Dressing your baby in winter
Making sure your baby isn't too hot or cold is essential indoors and out.
No matter what the season, new parents will always worry that their baby is too hot or too
cold. As you get to know your own child, you will discover what their own needs are – some
babies will wriggle and cry when they get a little too hot, for example, giving you a
valuable warning sign before they overheat – but there are a few simple guidelines which
help keep babies safe, more comfortable and reassure you.
When a baby is first born, she is adjusting to having to regulate her temperature without
the safety bubble of the womb. However, you should still tap in to what feels comfortable to
you in order to gauge what is right for her. You might be on a warm hospital ward in the
middle of winter, so the rich red knitwear you got at your baby shower can wait until you’re
making the journey home and a simple vest and light sleepsuit might be all you need for now.
Don’t worry if her hands and feet are cold, they generally will be in the first few months,
instead rest the back of your hand against the skin on the back of her neck or her chest. If
she simply feels warm, there’s no need to worry. If she is cool, add one layer or a blanket
at a time. If she feels very cool, pick her up and warm her before putting her back to lie
down with the extra layer on. She will not move around enough or even be able to shiver
sufficiently in order to produce sufficient heat on her own.
Many people live by the rule that a baby should have one more layer on than they would wear
themselves, but just as some adults feel the cold more than others, this isn’t a hard and
fast science and you should still keep a regular eye on whether your baby seems unusually
hot or cold.
You were probably lectured about the loss of heat through your head when you were at school, and it’s true that it’s important to put a hat on a new (usually bald!) baby in winter.
Remember, even if you are pounding the pavement with your buggy, your child is lying still
and therefore not working up bodyheat like you. However, you should take a baby’s hat off
(along with any outer coat or jacket) once you are in a warm place, even if the baby is
asleep; it is better to disturb her than let her overheat.
Out and about
In cold weather, it is a good idea to dress your baby in layers rather than one very thick
outer coat or all-in-one. (Very thick all-in-ones are suitable for specific times in very
cold conditions.) Even in winter, the changes of temperature - in your car, along a street,
in a busy outdoor space - may vary, and having only a stripped-off or a fully wrapped-up
option is not very flexible.
Although it is true that cold hands and feet aren’t a true gauge of your baby’s temperature,
they should be covered just as regularly as the baby’s head, when out in cold conditions.
Keep a couple of light pram blankets with you in case you need to alter the layers covering
your baby. (When they are big enough for a pushchair, there are warm 'foot muffs' – like little sleeping bags – which are widely available from several companies and can be useful, especially for children who quickly kick off or wriggle out of booties, shoes or socks.
Also, even when it
isn’t raining, a buggy’s rain cover is a useful way of keeping a howling wind off your
In either hot or cold weather, if you are carrying your baby in a carrier on your back or
front, beware that your own heat is adding to their own layers, and check their limbs for
excessive heat or cold exposure. Baby Bjorn now make a ‘sleeping bag’ to fit over a carrier
for winter, so that a baby does not have to wear very warm clothing close to your body.
As your baby grows, you will become more confident in how many layers to cover him with and
of how thick his nightwear should be. For a newborn, rather than putting him in thick
sleepsuits, it is preferable to put him in a short-sleeved vest, a regular sleepsuit and
then add layers of bedclothes depending on the temperature of the room. Most bedding shops
sell light fleecy blankets and cotton blankets for cribs, prams and cots, if woollen ones
seem too heavy or potentially ‘itchy’ for your child.
A nap during the day will probably not require the same about of layers as a nighttime sleep
because the general temperature will be higher.
If you worry about your baby getting cold because they have kicked off their covers, one of
the many sleepingbags on the market might be a good idea. These are available in a range of
sizes and can still be useful long into their toddler period. These sleeping bags meet over
the shoulders so the top looks more like dungarees. This stops your baby from sliding down
into the bag, which also makes them useful if you worry about your baby slipping under
bedclothes. Some ‘sleeping bags’ zip from top and bottom, which makes them easier to open if
you need to change a nappy without disrupting a sleepy baby too much.
In any circumstance, you should always remember to put your baby to bed at the bottom of his
cot so that he cannot wriggle down under sheets when sleeping.
Ideally, a room should be kept between 20ºC and 23ºC during the day and 15.5ºC and 18.5ºC at
night. Of course, through one night, the temperature will vary, but if you have your baby’s
cot or crib in a place away from draughts or direct heat sources, you will soon find out
what seems evenly comfortable.
In very cold weather, if you choose to keep the heating on (on a lower setting, as the whole
family will find it too stuffy through the night, otherwise) bear in mind that this will dry
out the air more. A humidifier or a bowl of water on a radiator will help keep the air
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