[UPDATED: December 1, 2012]
Not too long ago we covered How to Choose and Use a Baby Carrier in New York City in our Baby Guide, but now that it’s cold outside, with more frosty weather to come, you'll want to learn how to keep warm and toasty while wearing a baby carrier (since that old maternity coat isn’t going to stretch around a sling for too much longer!).
There are several types of winter cover-ups that can accommodate a baby carrier. Many moms and pops don’t even know such gear exists—and no wonder, it’s not easy to find in New York. Some choices are available here in the city with more selections online, and we even have a couple penny-saving homemade options too; the bottom line is to get the right gear so you and your child can get out and do more together, regardless of the wintry weather.
Babywearing Outerwear Options:
You have three basic options and which one(s) you choose will depend on two key factors: budget and how you like to wear your baby.
Carrier Covers attach to your baby carrier and work with your regular coat. The advantages of this system are: warmth (they cover your baby's whole body), cost (inexpensive), and flexibility (they work with all styles of carriers and can be worn by both mom and dad). But you might not like the way it looks or feels to wear your carrier outside of your coat.
Baby-Wearing Ponchos are really flexible. They go over any carrier, work even for toddlers, and are moderately priced, but they are not as warm as other options since they are open on the bottom and ponchos can be a little awkward sometimes (think poncho fringe in your coffee). Try having a double layer option made for extra warmth (Not as costly as you’d think; my handmade double-layered custom-made reversible poncho cost me $78 and it’s lasted two years and counting).
Babywearing Coats are great for people who want to look good as well as stay warm. These custom coats (and vests) keep you and baby snugly warm inside one warm, fashionable jacket. Many of them are convertible so they work for you with and without baby, which is good because they can be quite costly (though vests cost a bit less, the fully featured coats tend to run between $200 and $350 with some even going beyond that.)
Where to buy baby wearing outerwear in New York City:
821 Park Ave., Manhattan
Offers the greatest variety of babywearing outerwear in NYC by far, including special carrier covers or sacs (Cat Bird, Kowali, and Peekaru Ozone Baby Covers), babywearing vests (Peekaru line, adorable, but not possible to nurse in this one), and babywearing coats (The Mama Jacket from Europe--works front or back-carry, convertible—gorgeous!-- The Psling Puffer Coat, high on style, front carry only, Suse’s Kindercoat and Deluxe Kindercoat, Deluxe works for toddlers, most flexible for all positions of wearing).
204 6th Ave, Brooklyn,
Stop here to try on the Kindercoat. They also carry the Japanese Weekend clothing line which makes the slick looking Mama Coat that comes with both maternity and baby-wearing panels and an optional hat. Front carry only, check ahead for availability of the coat.
PSNY: P-SLING NEW YORK
69 West Houston, Manhattan
They carry their own P-Sing Mama Down Coat (go to website and click on photo of the coat on home page for details)
464 Bergen Street, Brooklyn
They carry the P-Sing Mama Down Coat (see above)
BUY BUY BABY (in Chelsea) also has a wide selection of carries.
THE KOWALLI carrier cover is cute but a bit odd. Like a fleecy tube, basically you guys are wrapped together. It covers a baby well, however toddler feet will dangle out. Mentioned here as it’s widely available in NYC and does indeed count as “outerwear” but you'll probably want to wear another coat on top of it.
Online Babywearing Options Not Available in NYC;
The Mommy's Hug baby carrier cover is more than just a fleecy pocket. It offers a weatherproof outer shell, pockets, and more substantial construction. Very good looking (see New York model).
The M Coat is a convertible Maternity and Mama Coat that becomes a Myself coat post-babywearing. Pretty and looking seriously warm, being insulated with Canadian down. Front carry only.
Monkey Pockets are an exceptional carrier cover standout. Fabulous looks aside, what I first like is that you can order it in all natural fibers—just as you would a carrier itself. Though Polartec Fleece is available, for not a lot more ($10) you can get all-natural wool, washable and lined with soft corduroy, instead. Add any of a variety of nice options—a “peace silk” liner for added warmth or a matching lined hood. Monkey Pockets work with all carriers (they offer an adaptor strap for ring slings and pouches). Here is the best part: the original size works for babies up to 18 months, but the toddler size is 8 inches longer which will probably work out to about 4 years. Awesome.
The Peekaru Soft Shell Carrier Cover Coat (not offered in NYC stores carrying other Peekaru items) is lovely to look at and works for children up to 3 years. Unlike their vests, this coat has a soft waterproof exterior, has no zip-out panels (so no heat lost) and works for front or back carriers. It appears you could nurse in this one to boot. AND it comes big enough for fluffier mamas (not true of many of the skinnier coats out there).
Finland’s Mama Design (look under “clothes” category) offers 3 different (very attractive) baby-wearing coats plus 1 beautifully designed all-wool babywearing poncho, and a very nice babywearing cover. .
The very difficult to find Ergo Carrier Cover (which also fits other popular soft-structured carriers) is still available online.
ETSY: the source of all mom-made wonders, is also a wonderful resource for getting great babywearing outerwear—from ponchos and vests to covers. You can order custom or simply get handmade from one of the standard styles. Remember the double layered option and also keep in mind adjustable openings for nursing and to accommodate bigger toddlers. Ask about removable hoods as well as reversible hoods (if you want to back-carry too). SEARCH TERMS: babywearing poncho and (separately) baby wearing poncho (you’ll get different results), babywearing coat, babywearing jacket, babywearing vest.
Finally, no babywearing outerwear list would be complete without a nod to the very costly-but-amazing Inuit Amauti coats that enjoy near cult-like status among their non-Inuit “converts” nation-wide. You can get them online and sometimes used as well.
Buying (and Selling) Used Babywearing Outerwear:
First, check out the For Sale or Trade forum on NYC’s own Slings in the City. Recent listings of for-sale used items (for a lot less than retail of course!) included a Mama Jacket, a Peekaru Vest, a Kindercoat, and a Mama Poncho.
The Baby Wearer is a national site but you may find local items posted. You can buy used right away once you register, but to sell any items you have to make a lot of posts to show you’re legit so best to sell locally. This site is a FANTASTIC resource for reviews on all babywearing attire including outerwear.
Finally, there are local places with bulletin boards where you can post either babywearing outerwear for sale or items you’re looking to buy used. Real Birth comes to mind as do any nursing boutiques and other sites offering breastfeeding or babywearing classes.
Make Your Own Babywearing Coat or Poncho:
Coat: Adapt a regular (even used) winter jacket or coat into a perfect babywearing one by adding fleece or knit panels. HERE is one way to do it and HERE is another one (using sewn fabric panels).
No-Sew Poncho: fleece poncho tutorial HERE.
Try a local Hands-on Seminar:
MetroMinis Winter Baby-Wearing Class
Learn about some options, try on different styles, let the experts give you a hand!