As a parent, we never have enough hands to get all the things done. Enter babywearing. Strapping your infant to your body is a fantastic, hands-free way to check some items off your to-do list, but it’s also a very pleasant means for you and your baby to enjoy some much-needed fresh air. So what happens when the seasons change? Wearing your babe requires different prep depending on the time of year, whether you’re bundling up for a trek through the snow or making sure they don’t overheat on a hot summer’s day. To learn more about what to do (and not to do) when it comes to babywearing as the temperatures change, we spoke to Joanna McNeilly, a babywearing trainer and the founder of the Center for Babywearing Studies in New York City. Here are all her tips to help you and your little strap up and get outside safely.

Do have a chat with your pediatrician first. 

Talk to your doctor before you strap on the carrier, says McNeilly, especially when you’ve got a newborn. Babies under four months or with any medical complications can have less neck stability, so there are a few strategies your doctor might recommend when it comes to carrying your baby safely. The key is ensuring that their airway is always clear and their neck and back are evenly supported. Facing your newborn inwards (so you can easily kiss the top of their head) helps you keep an eye on them so you can better monitor their breathing, which is especially important if you’re both bundled up.

Don’t overlook your baby’s age. 

How you wear your kiddo depends on how old they are. If your baby is younger than six months, they’ll be inward-facing in the carrier. Once they hit the half-year mark and older (and have the appropriate neck strength) you can wear them outward-facing or even in a back carrier. As your little one grows, change your babywearing strategy and the layers required based on McNeilly’s advice below. 

Do layer around the two of you. 

A newborn can’t regulate their body temperature in the same way that an older baby can, so the closer they can be to your body the better, says McNeilly. This means that you should aim to have minimal clothing between you and your baby and, if it’s cool out, you can add more warm clothing around both of you. “Create an ecosystem just for the two of you,” suggests McNeilly. For example, you could wear a camisole so you have skin-to-skin contact on your chest and neck area with the baby. Then, you can put on a cardigan and wrap a blanket or a maternity or babywearing coat around you and baby. If it’s warm out, having your infant close to you will also help you recognize if they’re overheating. 

Don’t rush to put them in their own snowsuit. 

Even as your baby gets bigger, you may not want them in their own snowsuit in the chilly fall, winter, or spring seasons because they’re often slippery and slightly too big. This makes it hard to properly place them in the carrier and more challenging to tell your baby’s temperature the longer you’re out, says McNeilly.

Do take precautions in warm weather, too. 

If you’re going for a walk on a toasty day you can try to avoid the sun by going earlier or later. Be sure to cover your baby’s head with a wide-brimmed hat and ensure they are wearing breathable materials like linen or cotton. 

Don’t forget about fingers and toes. 

Protecting your baby’s extremities is extremely important when the weather is cool. That means making sure they have thick socks, warm mittens, and a hat that properly covers their ears. “Try and keep their hands free so the baby can self-regulate,” recommends McNeilly. This way, they can also let you know if they’re stressed or hungry. 

Related: The Best Baby Carriers for Little Ones on the Move

Do look for babywearing gear. 

Many maternity coats can also accommodate babywearing and include side vents under your arms or along the sides of the coat. This ensures that you and your babe are cocooned together for easier monitoring and helps you regulate both of your temperatures as the weather changes. There are also extenders or carrier covers you can put on top of baby to keep them cozy or dry if it’s wet outside. 

Don’t forgo proper footwear. 

What you wear on your feet really matters when it’s icy or wet outside, especially when you’re carrying precious cargo. Opt for supportive waterproof boots with traction or slip-on ice grips depending on your environment. “If you’re heading out into nature, you can even use trekking poles in an area that’s slippery or rocky,” says McNeilly.

Do check the forecast before you head out. 

Is it going to be drizzly, humid, or far below freezing? Tailor your baby’s outfits to the expected forecast and remember that the weather can also change quickly. It could rain in the morning and then turn to snow in the afternoon or vice versa, so pack outfit options accordingly. 

Don’t ignore fussy behavior. 

Sure, they may have had a bad morning nap or be coming up on a meal, but never assume that’s why a baby in a carrier is fussing. “If your baby starts moving differently than before, suddenly they are kicking, maybe crying out a bit, stop, pause, and check on them,” says McNeilly. Put your hands on their torso to get a sense of their temperature and check their hands and feet. If the baby won’t settle or gets very agitated, remove them from the carrier as soon as possible to check how they’re doing and make sure it’s not a temperature issue. 

Do know your limits. 

“Knowing that your pre-pregnancy self and post-pregnancy self may have different limitations that you need to explore is important,” stresses McNeilly. Perhaps before baby you could go for an hour-long walk or stay out all morning. When you’re babywearing and running on a lot less sleep, what you’re capable of doing might have changed. Test out babywearing close to home for the first few times in case it’s too much for either you or baby. “Aim for 30 minutes in the carrier,” says McNeilly. “It’s hard on your body in the beginning of babywearing if you are the birth mother. You’re right in recovery, so ultimately taking small steps means you can eventually go longer.”

Don’t forget to plan ahead. 

Think through where you’re going to feed the baby or put them down for diaper changes while you’re out. If you’re both wearing lots of layers, it’s critical to consider the environment you’re walking to. Does the coffee shop, restaurant, or mall have a decent changing area? The last thing you want to do is to try and change a screaming baby where it’s wet, cold, or uncomfortable. Think through your options to make it a pleasurable experience, says McNeilly. “Practice at home before you go out, because once you’re out in the world and you’re stressed out, you are not going to be as confident to practice the transition in and out of the carrier.” 

Do know when to stick with a stroller. 

“It’s always okay not to babywear,” says McNeilly. “Sometimes it’s better to use a stroller if the circumstances are that it’s really icy or slippery.” And if you know you’ll be out all day and babywearing will physically be too much for both of you, a stroller is always a great alternative no matter what the weather. Plus, you can always do a mix of the two.

Now get out there, you two! The world is your oyster…for the next 30 minutes, at least.

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