There will always be debate about the best time of year to have a baby. Is it in the depths of winter when you can wrap them up all cozy and stay cuddled together indoors? Or in the sunny days of summer when you can sit on a shady porch while you cradle your newborn and sip iced tea? Whatever time of year you become a new mom, it’s a huge challenge and there’s no magic solution to make it easier. But here’s our take on getting through the summer with a new baby.
How bundled up should your bundle of joy be?
My baby was born in early May, which in our part of the world is normally a really lovely time of year. Spring flowers and sunny days, but not too hot and not too cold. My birthday is two days before my little girl decided to make her entrance into the world and I’ve always loved having celebrations at that time of year when it’s just so lovely being outside. But the year my baby arrived, it was the second hottest May on record in the UK. A heatwave followed for most of June. So, my first two months as a new mum were decidedly sweaty and more than a little bit stressful.
One of the first things I googled after we brought bubs home from the hospital was how to keep a baby cool. The general rule when babies are tiny is that they need one more layer than you would wear. But when it’s baking hot and you’re basically wandering around in your bra and pants, one more layer than that isn’t very much!
During the day we put her in short-sleeved vests (the kind with poppers underneath) or light cotton baby grows. We threw open all the windows in our flat and closed the curtains when the sun was strongest. At night, she was in a Moses basket next to our bed, again usually in a short-sleeved vest or baby grow and covered with a cellular blanket or, when it got really hot, just a large muslin.
We got into the habit of feeling her tummy and back of her neck to see if she was getting too warm or needed extra layers. And, as she’s very fair skinned, we could look out for her cheeks getting rosy as a tell-tale sign. Our baby monitor had a thermometer on it which was so useful as there are great guides online to show you what baby should be wearing according to the temperature in their room. We found these ones from babies.co.uk, babycentre.co.uk and whattoexpect.com helpful. At least with newborns, you’re up all the time in the night when they feed, so you can check on them regularly and change their clothes or bedding if needed.
Going out and about with a summer baby
If I’d had my way, we probably would have stayed inside in the cool with my baby the whole summer. Breast feeding was a real struggle and the thought of having to try and feed my baby in public was bad enough, without the added stress of being out in the sun and getting all hot and sweaty.
But the lure of good coffee and the promise of ice cream and fresh air got me out in the end. We are lucky to live near some lovely parks, so when we first ventured out, we stuck to quiet areas not too far from home, where we could sit in the shade and work out what the hell we were doing without being in the middle of a huge crowd. We also soon figured out which coffee shops had air con, sympathetic staff and good baby changing facilities.
It’s amazing how quickly your priorities change when a baby comes along. Before bubs, if there was such a long stretch of hot weather, me and my partner would definitely have headed to the beach or for a hike in the hills. For us though, in those early months, that proved to be just too much to cope with. But quite a few friends embraced baby wearing early on so they could take baby along for the ride.
Here’s a few things to remember wherever you’re venturing out on hot days with your little one:
- Advice from experts is to keep babies under 6 months out of direct sunlight because their skin is a lot more vulnerable to burning than adults’.
- Dress baby in loose cotton clothing and a wide-brimmed hat and hang out in the shade.
- It’s often advised not to use sunscreen on babies under 6 months – just keep them out of the sun completely. But if that’s not possible, check with a doctor first if you’re concerned and use a special baby sunscreen. Test a little first if possible. My baby came out in a rash from a popular brand, so we had to seek out a sunscreen for sensitive skin. Ultrasun is the one that worked best for her in the end. She clearly has expensive taste!
- When you’re pushing baby in the stroller, use a shade that allows air to circulate.
- If you’re baby wearing, remember the carrier is a layer so you might need to adjust their clothing, so they don’t overheat. This guide from Sheffield Sling Surgery has loads of great summer baby wearing tips.
- If you’re taking baby in the car, try to cool the car down before you put them in. Car seats can get really warm so try no to leave baby in for too long and put a shade (or item of clothing if you don’t have anything else) over the window.
- Keep everyone hydrated – mum and dad included. It’s amazing how many times a big glass of water made me feel better in those early days. If you’re breastfeeding, you don’t need to give baby any extra water, but you might find they want to feed more. If you’re bottle feeding, you can give them little sips of cooled boiled water as well as their usual milk feeds.
Clothes to help keep mama cool
I’m going to be honest, for most of my first few months as a mum I was practically naked. If we were in the house or garden and didn’t have any visitors, the layers came off. It made trying to feed easier and it lessened the laundry – win, win!
I’ve never been that into following fashions, preferring to just go with clothes that make me feel good. So, with a new baby it was actually quite a relief to have an excuse to just dress for comfort. Despite all the nonsense in the media about getting your pre-baby body back, my experience was that no-one expects a new mum to worry that much about how she looks. That said, it’s nice to have a few things in the wardrobe that don’t make you feel either still pregnant or just plain uncomfortable.
- Go for loose summer dresses – with a button front if you’re breast feeding. Wrap dresses are also good.
- Seek out cotton pants, shorts and skirts that are comfy when sitting down and moving around as you’ll be doing a lot of both when carrying, feeding or playing with your baby.
- If you find a top that looks good and is cool and comfy, get it in at least three colors. Keep life as simple as possible.
- Don’t worry if you keep wearing your maternity clothes for a while – stretchy waistbands are your best friends.
- Avoid clothes that will show up stains, because you will definitely get something sticky on you most days. Colorful prints are a good shout to hide the baby puke and milk spills.
- Don’t bother with any clothes that need special care washing or ironing. It will not happen with a newborn and they’ll sit in the bottom of your laundry basket until your kid is 3 years old.
Do you have any tips for surviving the summer with a newborn? Or stories to share about your own experiences? We’d love to hear them.