Crisp, cool days and cosy nights in may be bliss, but if you’ve got a little one, you’ll also be thinking about you can keep them warm enough now that it’s getting chilly. We all know that it’s important to keep babies at the right temperature (whatever the time of year), but come winter, knowing exactly how many layers they need to stay comfortable can get confusing. After all, [baby] it’s cold outside! That’s why we’ve come up with some simple guidelines for parents who may be wondering how best to keep their precious bundles toasty warm all winter long.
Why it’s important to keep your baby warm
In utero, your baby’s temperature is controlled by yours; once born, your little one still needs you to help keep them warm or cool enough. Unlike adults, babies struggle to regulate their temperature. This is especially true during the first two months of life; newborns are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature and rely entirely on the adults around them to wrap them up if they’re cold or remove a layer if they’re too warm – they simply can’t do it for themselves!
At around 8 weeks old, your baby’s thermoregulatory system will have started to develop, but that doesn’t mean that they’re any less fragile in a physiological sense. In fact, they won’t be able to properly control their body temperature until they’re about 9 months old.
Whatever the time of year, babies can lose heat up to four times more quickly than adults and older children. And when they get too cold, infants expend a lot of energy in trying to warm up. If their skin temperature drops by just one degree from the ideal (around 36.4°C), for instance, oxygen use increases by 10%. Babies need to be kept at an optimal temperature to conserve energy whilst building up their reserves.
How can I check whether my baby is too hot or cold?
Since babies usually have poorer circulation than adults, it’s normal for their hands and feet to feel a little cooler; don’t use this as a guide when trying to figure out whether your little one is warm enough. Check their tummies instead; it should feel warm to the touch, but not too hot, clammy or cool. Much of a baby’s development goes on around their core, so blood tends to divert to this area naturally.
Tips for keeping your baby warm in bed during winter
When it’s cold outside, you’ll want to make sure your baby stays warm and cosy – especially whilst they’re in bed. However, it’s important not to let them get too hot whilst they’re asleep. Overheating has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death. There are a few key things to consider if you want to make sure that your baby is sleeping at a comfortable temperature.
- Keep their bedroom at an optimal temperature. During the night, your baby’s room should be between 16 and 20°C (18°C being the ideal); a room thermometer will help you to manage the temperature of your baby’s bedroom.
- Think about where their cot is placed. To stop your baby from overheating, you shouldn’t put their cot next to a heat source (like a radiator or fire). You should also keep it out of direct sunlight; even in winter, heat from the sun can filter through a window. And there’s no need for hot water bottles or electric blankets either!
- Make sure their bedding is comfortably cosy (but not too hot!). Cot bedding shouldn’t be loose; it needs to stay off of your baby’s face so that there’s no chance of suffocation. It’s best to use a fitted cotton sheet that you can tuck into their mattress, then put your little one in a baby sleeping bag. A 2.5 tog sleeping bag should keep them warm enough for most of the year, though you can get heavier 3.5 tog baby sleeping bags for those extra-cold days. If you’ve just got the one, simply giving your baby an extra layer of clothing to wear underneath their 2.5 tog sleeping bag will be enough to keep them sufficiently warm throughout winter.
To prevent them from overheating, don’t cover your baby’s head with a hat when they’re in bed.
How to keep your baby warm outside when it’s cold
Just because it’s cold outside, doesn’t mean you need to stay indoors all winter long. Getting some fresh air is important to yours and your baby’s wellbeing. Unless it’s especially cold, being outdoors – whether they’re in a pushchair or a sling – can help infants to develop their day-and-night cycle too (which is essential when trying to set a bedtime routine for your baby).
You just need to be sensible about how long you’re spending outside; try to make plans that won’t exceed a couple of hours, and make sure you prepare your little one beforehand by following the guidelines below.
- Keep them wrapped up! As a general rule of thumb, your baby will need one more layer of clothing than you do when they’re outside. Consider getting them a snowsuit for the chillier months; they’re easy to slip on before heading out, which will halve the amount of time spent dressing them. And since babies can lose a lot of heat from their heads, it’s important that they wear a hat whilst outside too!
- Don’t leave your baby’s coat on in the car. Coats and thick clothing make buckling seat belts securely enough difficult, which poses a great risk. Experts recommend that parents or guardians warm up their car before seating their baby. Once they’re securely strapped in, you can tuck a blanket into the sides of their car seat (if they need it), without compromising on their safety.
- A sheepskin liner or blanket will provide extra warmth and comfort for your baby whilst they’re in a pushchair. It’s worth keeping an extra blanket to hand anyway in case the weather starts to feel cooler whilst you’re out.
- Your baby’s delicate skin is especially sensitive to the cold winds synonymous with winter; prevent them from getting chapped skin by applying a baby moisturiser or emollient cream onto their lips and cheeks (as well as any other exposed areas) before leaving home.
How will I know if it’s too cold for my baby?
If temperatures dip to below freezing, it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible. If you do need to go out, it’s better to travel by car; waiting at a bus stop or on a windy train platform in sub-zero temperatures isn’t good for you or your little one – even if you’re both wrapped up!
One of the easiest ways to gauge how your little one is faring outdoors is to just keep an eye on their behaviour. If they seem to be getting cranky – despite being fed, rested and changed – then it’s likely that they’re getting too cold. Check your baby’s ears, face and tummy; if these feel noticeably cool, then it’s time to go back inside.
If they do become cold, don’t rub their skin in an attempt to warm them back up, as this could make it sore. Instead, hold your baby close to you; you can tuck their hands underneath your armpits too if they don’t seem to be getting any warmer.
In the unlikely event that they contract hypothermia (when their body temperature drops below 35°C), call 999 immediately. Babies don’t shiver, so look out for other symptoms of hypothermia; sluggishness, poor feeding, weak cries, pale (and cool) skin and breathing problems are all cause for concern.
Winter provides the perfect opportunity to spend some time together as a family, and whether you’re indoors or outdoors, introducing your baby to winter’s most magical aspects is a precious thing. From Halloween to Christmas, there’s plenty for little ones to get involved with at this time of the year; with a little bit of preparation, you’ll love watching your baby engage with everything this season has to offer!
Posted 7th December 2018 Tags How to Keep Your Baby Warm This