single layer carries in longer wraps such as kangaroo and front wrap cross carry (FWCC) tied under bum (TUB) or tied at shoulder (TAS) are the best because there are fewer layers of fabric spreading over you and baby. This is also the time to bust out those shorties because less fabric, means less heat. Some carries to try are: semi front wrap cross carry (SFWCC), Robins hip carry (RHC), traditional sling carry (TSC), torso carry, and ruck TUB. If you need the support of multiple passes, choose carries that don't have a spread chest pass and opt for bunched passes rather than spread reinforced passes. Some examples include: double sling shoulder to shoulder (DSS2S), torso wrap cross carry and back wrap cross carry (BWCC).

VBE Rachel and Baby K staying cool in a FWCC in the Wrapsody Breeze
Image Description: Close up of a light skinned woman wearing a blond light skinned toddler on her front in a blue to orange graduated wrap. The mother's face is out of the frame.

Ring slings & Pouches
These all star carriers are awesome for hot weather because a)they are single layer b)have less material, and c)often come in lightweight materials like mesh and linen for the summer.  Soul Slings offer linen carriers in not only ring slings but meh dais, wraps and buckle carriers.

Meh dai / bei dai are another generally good carrier for warm weather because the open sides of the panel allow air to circulate between your bodies. If you opt for a meh dai without padding or wide wrap straps, there is significantly less fabric to weigh you down than the average structured buckle carrier. Canvas or linen meh dais are even better.
VBE Courtney stays cool in a linen meh dai while marching in a parade
Image description: A light skinned woman wearing sunglasses and a festive hat wearing a light skinned toddler boy on her back in a gray and green meh dai

Buckle carriers are a popular choice for many wearers, and most major brands these days offer a model with a mesh panel to allow for more breathability in the heat. It is important to note that these mesh carriers are designed to make the wearee more comfortable and less hot. You, the wearer, will still be roasting. It is also important to note that in some climates there may be no major discernible difference in coolness between a mesh carrier and a standard canvas carrier, and the mesh material may actually irritate sensitive skin. It is always possible to check out what seasonal carriers are in your local lending library that will suit your needs and borrow rather than purchase.

VBE, Whitney, demonstrated proper UV protection while babywearing
Image Description: Side view of a light skinned woman with short hair
wearing sunglasses with a young light skinned toddler on her back in a
buckle carrier with a wide brim white hat.
Popular ergonomic carrier brands that offer a sport or mesh variety are: Lillebaby, Ergo, Tula, Becco, Chimparoo, Bjorn, Onya and Jublii. For those of you sporting toddlers, there are toddler sized carriers that come in mesh varieties as well. Lillebaby Carry-on, Tula and Becco all have a toddler sized mesh carrier. It should also be noted that if you have a toddler you don't need a toddler sized carrier either. If you and your two year old are comfortable in your standard Tula or Becco, keep cool and carry on!

Another  nifty newcomer to the U.S. market are hip seat carriers. Hip seats, like MiaMily and Lillebaby SeatMe, are basically a buckle carrier seat with or without a removable panel. The ability to remove this panel makes them a great option for older babies and toddlers who still need to go up intermittently, but can go without the back panel support. The hip seat is still more ergonomic than in arms holding and your back will probably thank you later after a day at the zoo. Even if you leave the panel on, hip seats are great because the seat allows for baby's rear to sit with a space in between your bodies, which means better air circulation and more comfort in the heat.

Avoid stretchy wraps like Moby and Boba. Jersey fabric is amazing for those little squishes but jersey just doesn't breathe well. Furthermore, the multi-pass carries required to secure a stretchy wrap will just add more layers to make you even hotter. You will be sweating buckets. If you have a summer newborn and love the cuddly softness of stretchies there are a few less hot (i.e. not cool) options available such as the K'tan Breeze, Huggaloops, Moby Evolution, Solly wrap and Happy Baby wraps. Solly wraps are made with a fine modal cotton and are very sought after due to their lightweight feel. Happy Baby wraps are similarly lightweight and made with breathable bamboo/cotton blend. Wrapsody Hybrid is another popular choice for its one way stretch and breathability. Bonus, this is one of the only stretchy wraps on the market you can do a back carry in.

Finally, for you pool loungers or lake goers, there are carriers that are designed to go into the water.
Popular options are mesh ring slings, mesh wraps, Wrapsody DUO (made with repreve), Buboose Aqua (a meh dai), Bitty Bean buckle carrier, Connecta Solar, or Kokadi aqua. Your cheapest option is probably a mesh ring sling or wrap which is also probably the easiest to DIY. We do have a mesh water sling in the lending library for members to check out.
VBE, Whitney cooling off in the water in a mesh ring sling
Image description: A light skinned woman wearing a swim suit, standing in a natural body of water up to her shins
wearing a light skinned infant with a pink floral floppy hat in a navy blue mesh sling

Please know that this blog post is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all carriers that fit into these categories. Furthermore, mention of any specific carrier should not be considered an endorsement of that brand or carrier by the author or Babywearing International of Wichita. There are so many options available on the market that there is no possible way I could have listed every one of them here. This list is meant mainly to highlight certain features to look for, safety and give you some ideas on where to start looking. The first place I recommend you start looking is in our lending library at our next meeting!

Until then, enjoy the sunshine and have a safe, happy Fourth of July!

Many thanks to the folx in Babywearing 102 for their invaluable compilation of resources and information, which can be found here: Wearing in Hot Weather Tips thread by Babywearing 102 Facebook Group.

Article Round Up
Below is a list of links from our sister BWI chapters around the country with their tips and tricks for summer and warm weather babywearing:

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