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If you’re a new mom with zero kids or a few, you could absolutely benefit from the fresh air, especially in winter. My first baby was born in April, and for the entire next year, I took daily walks with a lovely neighbor and her pack of five dogs. We were a sight to behold. Every day we walked three miles, and every day her yellow lab pooped right in the middle of the road about five steps from their property line. I’m not sure if she had a personal vendetta against the guy that lived across the street, but it was predictably horrifying. That first year, I had no idea how to dress that miniature human for the cooler weather. Since she had complete head control, I was able to wear her in a forward-facing position, and zipper us both up into an oversized Carhartt jacket – property of my husband. We looked completely ridiculous, but she was warm and happy, and those walks were a lot of fun.
My second child was born in September, which meant I had a brand-new baby and a toddler for that winter season. There was no zippering her up in a Carhartt, for fear of SIDS and suffocation, and there was no staying inside all winter because the toddler needed to get outside and burn off her cabin fever. It was time to face the music and put together cold weather gear for a tiny little person; and luckily, with enough research, we were able to put together a rather stellar combination that resulted in a very happy baby that first winter. We’ve already addressed how to keep the toddler to five crowd warm in cold weather, but today is all about babies. So everyone is on the same page: we are specifically discussing the pre-walking variety and temperatures between 20oF and 32oF without wind.1 Once they’re mobile, they’re technically toddlers and their insulation needs change.
MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
Arguably one of the most important things you can do when taking a baby out in the cold weather is wearing them on your body. Why? The same reason they hand you a slimy baby the minute it’s born – kangaroo care. This is the act of heat transfer from mother to baby and back. In this case, neither of you will be naked, but the baby’s cheek should rest on your chest. It never ceases to amaze me that a mom’s breasts (whether used for breastfeeding or not), change their temperature to create the ideal temperature for the baby. To achieve this, I always leave my jacket OPEN and put the baby right up against me, with nothing but my shirt between their cheek and my chest. This also leaves the sides of the jacket to block the baby from any wind. While there are many baby-wearing devices on the market, my go-to is an ergobaby.
My ergo has served as my second set of hands for the last six years. They are good from newborn (7lbs) up to a 45-pound toddler/preschooler, though I’ve never actually used them that long. I usually graduate to a stroller around 18 months, depending on the human and how pregnant I am. I have two ergos – the prequel to the Omni Dream and the 360 Cool Air Mesh. When I purchased my ergo six years ago, it was the only baby-wearing device on the market that had been recognized by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute; my feeling is there are multiple on the market now, but I’m too many babies in to make a major switch like that, and my ergos have never done me wrong. Just find something that works for you and is good for baby, and carry on. My first ergo was inward, back and hip only, and it was by far my personal favorite, mostly due to the fabric. The cotton was ultra-soft and wore well, and the straps were all easily adjustable by me, myself and Irene. My kids? 66% of my children preferred the adjustable variety – the 360 Cool Air Mesh. I found the straps a bit more difficult to adjust and **I** never felt as secure with the adjustable hip supports. The mesh variety is great for warm weather and the majority of my babies seemed to love it more than the inward-facing cotton one. Whatever baby-wearing device you decide on, make sure it provides an extra layer and provides some structure.
The first layer is one of the most important. It needs to be made of a high quality, insulating material. It should be soft, moisture wicking and should help baby regulate their body temperature. Babies are abysmal at regulating their own body temperature due to their large surface area to body weight ratio2. For this reason, I turn to either Simply Merino or Woolino wool garments.
Simply Merino is a fantastic company out of Vancouver, Canada. I highly recommend their products and have included them in the cold-weather dressing guide for older kids, as well. Unfortunately, they don’t make footie pants for babies. Woolino does. If you go the Simply Merino route, I typically buy their baby pajamas ($60/pair and usually size up to increase wear time), and then Smartwool socks to address the feet. I keep the socks layer thin (but still wool), as the booties wear are thicker, and nobody wants an overheated baby.
I’ve used and adored Woolino’s footed pants because it is one less thing I need to consider when getting a little human dressed. This also eliminates the need to search for socks before we head out, which is a headache of epic proportions when you factor in multiple children and very small socks. Woolino only makes their footed pants in two sizes: 0-3 months and 6-9 months. I feel as if they run true to size, maybe even a tad large. When I first bought these, I didn’t know how to properly wash wool and they’ve held up for multiple kids, even if they do look a little dingy now. Do yourself a favor and buy wool wash from the jump.
Here’s where it gets a little funky and temperature dependent. If you’re in the 30-40oF range, you can absolutely get away with OPTION A, and the ergo all-weather cover. If you’re in the 20-30oF range, you’ll need to use your best judgement between the two options below.
For this age range, I turn to the Baby Sherpa-Lined One-Piece by Gap. They have made a similar style to this reliably every year since I had my first baby (6 years ago). I know this because I keep getting pregnant and having babies in different seasons, therefore needing different sizes of this same get-up. The outside is a very nice knit material, and the inside is lined with heavy-weight sherpa fleece. Sort of like my favorite Primary hat that was discontinued (womp womp). Once the baby outgrows the Gap one-piece, Primary offers a one-piece as well, though it is not nearly as well insulated as it used to be and should only be used for bigger babies that have clearer comfort signals.
If it’s in the 20-30oF range, you don’t tend to be out in active precipitation (you probably shouldn’t be with an infant), or you only get dry, fluffy powder, a solid option is the L.L. Bean Infant’s Ultralight Down Bunting. If it gets wet, you’ll want to bring the baby in pretty quickly, as the down will start losing its insulating properties. In the event you are using this bunting, I recommend nixing a heavier mid-layer and opting for thin wools only. Another option is using a lighter mid-layer like the Carter’s Kozie or Garanimals Sweatpants, but I don’t fully endorse it, as overheating babies are bad news bears. You know your baby best. So far, this bunting has been through 66% of my kids, through their toddler phase, and has held up well with only minor fading. Additionally, we haven’t had any feather-hemorrhaging issues. Another win? There are built-in rollover mittens and foot warmers, which really eliminates the need for booties or mittens. I have a toddler-sized bunting and have absolutely used this for tiny babies, just watching to make sure nothing ends up around their faces.
TOP / OUTER LAYER
For the water-repellant layer, I use the ergo all-weather cover. Whether you have an ergobaby or not, this is a solid pick. The outer layer is water resistant, with a fleece-lined inner layer. There is a removable, adjustable, and oversized hood that makes for a perfect tent without being on or near baby’s face. The ergo all-weather cover can attach to any structured baby wearing apparatus, so if you’re already using and loving something else, that is totally fine. But if you are already using an ergo, know that it is designed to complement and attach directly to it. The foot area is adjustable, as well, so the cover can be tightened to minimize the air getting in-between parent and baby. Fun bonus: there are fleece lined pockets for parents.
The best hats are those that have a thick sherpa-lined fleece layer interior and a brush-knit exterior. Primary carried this style of hat for many years but has discontinued it. I’m not over it. Reima has a hat that looks like it may fit the bill, but I haven’t tried it out and, therefore, cannot recommend it. I am encouraging all readers to contact primary at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them to bring back the sherpa-lined hat! They claim to forward my requests to the product department each season I call, but the hat still hasn’t made its way back into their product line, yet.
In the outlined configuration, babies shouldn’t need anything for their hands. The hands will be nice and cozy tucked up between their own body and mom. If a mitten-free child bundled in all the ways is still driving you bananas, buy a wool pair of thumbless baby mittens like these or solicit your favorite knitter to make you a pair. Ensure they have a string to go THROUGH THE MIDLAYER, so the baby doesn’t get caught and the mittens don’t get lost.
Alright. Ethically, the NUI Organics Kina booties make my stomach churn. I still recommend them. They’re the best thing I’ve ever found to keep tiny feet warm in cold temperatures. My family has used them for all three babies and I have never – not once – had a case of cold toes in a baby wearing these booties. Ethically, they drive me insane because they’re made of lambskin. That’s all I care to say on this matter. You do what works for your family and try to fix your karma when and where you can. If you find something that doesn’t use lambskin, shoot me an email and I’ll check it out.
As a new mom, dressing the baby in “one extra layer” was confusing and resulted in multiple heat rashes for my first. Nobody told me to periodically check the baby’s neck to determine if the baby was hot or cold and exactly zero people explained the differences in fabrics and how they would impact her. Broad statements regarding proper attire for a baby in any weather are confusing at best and can be harmful at worst. With this guide, you’ll be able to confidently dress your baby for chilly weather and get some much-needed fresh air for you both, setting you up for a lifetime of adventures together!