Keeping Babies Warm in the Winter
This is BY FAR the question I get asked the most- so I figured I had better write a post about how we keep the babies warm in the winter.
Huck was 3 days old, and I was waiting for his pediatrician to walk through the door. Would she think I was terrible and irresponsible when I asked her if I could hike with him? It was January, and cold, and he could barely fit into the newborn clothes I had for him. I mean, can you even hike with babies in the winter? Admittedly, I felt selfish for asking. I couldn’t imagine staying out of the mountains for a whole season, and truthfully winter hiking has always been an effective way to keep my past Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay. But more than anything, I couldn’t wait to share the snowy glittery mountains with my son. I mean, you’re here reading this post- you get it. You take your kids outside in the winter too :-) At the end of his checkup, I finally asked her. "Of course you can hike with your baby!” she said (have I mentioned that I really really really love his pediatrician?). His doctor gave us a few ESSENTIAL guidelines for winter adventure with little ones:
Dress them in 1-2 more layers than you are wearing on any given day since they are not exerting any energy and generating additional heat. And dress them in the same manner you dress yourself (hat, mittens, loose layering system, etc).
Make sure air passages are clear. You’re wearing multiple layers, they’re wearing multiple layers, you need to make sure their face isn’t buried.
Check in frequently to see that everybody is comfortable and alert. Babies can’t really tell us when they get cold. They’ll get fussy, and then become less responsive. That’s what you want to avoid. We typically keep our winter adventures to less than 2 hours, and expect the children to be alert for most of the activity. Talk to and engage with your little one. My newborn will doze off in the pack on my chest, so we frequently check in and make sure she wakes up quickly.
Don’t forget skin/eye protection! Snow is reflective, and babies skin and eyes are so very sensitive.
You guys, I know that investing in kids clothes isn’t cheap. Sure, you could go to Walmart and find some less expensive outerwear that will be totally adequate to build a snowman in the yard- but you won’t be outside for very long. If you want to take your little ones to hike/ski/be comfortable outside for more than 30 mins, you will want to invest in quality gear. For infants, it’s absolutely necessary. Your toddlers/older kids will TELL you if they are cold or ready to go inside, but your infant can’t. Our family is super budget cautious, and I don’t like to encourage anybody to buy something they don’t need. In this circumstance I honestly live by the motto: buy it right, and buy it once. Hand the pieces down through your children, and hand them off to another family that could use them when you are done.
Winter Layers For Newborns/Infants
Your newborn’s needs are going to be a little different than your toddler’s needs. When dressing a newborn, I focus on warm loose layers and clear air passage ways. We’ve tried a number of layering systems for when Huck when he was an infant, but our current set up for Tatum is the best (by that I mean that we can stay outside for longer). I start with a basic footie onesie (choose a synthetic or wool one that wicks moisture in circumstances where she might perspire from being too warm), a wool coverall, mittens and booties, and a down suit. Since she is still so little, we’ve been tucking the arms and legs into the suit (making it more like a bunting). We top everything off with a fleece lined wool hat. On days that I am going to pull Tatum in the chariot we will use a balaclava for extra warmth (it bunches up when she’s in the pack on my chest). If I’m carrying a newborn against my chest, I typically only dress her in one more layer than I am wearing (as my body blocks wind and puts off warmth). If I’m carrying an infant in the pack on my back, I typically dress him in two more layers than I am wearing (as they are more exposed to cold air).
Winter Layers for Toddlers
Your toddler is going to tell you if they are too warm or cold. Or thirsty or hungry or bored haha. The only thing they won’t tell you is if they need a nap. On days that Huck is skiing or hiking himself, I dress him as I dress myself. Well, I personally use non insulated outerwear most days, but always use insulated outerwear for Huck. We start with synthetic or wool base layers (he actually wears this almost everyday at home- it’s comfy and cozy), a wool jacket, insulated/waterproof snow pants with suspenders, insulated/waterproof coat, the BEST MITTENS EVER, thick wool socks, a wool balaclava (on really cold days), a fleece lined wool hat, and some sturdy well fitting snow boots. Last year we used and loved these snow boots, but they didn’t have Huck’s size and we fell in love with his new snow boots (fit snugly and securely, warm, tall, waterproof, not bulky at all).
Keeping it Easy
Keeping track of all the kids gear can be tricky. I made myself a checklist to make sure I have everything before we head out, and I keep all the gear together in a storage bin that I carry out to the car before we head out each time. Because kids can’t wear bulky layers in their car seats, I keep a wool blanket in the back of my car to make getting dressed more comfortable, and usually bring some snacks to distract Huck from feeling cold while I’m dressing him. When we get home, I dry out the clothes and stuff them back in the bin before the next time we head out.
Last year I tested some gear from Reima. They are a company from Finland, where they culturally spend lots of time outside in the winter from a young age. To be honest I had not heard of Reima before last year, and was a little skeptical about how technical all the clothing would be. When we got the gear, everything we used held up well in our local mountains, but I really saw the biggest difference when we took our family to New Hampshire last year. One night when we were outside, it was -25F (with the humidity and wind). I thought we might hike around and see some lights for a few minutes, but Huck was LITERALLY rolling around in the snow and wanted to stay for hours. Huck is not partially stoic (he takes after me- I whine when I’m cold), but he outlasted my husband and I because he was so much warmer than either of us. Huck used to complain when it was less than 10F in his old winter set up, but has been toasty warm every time he’s been out in his new set up. Although Reima is really popular in Europe, it’s just starting to gain more popularity in the US. We’ve gotten most of their gear from their website, but you can also find it at REI and Nordstroms.