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health and care

Keeping warm in winter

How to keep your baby warm, but stop them overheating

Keeping baby warm in winter

Image baby wrapped up warm outside in winter

It’s getting dark early, it’s chilly outside and your thoughts are turning to cosy jumpers and steamy mugs of hot chocolate. It can only mean one thing: winter…and with it comes the challenge of keeping your baby warm in bed and when you’re out and about.

Luckily shops are more than happy to oblige by filling their windows with gorgeous winter clothes for babies, but what do you really need…and when?

Keeping your baby warm at night

When putting a baby down to sleep it is tempting to want to wrap them up so they are snuggled deeply inside layers of blankets for a cosy night’s sleep. However babies under 9 months are not able to control their own body temperature at all and it is very important that they do not get too hot. Overheating is thought to be one of the major causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

There are 3 key factors to bear in mind when keeping your baby warm at night:

1. Room temperature

A baby’s room should be between 16-20°, with 18° being the ideal temperature. This would feel comfortable to a lightly clothed adult, though a room thermometer is the best way to be sure.

2. Clothing

A good option for dressing your baby is a cotton all-in-one with feet attached to keep toes warm. Some sleepsuits also have fold over mittens which come in handy during colder nights. If your baby’s room is at the colder end of the scale, you could put a vest underneath. Look out for clothes which limit the amount of skin you have to expose during a nappy change and are easy to change if there’s a nappy disaster!

3. Bedding

Use a fitted cotton sheet and layers of cotton blankets to keep your baby warm in bed. You can add or remove layers of blankets depending on if your baby is too hot or too cold. Alternatively you may choose to buy a baby sleeping bag or sleep-sack. These have the benefit of keeping a baby covered up, no matter how wriggly or squirmy they might be in bed. They allow the baby’s arms to stick out, unrestricted, so are a good option for babies who don’t like being swaddled. Bags with a 2.5 tog rating should be plenty, but you can get thicker ones for very cold rooms. Some mothers prefer a sleep-sack because it removes the decision of how many blankets might be needed.

How to tell if your baby is too hot or cold

To check if your baby is too cold or too hot, feel their tummy. If the tummy is cold to touch, you could add a vest or if it is hot to touch, remove blankets as necessary.  Avoid using hands or feet as a guide because babies’ circulation is not as good as adults’ and it is normal that fingers and toes feel much colder than other parts of their body. If hands and feet look blue or blotchy, you can add socks/mittens as an extra layer of warmth.

Is there anything I shouldn’t do?

The key here is to avoid overheating, due to the risks associated with SIDS (cot death).

  • Don’t put a hat on your baby in bed (or anywhere indoors): A baby loses excess heat through its head. Covering it up could lead to overheating.
  • Avoid duvets: Infants under one year old can be suffocated by duvets as they can’t move them away from their faces. Duvets can also lead to overheating.
  • Don’t use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket: As comforting as they may be to an adult on a cold winter’s night, remember that adults can regulate their own temperature: children can’t do this until they are around 2 years old when their ability to sweat and shiver is fully developed.
  • Don’t put your baby to sleep next to a fire/radiator/ any kind of heat source: This could lead to a nasty burn and, again, this could cause overheating.

Baby, it’s cold outside…

Keeping your own winter wardrobe up to date and in working order for trips out with the pram is tricky enough, so do you also need to go out and buy a whole set of baby winter clothes when the weather turns?

If you’re heading out for some crisp fresh air with your little one, then the rule of thumb is that babies need one more layer of clothing than you do. This means bracing yourself for a marathon ‘getting ready’ session before heading out in the morning. A great way to avoid too much of a grumble from your little one is to get them dressed in their winter outfit then slip them into a snowsuit just as you’re leaving. Aim for a suit with a good layer of insulation, with feet attached and possibly mittens too.

Unlike inside, a hat is key when venturing out in the cold. As well as framing their face for some adorable photos, it stops heat escaping from the top of the head – a major heat-loss zone for children.

Mittens or gloves will help to keep the chill off little fingers and, even if a snow suit has feet attached, keep your baby’s socks on too.

Is my baby getting cold?

In some Scandanavian countries children are left outside in their prams for their naps, wheel-deep in snow, to kill off winter bugs…so rest assured…as long as your baby is properly dressed they will be fine outside for a while.

To make sure they do stay warm enough, take an extra blanket with you and a footmuff to keep the wind off. You may want to invest in a sheepskin liner in the pram for extra warmth. It’s certainly very cosy, but is not an essential unless you live somewhere particularly cold or are going to be outside for a very long time.

Remember that you are keeping warm by walking around, but if your baby is in a pram it will not be moving, so will get cold before you do. If you are carrying your baby in a sling, it will benefit from the heat coming off your body.

Is my baby over or under dressed?

Your baby is too hot if:

  • Its face is flushed
  • The back of its neck is hot and clammy
  • It has a bumpy rash on its tummy or back

Your baby is too cold if:

  • Its tummy Is cool to touch
  • Its nose or fingertips are much paler
  • Its lips and mouth area are going blue

How to prevent chapping

The wind can be as cruel as the cold during the winter, so to try and avoid chapped faces you could rub a baby moisturiser or emollient cream into lips, cheeks and any other exposed parts before heading out. Shorter, tepid baths will also help to stop skin drying out.

A few vital pointers for the colder weather

  • As soon as you get in from a trip outside, take off your baby’s hat and outer layer of clothing, even if this means waking them up. They could very quickly get too hot otherwise.
  • Shops tend to pump up their heating when it’s chilly, so even if you’re just popping in for a pint of milk, take off your baby’s hat and any extra blankets.
  • If you’re using a blanket in the car, you should take it off as soon as the car warms up enough for you to feel comfortable. Put the blanket over the top of car seat straps, as trying to tuck it under the straps may mean the straps aren’t safely tightened. Some baby sleeping bags are designed to work in a car seat, so if your car is very chilly this could be a solution!
  • If your baby does get too cold, as tempting as it is, don’t rub their skin to warm them up as this could actually hurt them. It’s better to hold them next to you and put their hands under your armpits. That way they can benefit from the heat of your body.

Now, back to that hot chocolate…

Keeping warm in winter