You might have noticed by now that I really like babywearing. Obviously, I do it a lot. But I’m also thinking about it constantly. Is it too wet outside to tie up a mei tai in the parking lot? Should I use the Huggaloops so I can pop her out without removing my coat? Is this the best carrier to do an easy nap-time transfer? Can I nurse in this shirt if she’s in the carrier? MakeMyBellyFit (MMBF) helps me with my winter babywearing dilemmas: Do I need to invest in a babywearing coat? Can we switch wearers mid-hike and not pack extra gear? Can I use my jacket extender with both parts of my three-in-one Columbia coat, even though each part has a different zipper? Can I still keep baby warm if I want to take off my jacket because I’m too hot? The answers, thanks to MMBF, are: Nope, yup, totally and I sure can!
Made in Canada, the BellyFit Jacket Extender by MMBF is designed to zip into any coat (provided that coat has zippers), making it suitable for pregnancy and for babywearing. You have two options when it comes to attaching the extender to your coat.
Firstly, you can use this quiz to determine which zipper adapter you’ll need. (If you’re lucky, your coat may have the exact same zippers as the MMBF, in which case you won’t need one.)
The extender, without adapters attached, looks like this:
Once you zip on the appropriate adapter, your extender can be zipped into your coat. (Note that you would simply use the extender upside down if you wanted to cover your baby bump rather than your baby.)
I used the extender with this light jacket on cooler summer mornings, like this overcast day in July.
As you can see, the extender can be folded down and snapped to fit perfectly around your baby, no matter your coat length. When it gets colder, you can also add an extra polar fleece layer to your extender: it snaps right on! I am a big fan of this feature, since it means the extender is light enough to use in spring and summer but can be made warmer as the temperature drops.
Remember how I said there were two options for attaching your extender? Here’s numéro deux: the Universal Adapter. This winter, I have a new coat. It’s actually two separate coats that zip into each other. I can wear each one on its own, or both of them together. Each of these coats has a different zipper, and both of these zippers are different than the zipper on the green coat shown above. What is a girl to do?! That would mean three different zipper adapters, plus one for when my husband wants to wear our daughter. Well, talk about a revolution. MMBF is slowly rolling out a UNIVERSAL Zipper Adapter, and I got to try it out! Yes, that’s right—an adapter that makes your BellyFit work with any zippered jacket! So far, we’ve used it on three jackets without issue.
How it works:
***UPDATE, 2018: this version of the universal adapter has been discontinued ***
Your coat’s zipper lies in the zipper channel of the adapter, which you snap closed, securing the adapter to either side of your coat.
It can be a bit tricky to put the adapter on the first time. You need to make sure your zipper is sitting perfectly in the channel before snapping each section. I recommend lying your coat out flat on a table and putting it on this way. A hard surface will help with the snapping, and you do need to apply a decent amount of pressure. I initially tried to do it sitting on the sofa with my coat in my lap, which didn’t work well at all. I would not recommend deciding to swap the adapter to a different coat when you’re outside at -10°; this task takes warm fingers and ample dexterity.
Once the Universal Adapter is on properly, it doesn’t budge. You can attach your extender and away you go! (You can also still zip up your coat without the extender on by zipping the sides of the adapter together, which leaves you with a band of solid black at the front of your coat. This is also a way to increase the size of your jacket in early pregnancy!)
Here is how the extender looks when attached to the Universal Adapter:
When we went for a hike to Grassi Lakes in Canmore, we started off with my husband wearing Little Miss Cub with his Patagonia jacket.
Little Miss wore fleece pants and a light, insulated coat. It was about 5° C that day, so with her Papa’s body heat she was plenty warm enough (we didn’t use the extra warmth layer).
We chose the “easy” trail up to Grassi Lakes, which is fortuitous considering that a few metres in, Cub was convinced his legs had stopped working. Papa Wolf trekked on wearing Little Miss while I pretended to see Pokémon for the longest kilometre of my life. When we got to the Grassi Lakes, I knew there was no way I had the mental stamina to coax Cub back down the trail, so it was time to trade kids. Thanks to the universal adapter, I was able to put the extender on my coat! I used the flat surface of a bench to attach the adapter without issue.
We were both the perfect temperature for our hike down the mountain, but I know there are times when I really want to take off my coat but can’t because that would expose Little Miss to the elements. MMBF has designed a carrier cover that you can use in conjunction with your extender. Honestly, when Ben at MMBF explained this to me, I didn’t really understand what he was talking about.
The Carrier-Cover attaches directly to your baby carrier and can be used on its own.
There are toggles on either side so you can cinch the cover up to keep baby’s legs warm.
The Carrier-Cover has snaps that align with those on your BellyFit Extender. To create a perfect seal against cold weather, you can actually snap the extender onto the cover and then zip your jacket up around yourself and baby. This is seen most clearly in MMBF’s demo images:
I’ve got the Carrier-Cover on underneath the extender in this image:
So if I get too hot, I can partially unzip my coat and Little Miss is still covered. I can unzip it completely and remove the extender:
Or I can completely remove my coat! This allows you to keep yourself and baby at just the right temperature without ever having to take off your carrier.
Because the cover attaches to my carrier, I like using it to bring Little Miss out to the car before putting a blanket on her in her car seat. I can also use it to keep her covered in a back carry!
The beauty of using my Columbia coat with its two layers plus the BellyFit Extender with the Carrier-Cover underneath (and, if it’s really cold, the extra warmth layer too) is that I can really regulate my temperature and that of Little Miss Cub’s! We aren’t both trapped under one super heavy coat.
Here I have the extender zipped into my insulated coat and am wearing the shell portion of my coat on top. I’ve also got the Carrier-Cover on. Let’s just say that it would be a long game of strip poker …
Benefits of the BellyFit Extender and Accessories:
- You can customize the warmth of your extender by adding the Extra-Warmth Layer, the Carrier-Cover or both. For those in milder climates, the extender on its own won’t be too warm and would be great even as protection from the rain!
- Compared to a babywearing coat, this is a more affordable option that can be used by multiple wearers (especially with the Universal Adapter).
- Made in Canada! (Canadians know cold, eh!)
Drawbacks of the BellyFit Extender and Accessories:
- I’m not crazy about how the Carrier-Cover attaches to a carrier. I would like to see sturdier, wider straps to give it a snugger, more secure fit. (It attaches using a thin elastic and one snap.)
- I wish either the Carrier-Cover or the Extender had a removable hood for baby.
- I’d like to see them add a neck-warmer accessory, because the wearer’s neck is completely exposed when using the extender.
- As is the case with any coat extender, you are limited to front carries. If you absolutely want a solution that allows you to back carry, you’re looking at a babywearing coat or a sweater. (But you can use the Carrier-Cover in a back carry.)
***UPDATE, 2018: New universal adapter & carrier cover ***
- The Carrier-Cover shown in this post has been discontinued and replaced with the BabyCover.
- The Universal Jacket Extender has been completely redesigned and improved; although I don’t have a post about it, I’m a huge fan of the redesign!
- You can use this quiz to determine if the Universal Jacket Extender will work with your coat or if you should purchase a specific adapter