Last week I took my toddler camping. It wasn’t the first time. We love camping, hiking, and all things summer-outdoorsy. We always take S with us, and he does very well. This time, it was a little more intense. We didn’t just go for an overnight jaunt in the backyard. Oh, no. We returned for three nights to my hubby’s favorite annual childhood camping destination: The St. Joe River in Idaho. I love this place. It’s a gorgeous, secluded corner of serenity in the mountains. Pictures cannot possibly do it justice. It’s a magical spot. The kind of place that makes you forget you even own a smart phone (except for that handy camera feature).
The only downside: It took 5 hours in the car. Did I mention we took our toddler with us? Yeah, the drive was a bit rough. But considering the circumstances, he did very well. We stopped once for lunch (during which he ate nothing, but ran nonstop for 20 minutes), and once for gas. All in all, S took about a 30-minute nap (Oh baby days, sometimes I sure miss you!). Why did I agree to this? By the time we arrived at our campsite, we were all a bit crabby.
Until we stepped out of the car.
Oh yeah, that’s why. We were at least 15 minutes from the nearest “town,” with direct river access that drowned out the few neighbors nearby, and mountains on both sides. Let the relaxing begin! Now, anyone who has ever taken small children on vacation knows that it’s not usually much of a vacation for the parents. It’s a lot of work. Camping can be especially difficult because of the inherent dangers that come with fire, water access, and wandering off. But I was surprised by how well this specific site helped contain the children. It had a large grassy area, a separate beach with direct water access, and an excellent swimming area (Plus, there was a statewide fire ban). We hung out with family all day, dipped in the river to cool down, and fished periodically.
I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way it was that easy. Well, okay, there was one little challenge. The challenge I expect every time we go camping: Naptime. You know, that sacred slice of coveted peace when a child can recharge and become (somewhat) human again. When a mother can actually take her eyes off of her toddler for a few minutes and do something for herself (or just do nothing). Kids never seem to nap normally when you are away from home (and routines), and when the surroundings are exciting and boiling hot, there is little hope for rest unless you have a backup plan.
For us, it's babywearing. We are diligent to take a carrier with us wherever we go. Sorry, did I say a carrier? Usually it’s a couple. For camping, we always take a soft-structured (buckle) carrier for hiking and quick ups. If we will have water access, the mesh ring sling gets thrown in. And since we are a wrapping family, we like to have a wrap for comfy snuggles and versatile carries, but as I only have a couple of them, I’m not exactly anxious to drag them through the dirt. So we invested in a “beater” wrap. In this case, we got ourselves a used Inda Jani. Budget-friendly, cushy on the shoulders, and strong enough to carry a horse (or so I was told by the friend that sold it to me), it was definitely worth a try.
You guys. This wrap is a workhorse. I wrapped my 27-lb. toddler on my front and walked around for 45 minutes in a feeble attempt to put him to sleep, and my back & shoulders had no complaints afterward. Sure, it was a bit hot, but considering that the thermometer read 103°F, any babywearing comes with a bit of sweat. It was surprisingly breathable despite its blankety texture. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about pulls and stains. (And actually, it still doesn’t have any!)
Pro: Babywearing almost always makes S happy. He stopped fussing and instantly relaxed against my chest. Ahh, snuggles.
Con: He didn’t sleep. Not a wink. Alas, the nap strike continued.
That’s when I decided to introduce him to kayaking. Since I had a baby, I’ve only taken my kayak out once or twice, and I was eager to take advantage of our prime water access. Sure, Grandma and Grandpa would have been happy to watch S, but I was certain our little fish would love the boat. I was right. He was mesmerized by the quiet ripples emanating from the bow, the towering rocks cliffs, and duck parades quacking alongside us. He sat still between my legs and even “helped” paddle. And apparently, kayaking is even more relaxing for him than it is for me, because before long I realized he was fast asleep! *Fist pump*
In fact, I took him on 4 long kayak rides over the course of our stay: Once I forgot to bring his pacifier, and the other three times he slept. *Lightbulb* I think we discovered our miracle nap inducer! I get exercise and cuddles, and S gets a nap complete with natural white noise.
Once we found a way to get him a little bit of rest, we were really able to enjoy our surroundings even more. Of course we continued to babywear, but more for fun and walks than for sleep. The water sling was pulled out once or twice, but since our swimming area was very shallow, S was happier sitting in the water throwing rocks (and honestly, who wouldn’t be?). We hiked up the creek utilizing the Tula, which allowed for a few quick ups as we got in and out of the car at new fishing holes. When my hubby found a particularly promising hole, I buckled S on my back and hiked on the trails.
The rest of the days we relaxed, read books, and played. After S went to bed, we spent our evenings under the stars, spotting meteors accompanied by the deafening chorus of frogs. It was another fantastic reminder of just how simply we can live, and the need to cherish these moments as our family grows and changes so quickly.
Our vacation, like most, was quite a bit of work for this mama. The extremely long car ride there and back, sweltering heat, nap strikes, and wrangling a rambunctious toddler made for weary evenings. But sitting beside the babbling river watching blue heron glide through the trees, snuggling my rapidly growing boy, counting shooting stars like children, and drinking in the richness of our surroundings rejuvenated my soul. Yes, trips like this are tough and tiring, but they are also refreshingly joyful.
Just like motherhood. My hands are full, but so is my heart.
Unless I’m babywearing. Then my hands are free!
What adventures do you take your carriers on? Share below!
As with any new carry, practice with a doll, over a bed, or use a spotter until you feel comfortable. Always follow basic safety precautions.
A hip carry in a woven wrap is a great way to do quick ups with a mid-length or short wrap, but can also be done with a long wrap. With fabric on one shoulder and baby on the opposite hip, this can be another way to stay cooler while babywearing in hot weather. Many babies who want to “see the world” are happier on the hip than they are worn in front. When you begin naturally carrying baby on your hip (or when he/she has sufficient head and trunk control), it is a good time to try out a quick hip carry. Two popular ones are Poppins Carry and Robin's Hip Carry.
Like so many others, you probably get these two confused, and you may be wondering, What’s the difference? Actually, these carries are almost identical, with one major difference. Robin’s has two layers of fabric over your shoulder, while Poppins spreads two layers over baby. Both of these carries can be partially pre-tied, or wrapped around your baby; and both can be used for hip or tummy-to-tummy positioning. So let’s break them down. Ready?
Poppins Hip Carry
Begin by choosing which shoulder you would like your wrap to sit on (baby will sit on the opposite hip). Bring the wrap over your shoulder, leaving enough tail hanging in front of you to reach about mid-thigh. To keep this tail tight and out of the way, you can tuck it in between your legs from behind.
Spread the wrap across your back, bringing it to your opposite hip. Make sure there are no twists or bunches. Then spread the wrap across your belly and UNDER the tail coming down from your shoulder. Now you have a pouch to put your baby in.
Hold your baby in a high burp hold on your shoulder, and slide him feet first into the pouch. Reach between you and baby and pull the bottom rail up, scooping the fabric up to baby’s knees in a hammock-like seat. Spread the top rail up to baby’s shoulder blades or the base of the neck.
Keeping the shoulder pass tucked between your legs, take the tail that made baby’s pouch and pull out any slack on baby’s body. Spread the fabric back OVER the shoulder pass so that it folds back onto itself. You should now have two layers of fabric over your baby. This tail can go over or under baby’s leg (if you go over, be sure it sits at the knee, allowing baby full range of motion).
Lastly, pick up both tails and tie them in back with a secure double knot. Make any final adjustments and spread the wrap to cap your shoulder for comfort.
Watch on YouTube here.
Robin’s Hip Carry
Robin’s will begin the same way as Poppins. Start with the wrap over one shoulder, but this time allow more fabric to hang in front of you, with enough tail hanging down to the floor (or begin with the middle marker on top of your shoulder). Tuck the tail hanging in front of you between your legs to work with the rest of the fabric.
Spreading the wrap evenly across your back, bring it around to the opposite hip. Spread it across your belly. Here is the key difference between these two carries. Cross it OVER the shoulder pass. Place it high enough to sit at corsage level (about where your rings would sit in a ring sling).
Untuck the shoulder pass from between your legs and flip it back up over your shoulder, making sure it is spread evenly and not twisted. Tuck it in between your legs from behind. This should have pinned the other tail, creating a pouch for baby.
Slide your baby into the pouch, drawing up the bottom rail to create a knee-to-knee seat, and spreading the top rail up to the shoulder blades. Tighten any slack out of the fabric by pulling gently on the tail hanging down in front of you. Bring it straight down over baby’s knee.
Reach behind with your other hand and grab the tail behind you that doubled back over your shoulder. Spread it across your back to your hip and pass it (bunched) over baby’s knee. Tie both tails under baby’s bum with a secure double knot. Make any final adjustments and spread the wrap to cap your shoulder for comfort.
Watch on YouTube here.
Pick Your Favorite
Hip carries rock! Once you have it down, you’ll have a quick and easy carry you can use at a moment’s notice. So try them both, find which one is your favorite, and add it (or both) to your arsenal. Happy babywearing!
One of the most common babywearing-related questions people ask me is, “What carriers do you use that aren’t so stinking hot?!” (Or, something like that.) This time of year, the heat is definitely a concern, and rightly so. After all, it’s not just comfort we’re after, but safety for you and your baby. Overheating is certainly a danger to avoid any time of year. So let’s talk about hot-weather babywearing tips.
First, let’s begin with a disclaimer: A certain amount of sweating comes with the territory. Babywearing is, after all, two bodies more or less sandwiched together for a period of time. Even if the thermometer reads below 80°F, it is still likely to be a warm experience. That being said, however, there are certain carriers and carrier types that will allow for more airflow than others. I will do my best to overview these in this post.
Second disclaimer: I am by no means an expert. I am, like anyone, limited by my own experience and research. So please, be aware that the following summary is just that: a summary. Please comment with your own tips and experiences as well.
For the purposes of this post, I will refer to the five basic types of baby carriers: pouches, ring slings, soft-structured carriers, mei tais, and wraps (including stretchy and woven). Of course, within these categories are endless variations, but to be succinct, we’ll keep the categories broad.
*Click here for more detailed descriptions of different carrier types.
Certain carrier types tend to be a bit cooler than others. Although you will find different fabrics and features within each type that lend themselves better to heat, the basic shape and design of some carriers naturally allows for more airflow.
Let’s start with a simple guideline. Less fabric = less heat.
“That’s all great,” you may say, “but I really like my __________ carrier. What choices do I have for a cooler variation?” Let’s face it – many of us have a preferred type of baby carrier toward which we gravitate. In that case, you should know a little bit about fabrics and blends.
Hot Weather Precautions
When babywearing, just like any other activity, remember basic safety precautions. Appropriate clothing, shade, hydration, and limiting time in the heat will keep you and your little one healthy. Be safe and have fun in the sun (or…shade)! Happy Babywearing!
What is your favorite hot weather carrier? What other tips and tricks have you found helpful? Share below!