Hot nights can play havoc with your baby’s sleep routine and make you worry he’ll overheat. Here's what you need to know about safe sleeping in warm temperatures
Sweltering nights and sweaty blankets are no fun for little babies trying to get to sleep. While you can get up, strip off and reposition a fan to cool down, your baby can’t manage their temperature so easily.
A room temperature of between 16-20ºC (60.8-68ºF) is recommended - 18ºC (65ºF) is just right.
So how do you make sure your baby sleeps soundly and safely?
“Whatever the weather, the rule is the same,” says midwife, Anne Richley, “put your baby to sleep on his back and be careful not to let him become overheated.
"If you’re feeling hot, then your baby will be, too. Sleep in whatever you’re comfortable, and add one extra layer for your baby. If you don’t need any covers, your little one probably only needs one. If you’re sleeping naked, then a sleepsuit and no blankets for your baby will be just fine. In very hot conditions, your baby may not even need this.”
Use a room thermometer to check the temperature, and see our guide below for the right amount of bedding to use.
It’s why we sweat – and dampness on the body enables us to pick up the coolness from any moving air. “If your baby’s hot to the touch, wipe him down with a damp towel – on the face, neck, arms and legs – and open internal doors and windows, so a natural, flowing breeze is created,” says Chireal Shallow, psychologist and sleep expert at the Naturally Nurturing Clinic. Avoid air conditioning, as it can be dehydrating.
A lot of night sweats can be avoided if your house is kept cool throughout the day. In the UK we tend to fling open curtains and windows when there’s sunshine, but Mediterraneans keep the heat out with unopened curtains, avoiding a greenhouse effect, and close doors and windows behind them.
Don’t panic if your baby is sleeping more soundly than usual. “The heat can make us lethargic, which is quite natural,” says Chireal Shallow. “I wouldn’t get too worried unless you have problems rousing your baby or he displays odd behaviour.”
Much cheaper and more effective than air conditioning is a bowl of steaming hot water placed somewhere safe in the room, which releases moisture into the air.
Chireal Shallow, psychologist and sleep expert
There are well-known concerns that overheating increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but it appears that we shouldn’t be getting too worried over hot nights. “Although heat stress is undoubtedly a contributing factor in some unexpected infant deaths, heat stress seems, paradoxically, to be more of a problem in cold weather when parents may wrap their baby more heavily,” says Peter Fleming, Professor of Infant Health at the University of Bristol.
“With excess wrapping your baby may find it hard to cool down and can become heat stressed. Babies don’t really need much more wrapping up or clothing than adults in hot conditions. And, most importantly, parents should ensure that there’s no possibility of the baby’s head becoming covered with bedding or clothing. Babies can lose heat effectively when necessary, particularly from the head. It’s unlikely a little one would come to harm from high ambient environmental temperatures that an adult could cope with.”
“Make sure your baby is well hydrated,” says midwife Anne Richley. “But if you’re breastfeeding, don’t be tempted to give him water in between feeds, as it might fill his tummy when he really needs milk. It can also interfere with your milk production if he misses a feed. The heat may make him feed more frequently and each time he’ll get the thirst-quenching foremilk before drinking the thicker milk that follows.” If you’re bottlefeeding, have water to hand if your baby needs it in the night.
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