As the temperatures climb into the high 90s and the humidity hovers somewhere between “Ugh” and “Oh god I’m drowning in mist”, BWI Gainesville thinks it’s high time for some hot-weather babywearing tips.
Most of these tips are for wearing for extended periods out of doors. If you’re just going in and out of your car, there are some tips at the end of the article for you too.
Tip 1: Embrace Sweat
First of all, it’s hot. It just is. You’re going to sweat. We’re made to do it. We do it for a reason. It’s part of our thermoregulation physiology and it’s really important. Sweat allows our bodies to work with the environment to cool down.
While it’s true that closeness with your infant can help them thermoregulate (as they are actually pretty bad at it on their own) — it’s important to watch your baby for signs of distress. Excessive sweating or panting is not good. Take a break in doors or in the shade. Hopefully, the next tips will keep you both cool while you wear, no pit stops required. But it is important to listen to your bodies and use your best judgement.
If your baby is so young that you are seriously concerned about infant heat stroke, you yourself are probably also not ready to be out in this weather for extended periods of time either.
If your child or infant seems dizzy, confused, complains of headache or nausea, vomits, is breathing rapidly, passes out, or has a seizure, seek medical attention immediately.
Tip 2: Time Management
In the height of Florida Summer, it’s really not appropriate to be outside for extended periods of time between noon and 5 pm. These are the worst hours for heat illness. If you must be out at these times please be extra cautious and don’t skimp on any protective measures listed below.
Tip 3: Stay Hydrated
Never forget drinking water for yourself, or your child (if no longer exclusively milk-fed). Freezing a water bottle or loading one with ice can be helpful to keep everyone cool, and to ration the water out so you don’t exhaust your water too rapidly. If you’re only going out for a few hours, a single bottle per adult may suffice. If you’re going to be out all day, you may want to bring more, or if you are really into day-hiking, bring a water filter or tablets.
Consider bringing a spray-bottle to spritz yourself or your child if you don’t think your sweat is cutting it.
Tip 4: Choosing a Carrier
If you are lucky enough to be able to have more than one carrier, choose something more hot-weather friendly for long outings.
There are many carriers specifically marketed for hot weather or “sport” use. Some of these are actually tested for water immersion, some are not. It’s important to read your manuals and check that you are using the carrier in the manner intented. Many soft structured carriers and even some stretchy carriers sport athletic mesh or knit fabrics and panels. Some people find that these can actually aggravate skin in humid conditions as they contribute to chaffing. It’s important to find the carrier that is most comfortable for your family despite marketed carrier features. For those that find the athletic meshes irritating, a simple canvas bodied carrier is actually quite comfortable, even in the heat.
For wraps and ring slings, thin, airy but supportive weaves, naturally porous fibers like linen or hemp, or even synthetic blends like Repreve are popular hot weather choices. Choosing less wrap and a carry with less torso coverage is also helpful. I like Kangaroo or Front Wrap Cross Carry Tied at Shoulder for front carries, and Ruck with Candy Cane Chest Belt, Short Knotless Double Hammock, or Double Rebozo Shoulder to Shoulder for hot weather carries.
But if you don’t have a choice in carrier, the truth is it’s so very hot here, very little difference can even be felt with any of these options. They all really rely on a nice breeze to make a big difference in comfort. And sometimes “stiflingly smotherific” is Florida’s middle name.
Tip 5: Sun Protection
It’s the Sunshine State folks! Everyone should be wearing sunscreen. Mineral-based sunscreens which do not contain the ingredient Avobenzene or Parsol 1789 are the best choice if you want to avoid staining your carrier. I prefer Badger Balm Baby Sunscreen. I even use it on myself. No joke, I feel like a resplendent anti-uv unicorn when I wear it. I even feel like it keeps me cooler!
HATS! Okay so I’m not going to pretend like I’ve gotten my child to wear a hat. But you can wear a hat! I like a big wide brim sun hat. Occasionally it seems to encourage my kid to wear hers too. But usually she just wants to wear mine. And throw it on the ground.
Parasols! Okay, giant umbrellas. Whatever. This is how I defeat my hat chucker. With a big, giant, UV repellent umbrella. I can be seen holding one at awkward angles, trying both to get maximum shadow coverage and keep my kid from stealing it and attacking passing bicyclists out on the trails.
Never underestimate the power of strategic pathfinding. By this I mean it is sometimes better to meander from shade to shade than to walk in a straight line. Pretend you are a shield agent, and the sun is Hydra.
Need bug spray? You’re darn right you do! Badger actually makes a combination sunscreen and bug repellant. Other bug repellents that use citronella and lemongrass as the primary ingredients may also be good choices to avoid staining your carriers. But one of the best assurances is to apply your protection 15-30 minutes before wrapping (or buckling) up.
Tip 6: Myths about those cooling towel things
A common recommendation for staying cool is to use one of those cooling sport towels. Other recommendations are for ice packs in carrier pockets or even in the passes of your wrap.
There are a few important things you need to know.
First, cooling sport towels only work when wet, turn into cardboard when dry, and are only effective when exposed to the air. Putting one between you and baby isn’t going to help. They can be cut into strips. I recommend getting them wet before you head out and leaving them in a zip-lock bag you store in a pack. Place them on the back of your neck (or your chest if back-carrying), whenever you need a little cool down. They are not recommended for infants, but a supervised toddler or child may benefit from one for a brief period of time. It is important to supervise your child. They should not be eating it, for example. If they seem to be losing their effectiveness, you can reapply water. I don’t recommend leaving them on a child for long periods of time.
The truth is, a damp or frozen washcloth works in much the same way, but the cooling towels are effective for much longer because of how porous the material is.
Second, ice packs can be dangerous. You can get burns from exposure to an ice pack, even one not in direct contact with the skin, if left on for longer than 20 minutes. If you feel the strong need to use an ice pack, consider getting the medical kind that deactivate after 20 minutes, or those cool compresses made out of gel you can get at the drug store. Always protect your skin from them using cloth layers. Instead of freezing them, try just putting them in the refrigerator or cooler so that they work more like cooling packs and less like frozen packs. Do not use on infants.
Why do I keep saying that? Because infants are small. As such, they have a much higher surface area to volume ratio. This is partly responsible for their poorer thermal regulation, their higher resting heart rate, and it’s why we don’t know how much more excessive the heat transfer is when applying cooling materials to their skin.
Airflow is really the best cooling mechanism — it works with your natural physiology (sweat!). So a battery powered fan, paper fan, or just taking a break to let everyone air out, may be the better choice for your family.
Tip 7: The Car (or — the family torture chamber)
The truth is, after a few hours outdoors with your family, by far the most unpleasant experience is going to be returning to your car.
If at all possible, and no matter how far away, park in the shade. Use a sunshade for your windshield. Consider some handy reflective car seat covers for your child restraints. Open all the doors and turn on the car, letting the air run full blast for at least 10 minutes before getting in. Give your kiddos water to drink on the way home. Do NOT give them water that has been sitting in the car. It can get EXTREMELY hot. Water can be hot enough to make tea after as little as 10-20 minutes.
Tip 8: Be Smart – But Enjoy Yourselves
Yes. It’s hot here. It’s miserable here. But it is also beautiful here. And if you follow these tips and do your own research you can enjoy the wilderness with your family safely.