It’s winter. For many people, winter can be a difficult season. When the cold comes, the temptation is to curl up inside and cocoon, and indeed, when it’s blustery and blizzardy, that’s a great thing to do.
But all that cocooning can contribute to a feeling of being cut off from the world, and a sense of isolation, especially if you have a baby or young children. And that sense of isolation can contribute to feeling depressed and lonely. And the more depressed and lonely you feel, the less energy you have to go outside, and the less you go outside, the more isolated you feel, and on and on it goes.
So for many reasons it’s important to head outdoors, even in the cold, and even if it takes forever to get your little ones dressed. Most mothers find that getting outside in the fresh air, walking a bit, and getting some exercise works wonders for their mood. And the better your mood is, the easier it is to handle the stresses of parenting.
Of course it is extremely important to take your little ones outside in a way that keeps them safe and warm. First of all you need to have good, safe non-slip footwear so you are steady on your feet. Be sure you are warm enough to be comfortable yourself.
In terms of keeping your baby warm, here are some suggestions:
• If you are active and moving with your baby in the cold, you must remember that while you are getting warmer by the minute as you move along, your baby is actually stationary and being propelled through space (albeit in a carrier or stroller). He or she is therefore getting colder as you get warmer. So it is essential that you dress your baby with this in mind.
• As with adults, layering is the most effective warmth preserver for babies. The number of layers you need depends, of course, on how cold it is. Use your common sense.
Here is a layering system used by many active parents who spend lots of time outdoors:
1) Begin with a base layer such as merino wool. Your base layer should included tops, bottoms, socks, mittens and a balaclava-type head piece. Wool has many wonderful features that naturally keep babies warm and comfortable.
2) Follow with a one-piece footed sleeper.
3) Follow with either a fleece layer (bunting bags are great) or a layered waterproof snowsuit.
4) If you use a fleece layer, follow with a windproof, seam sealed, waterproof outer shell.
5) Down is a great outer layer, but it is water repellent, not waterproof.
6) Keep your baby’s hands and feet extra warm. For hands, have a base layer mitt followed by a waterproof, fingerless mitt or snowsuit hand cover.
7) For warm feet, a favourite combination is wool socks, followed by wool slippers followed by shelled, waterproof, windproof booties.
8) Top your baby off with a warm waterproof hat or the hood of a one-piece snowsuit. Remember to have that close fitting base layer hat or balaclava under this layer.
Sounds kind of complex, but once you get used to layering your baby you will find the combinations of layers that work for each temperature and condition. When you are out in the cold with your baby be sure to check regularly to see if his or her extremities are still warm. They can’t tell you if they are cold. It’s up to you to make sure they are okay!
Fresh air and exercise are wonderful for everyone, Most babies delight in being outside. Parents who take their babies outdoors with them in the winter have wonderful memories of smiles, giggles and squeals of delight. With the right attention to safety and warmth you too can build those memories for your family, and prevent those sad, lonely, isolated cold weather feelings.
Judy Banfield has a master’s degree in early childhood education, is an internationally certified lactation consultant, and is the owner of downtown Nelson’s Mountain Baby