Q: How do you recommend keeping a young baby warm when starting EC in a cold winter climate? My baby is now 11 weeks old, and I use cloth diapers with her and cue her when she goes in them these days. I’ve been using baby legs and socks on her feet, but that still leaves an exposed area between the thighs and diaper, which makes her cold in my chilly home. Most baby clothes are onesies with too many snaps or zippers to be practical for frequent diaper checks and removals. I’m considering sewing a long fleece dress to cover the gap down to the baby legs (and maybe down to her toes), but that’s not practical to use in a Moby Wrap/Ergo where her legs split open, and a ring sling hurts my back. Thanks for any advice you have to help keep my baby warm while I EC. ~Anonymous, Ithaca, NY, USA
A: Hey Mama,
This is a great, and timely, question!
Thanks also to JM in Australia and Christine Dashiell of Corvallis, OR, USA, for their similar questions – parts of which are included below as well.
Now on to providing a clear answer….
My midwives taught me to always look at what I’m wearing at home or outside and to put one extra layer of clothing on a very young infant.
It’s also a good idea to spend a few extra bucks each month to keep the house warm and cozy.
Prepare yourself for indoor or outdoor cold weather EC by gathering the right easy-on and easy-off clothing (which I’ll get into below).
And remember, you don’t need to wait out the winter to begin ECing your baby. You can do it in the cold weather (Eskimos do – they keep the igloo warm and toss the pee out the door!).
Materials to use for cold weather pottying
Just like adults, adding wool and fleece articles of clothing in the colder months helps us keep snug. Add the same to baby’s wardrobe.
Syncronistically, for EC it’s also nice to have some water-repellant yet leak-proof materials (also wool and fleece).
Elastic topped pants are a wonderful help if you’re slipping them on and off.
And, lastly, if you’re wrapping your naked baby in a blanket or soft towel, choose something soft and liquid repellant like Merino wool or fleece.
Styles of clothing that make cold weather ECing easier (to make or purchase)
The highest on this list would be split crotch pants and chaps sets. You can make em or buy em.
Put your existing cloth diaper stash (or even disposables) to use OVER the above pants options to make ECing really easy…and warm.
How to use them? More below in the layering section.
Styles to stay away from
For ECing, you’ll want to stay away from snappis, onesies, clothing that’s cute but not practical, tights, and one piece leggings (unless you cut the crotch out of them!).
Reason is that usually it’s more difficult to remove these types of clothing.
However, if they work fine for you, then go ahead and use em!
Here’s an example of how to layer your baby’s clothing
2. Put some split crotch or chaps pants over these (I suggest chaps because they have a wider opening and will keep the pants very dry). (I also just did #3 below and put footed elastic topped pants on top of the diaper back-up…your choice!)
3. Over the bottoms, fold a cloth prefold diaper into thirds or in half and either (a) put a diaper cover over this, or (b) hold the prefold in place with a wool or fleece diaper belt. (Grab some biodegradable diapers here.)
4. Dress your baby warmly up top with a long tshirt, gown, tiny sweater, whatever you feel is best.
5. Don’t forget the hat! Babies lose 80% of their heat thru their heads.
6. Keep baby close in the baby carrier when you’re out and about, or even in a cold home! Your body heat will do its work to keep baby very warm.
See my Gear page for my favorites of all the above items.
Don’t forget the hat
Babies are hardier than we seem to know or believe. If you have a hat on your baby, he will retain more heat no matter what the clothing set-up is (even through a short potty break).
Remember the hat and conserve 80% of her heat!
Don’t forget the potty cozy
Heating the home
It’s really worth it, for you and your baby, to keep your home warmer than you would if you didn’t have her sweet self in there with you.
Turn it on, temporarily, or get a space heater to help you all relax, play better, sleep better, and potty better during this fleeting, short-lived stage of “babyhood.”
How much lead time do you need to get baby undressed and to the potty?
If you tell your baby to “wait” while you remove her clothing, she’ll hold it. Even at 4 weeks’ age.
Usually, with a 4 week old you’ve got about 30 seconds, with a 4 month old more like a minute, and with a 9 month old, you’ve got about 90 seconds.
As they age, you get more lead time!
But don’t underestimate their ability to control their sphincter muscles…they ARE born with that ability, no matter what doctors and pediatricians say.
My #1 proof for that is that my own son started holding his pee at 2 weeks old. Not for too long, but long *enough.*
When out and about – dressing for and pottying in the Great Outdoors
When we were out in nature during cold months (even all night camping in 40 degree weather!), we used either the looser footie pants over layers of socks and legwarmers or a split-crotch/chaps style pant with the diaper and cover over that, plus plenty of clothing up top, hats, and even little leather Bobux shoes.
See layering above for those options and choose whichever works BEST for you.
If you must potty in nature when it’s cold, use the Squatting while Holding Baby in Classic EC Position. Your baby will be shielded from the wind by your thighs!
Also, use the potty in the car or use public restrooms when possible. Your baby will thank you for the extra warmth.
Again, you can check out all the gear and great sources for it (mostly WAHMs like myself) here on my Elimination Communication Gear page.
Thanks for the questions, ladies!
Please post any helpful tips in the comments below.
Thanks so much! xx Andrea
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)