Winter weather. Brrr! Are you dreading the days of dressing your baby like a marshmallow while wrestling with windblown blankets and a diaper bag? Wondering if you dare to take your child out in the cold?
If dropping temperatures get you down, relax. We’ve got you covered. And your baby, too.
Here’s our collection of the best advice on keeping your baby cozy—whether at home or on the go. Staying warm may be easier than you think.
Why Does My Baby Need Help Staying Warm?
Your child is like a tiny heater with an unfinished thermostat. While her little body is pumping out heat, her skin surface keeps giving up heat to the cold air around her. (Pound for pound, she has three times more surface area to leak heat than you have. Crazy, huh?) And she can’t really control that herself.
So it’s up to you to be her thermostat. Check her often to see if she is too warm or too cold.
Special note: A wet baby gets cold faster than a dry baby. Keep extra clothes and bedding on hand for quick changes when they get wet.
How Do I Know if My Baby is Warm Enough?
Parents tend to check babies’ hands and feet to see if they are too cool. But experts advise touching your child’s back or neck.
- If she feels damp or sweaty, she is probably too warm. Remove a layer or two. (Change any damp clothes.)
- If she feels warm but dry, she is just right. (Whew!)
- Chilly skin calls for putting on more layers. (Of course, cuddling with you is another great way to warm her up quickly!)
You can also tell a lot from your baby’s behavior. The folks at Infant CPR put it this way: “Babies who are acting like babies are most likely not too cold. Stay in tune with the baby’s behavior. Is she eating, sleeping, crying, and being a normal baby? If so, you are probably just fine.”
How Should I Dress My Baby in Winter?
Different places call for different clothes. But one principle is key:
The One-More-Layer Rule
“To keep her warm and comfortable when inside or out, dress her in one layer more than you’re wearing yourself,” says Dr. William Sears. Make those layers thin, and use a cotton layer next to her skin. Cotton “breathes” well, wicking away moisture that might chill her later.
Her must-have clothing item: a hat. One that covers her ears is ideal.
Don’t assume that the astronaut look is in. Big, puffy coats and snowsuits work for an older child playing in the snow for an extended time, but your baby is likely to be exposed to outdoor temps only during a quick walk to a car or a brief stroller ride. For that reason, removable layers like a coat for her torso and blankets around her legs work well. And did we mention a hat?
If you take your baby outdoors in a sling or other carrier you wear across your chest, your body heat will help keep her toasty. Keep her head, arms, and legs covered and you’re good to go.
In the car
When you buckle your baby into her car seat, be sure to remove her bulky coat first. Watch this dramatic video to learn why. Adjusting car seat straps around a big coat can make them dangerously loose. In addition, that coat can make her overheat during the drive.
In a cold car, try this:
- Buckle your baby into the car seat, with her coat removed.
- Lay her coat across her tummy, putting her arms in the sleeves.
- Tuck a blanket or two around her legs.
- When the car warms up, slip the coat and blankets off.
In the crib
Did you know a bedroom that’s too warm can put your child at risk for SIDS? Research discussed here has shown that babies are harder to arouse at temperatures above 75 degrees, leading the trainers at Infant CPR to conclude that an ideal room temperature is between 69 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Others, like pediatric sleep expert Judith Owens, narrow that range down to 70-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Our suggestion: Pick one of those ranges that works best for you and your baby. Check on your sleeping baby now and then—touching her back and neck, as we said earlier—to be sure she is comfortable.
DO NOT USE BLANKETS in your baby’s crib. For babies younger than one year old, blankets pose a suffocation hazard and increase the risk of SIDS. Instead, keep your baby warm by using fitted flannel sheets on the mattress and layered sleepwear on her. Good layers include a soft knit cap and either a sleeper with feet or a “sleep sack” during the colder months.
How Will I Ever Remember All That?
Here are the key points again:
- Baby’s back and neck can tell you if she’s warm (or cool) enough.
- Baby needs one more layer of clothing than you need.
- A hat is essential, especially outdoors.
- No big coat in the car seat.
- Keep her room temperature between 69 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use layered sleepwear, not blankets, to keep her cozy in her crib.
Where Can I Learn More?
You have lots to think about as a parent. If you’re in or around Redwood Falls, MN, Choices Pregnancy Center has trained staff available to answer your questions. We also have all sorts of resources to offer you at no charge, tailored to your needs during pregnancy and on into your baby’s first year. Join our Earn While You Learn program to get the one-on-one lessons you want on topics such as:
- Safe sleep and SIDS prevention
- Parenting tips
- Understanding baby development
- Car seat safety
- … and a whole lot more
Choices Pregnancy Center is all about helping parents love and raise their children.
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