How to keep your baby warm (but not too warm) this winter.
I moved from Southern California to Chicago a few years ago. During winters here, I watch parents struggling to get bundled up babies into strollers. This makes me thankful that I didn’t move here until my daughter was old enough to dress herself and was well past potty training!
Babies (1 year and younger) do not control their own body temperatures very well. Their bodies have to use a lot of energy just to stay warm if they are not dressed well for cold weather. They are more likely to get hypothermia, a condition where a person’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees and can lead to the person’s heart stopping. Toddlers are also at risk if the weather is too cold and can get hypothermia and frostbite (freezing of the skin).
You can go out with your children in Winter, just follow some precautions. If the wind-chill is 32 degrees or above then it is generally safe to be outside. When the temperature is between 13 degrees and 31 degrees, you can go outside with your children but try to take inside breaks at least every 30 minutes to warm up. When the wind-chill is 13 degrees or below, it is really best to stay inside. If you must leave the house, make sure your baby or toddler is well-dressed for the cold and keep your outdoor time as short as possible.
If you are putting your baby or toddler in the car, don’t put your baby in a car seat wearing a bulky coat or snowsuit as this will make it hard to tighten the car seat straps. This makes the car seat unsafe. It is better to lay the coat or a blanket over the car seat straps. If you are using a stroller, a bunting bag or a warm blanket placed over your baby will help keep him warm. If you are using a plastic stroller cover make sure that air is able to get in and out of the stroller through ventilation areas or loose fitting of the cover. Using a baby carrier is a great way to keep your baby warm. If your coat is big enough to fit around the carrier, don’t zip it up higher than the base of your baby’s neck. Check your baby’s hands and feet often to make sure they are not too cold.
Here’s a helpful rule of thumb for dressing your baby to go out in the cold: put on one more layer than you are wearing. For example, if you are feeling comfortable in a long sleeve shirt and a winter coat, then dress your baby in a long sleeve outfit, a sweater, and a winter coat. Make sure to add a hat, gloves and warm socks and booties.
You can use this same rule of thumb indoors, but remember to not make the baby too hot. Overheating may be a cause of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) in babies. You can tell if your baby is too hot if she is sweating, has red cheeks or a hot tummy. Keep your house temperature between 68 degrees and 72 degrees. When your baby is sleeping, follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for safe sleep: Place your baby on his back, on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight fitting sheet. Don’t use soft bedding, pillows, crib bumpers, blankets, pillows or soft toys. The crib should be bare.
Follow these simple tips to enjoy a comfortable winter with your baby.
Dr.Clayton, pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.