It can be very frustrating not knowing what clothes to buy your new born in Norway. The weather is so extreme especially in the north. Knowing what will keep your baby warm in Norway is common knowledge passed down from mother to mother, however, being an immigrant on the outside this information is very difficult to get. Hopefully this post will solve all your baby clothing concerns – it will at least give you all the info and tricks of the trade for dressing your baby appropriately for the Norwegian climate.
Layers are what keeps babies warm. It is not very efficient to have just one very thick and weather proof layer on the outside (even though it is cheaper). To keep warm little pockets of air need to be warmed up close to the body – the more layers the more pockets of air, the warmer the body gets. As a general guide babies need three layers of clothing to be warm enough for the outdoors.
First Layer – Undergarments
The basic layer of clothing for a baby is: long sleeve body suit, tights, socks and a cotton cap. A cotton blend is usual, however for colder weather wool is best. Babies lose heat from their heads so it is important they have at least a cotton cap in Winter while indoors. It is necessary to lay the baby on the floor so he can practise developing his strength properly. However the air on the floor is much colder than in the room and the baby will likely need one to two bunny rugs for warmth.
It is also common to lay the baby on a sheep skin with a cotton sheet but make sure it isn’t too spongy or soft as it isn’t good for your baby’s back. As you can see below, Lil Red has three bunny rugs wrapped around him on the floor. He doesn’t have a cotton cap because he is a little too small for them here, but we were very careful as to create a fold of bunny rugs for his head.
Second Layer – Over-clothes
Over-clothes are the normal clothes to wear. These would include shirts, jeans, pants, jumpers, jerseys, dresses etc. However, if your baby will be wearing the outer layer also because you are going out, then it is best to use soft clothing that allows movement such as, tracksuits, knitted suits and cardigans, and fleece.
Wool is also great for the over-clothes. Norwegians use wool not only for warmth but to keep the baby dry. Wool absorbs any extra moisture without making itself cold or damp. Wool is very flexible and breathes. It has always been the standard clothing to wear for the Norwegian winters especially with the traditional snow patterns. In the picture below, Lilu is wearing her traditional wool patterned suit. It is very important to make sure the sleeves are long enough – to the first knuckle of the little finger so there is enough material to tuck into gloves. This suit also has a woollen cap for extra warmth. Some suits come with knitted booties, gloves and socks.
Another woollen garment that can be used with outside layers or for indoors is arm and leg warmers. They are just knitted tubes that slide onto your baby’s arms or legs. They can be crumpled up or spread out. These are great to use to keep your baby warm when he loves kicking his arms and legs out of the blanket.
It is really important to make sure little fingers and toes stay warm. You can get special cotton or knitted mittens for indoor use that will also be good to go under outside gloves. The best mittens are the ones that go half way up the forearm. Farmor just pops socks on our children’s hands – they are just as warm and are also long enough to go up the arm which prevents them coming off. (They also work great as ‘scratch mittens’.)
Third Layer – Outer-clothes
There are at least four types of outer-clothes depending on the weather plus other considerations:
- Summer Weather
Even though temps can reach the mid 30s, Summers in Norway can still be a little chilly. Even on the warmest day it is important to dress your baby appropriately. The picture below was taken in the middle of Summer on a warm and bright day. We were having a break from Saturday shopping so we were hot and just finished our ice creams. Here Lilu is wearing typical attire. Hats are essential for the outdoors. It is not because it is sunny that Lilu is wearing a hat but to keep her head warm. Babies can’t retain warmth as well as adults can because of the surface area ratio. You will also notice that she is wearing one shirt and a long sleeve body suit. She also has stockings on to keep her legs and toes warm. Babies have a bad habit of kicking off their socks so stockings are the preferred option in Norway as they allow the baby freedom to move and they also help the socks (which are put on top of the stockings) stick on better.
- Jacket Weather
This type of weather happens throughout the year but usually during Summer to Autumn (Winter and Spring need something a bit more heavy duty). For warmth knitted jackets a good especially if they have a hood to keep your baby’s head warm. It is important that the jacket isn’t too tight to create those lovely warm air pockets. You also want to make sure the sleeves come down to the baby’s pinky knuckle. Length is always important in jackets for the arms and also the bodice. A jacket that is warm but lifts up as soon as the baby bends over releases the warmth around the lower back and tummy. You want to keep those kidneys nice and cosy.
The other type of light jacket that is essential to have is a wind-breaker. This, of course, stops the chilly wind from getting in. It is good to get a wind-breaker that fastens up the chin and with a hood as well, especially for walks along a Summer beach. For both types of jackets I prefer to get ones with clip buttons. I find that zippers can chafe under the chin. However, button jackets are hard to find.
- Pram Gear
Even during the Midnight Sun it gets cold as the sun is low in the sky. This creates a ‘dusk’ like effect with temps dropping. As you can see in the picture below, Lilu is wearing a thick jacket with a hood and a ‘summer’ knitted beanie. She is also sitting with a doona. An essential item for carriage prams is a pillow and doona. In Norway prams are seen as moving beds and so a duly equipped. They are generally fitted with a lambskin, pillows, sheets, doonas, voksi/woollen bags and blankets.
Another option for a pram is to have a pram bag also known as a Voksi. It is a special bag is just like a mini sleeping bag for your baby. It is a lot easier to use than doonas or blankets as it zips up and also has a hood. The one in the picture was Mooses’ old bag (so they last well) but you can get more modern ones that open out into mats and are re-adjustable so they grow with your baby. Of course, these weren’t originally designed for prams but they certainly make life with a pram easier.
- Cold Weather
With two inner layers on, it is also necessary to put on two outer-layers in cold weather. (I’m talking about cold, cold weather – freezing temps.) As you can see in the picture below, Lilu is wearing a thick woollen jumper suit, a thick knitted beanie and a thick furry coat with a hood, on top of the inner layers. As mentioned before, wool provides the best kind of warmth in Norway. You’ll also notice that Lilu’s hands are covered by the jackets. This is because with her little hands she can’t wear mittens or gloves. You could also use long socks or the arm-warmers. Of course, this type of attire isn’t for playing in the snow (as the baby is too young anyway), it is only for walking from the car to a restaurant or to the shops.
- Driving Suits
These suits are a fantastic way to travel your baby. Whether in the car, in the pram or on a plane the suits make the baby easy to carry without the extra doonas and blankets. They are like a doona suit – a one piece jump-suit that is very warm and moves with the body. For the new-born stage you can get suits that have a bag type base for the legs. I prefer the ones that have zippers so you can turn the bag into legs, like the one below – especially good for putting baby in the car seat. As your baby gets older you need a suit that has a little more ‘play’ strength. The beige suit below has zippers on either side of the torso that go from the ankles to the chest with fasten buttons at the top – this is perfect for easy access. This also prevents zip chafing under the chin. These suits come with hoods for extra warmth. You’ll also notice that we buy our suits a little bigger – this is so the kids can grow into them (saving money) but when they are small its perfect for covering their hands. It’s hard to get gloves on a baby (socks on the hands are much easier) but they generally want quick access to pick up things and eat so we find the ‘turtle’ effect quite handy. You’d also only want to put soft underclothes on your baby so they can move more easily. Even though layers are good for warmth it also restricts movement so the softer the clothes the better. These suits are great for short day trips in the pram, out shopping or at the duck pond. These particular ones aren’t designed for the rain (as your baby shouldn’t be in the rain) but in our future post Parenting in Norway – Children’s Clothes we’ll discuss toddler suits which are more robust for Winter playing.
The Importance of Hats, Socks and Scarves
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keeps your babys’ neck, head and feet warm. (We have already stressed the importance of keeping little hands warm and how to do so above.) There are particular types of clothing that are best suited to keep baby warm in Norway.
- Baby Scarf
Keeping a scarf on a baby can be a losing battle not to mention a chocking hazard. However, there are two types of baby scarves that are perfect and convenient. The first one is a knitted collar. It is just the same as a skivvy neck but without the shirt. Attached to the neck is a chest piece like a knitted bib. This scarf keeps the neck and chest warm just like a real scarf and fits perfectly under any jacket.
Another item that is great for the older baby is a scarf-bib that velcros around your baby’s neck. It hangs just over the chest and shoulders and lays flat against the chest to tuck under a jacket. These baby scarves make up the warmth between the jacket opening and beanie.
- Baby Hats
The three types of hats for warmth in Norway all have three distinct features – they cover from the bottom of the head to above the eyebrows, they all have ear flaps and they all tie on around the chin (so the baby can’t take them off and throw them in a mud-puddle!).
This first cap in a soft cotton ‘under’ cap. It is usually in the first layer of clothing. You normally combine it with something more substantial, especially when going outside, such as a thicker hat or a hood.
The second type of cap is your normal knitted beanie. It is best for them to have no loose fold up brims as this will always fall into your baby’s eyes. We choose beanies with a fixed brim. This gives double warmth especially around the ears and back of the head. This type of cap is great under jump-suit hoods.
The third type of cap is a thick fluffy one – a ‘bear cap’. It has warm fluffy ear flaps that tie under the chin. They can also be tied up on top of the cap when it is warmer. The fluffy fur helps to keep falling snow out of the eyes. They are big enough to fit beanies under but are generally not necessary. These types of caps are typical in the northern areas of Norway like Finnmark.
- Baby Socks
Outer woollen socks are important in Norway. They generally go over the stockings, or cotton socks and are used to walk around the house or with snow shoes. These socks are perfect with gum-boots as they fill in the loose areas making the boots snug. It is important that shoes fit cosily on the feet to prevent injury in slippery or snowy conditions. Indoors these socks can be a little slippery, especially on vinyl floors, but you can buy ones with melted rubber on the bottom to help little feet stick. We’re lucky, all our woollens are hand made by Farmor.
Not Every Day is Cold
With all this ‘warm clothing’ talk you’d think that Norway never last a hot day but it does. For at least a month in the year we have swimming weather (in Tromsø – I’m sure it is longer down South). So there are times when you can dust off your old bathing suit and head to the beach for some rays. Although, I wouldn’t jump in the water too quickly, you might get the coldest fright of your life.