Keeping Baby Warm. How Warm is too Warm?

Babies are unable to properly regulate their own temperatures for the first few months of life and can easily become too warm or too cold. Throughout infancy, they need you to help them stay a comfortable temperature.  Here is some guidance to help you determine what a comfortable temperature is.

There is often an inclination toward bundling Baby up–and that’s great during the winter (especially in cooler climates) but it’s easy to go overboard too. I remember bringing my new baby to a postnatal appointment with my midwife and even though it was winter, by the time we got there she was sweaty and fussy. She had gotten too warm in the car on the way there, as I hadn’t thought to remove her coat or blanket.

Dressing Baby

When dressing Baby, use the same barometer that you use to choose your clothes. If you think the weather calls for your jeans, then perhaps a heavier fabric is suitable for your baby too. Likewise if it’s so hot outside that you can’t imagine even wearing clothes then your baby probably won’t like it either—cover up with something light and gauzy and remember to cover both of your heads with wide-brimmed hats. A good rule of thumb is checking your baby’s hands, nose, and feet: if the baby feels cold, add another layer or two, or wear her for a while in a carrier or sling to warm you both up! 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dressing baby in no more than one layer more than an adult would use to be comfortable in the same environment, and baby’s head should be uncovered unless in a cool environment.

At Bedtime

Body heat escapes fastest through our heads and feet, so if it’s a cooler night you will want to keep baby’s feet covered with a blanket or pair of socks. The World Health Organization states that baby’s hands and feet should be pink and warm so if her extremities are cold, cover her up with another layer. Use a lightweight cotton or bamboo hat which will keep her head warm but still allow breathability.

At bedtime, it is just as important to keep baby from getting too hot.  Overheating is thought to be a possible contributing factor to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Ensure that baby isn’t sweating under her blankets by touching the back of her neck or her tummy, looking and feeling for moisture. If she is sweaty take a layer off or change her clothes into something lighter. Baby’s skin should feel soft, cool and dry—not clammy or hot.

Swaddling is an excellent choice for sleeping babies; A thin, cotton blanket wrapped snugly around a baby will keep her comfortable and calm. If it’s summer you can swaddle without jammies and in winter you can use a larger cloth to swaddle over heavier onesies.

Whenever possible, choose natural fabrics for clothing and bedding that is breathable and allows the baby to self-regulate her temperature. Synthetic fabrics such as polyester or fleece do not breathe and can easily trap heat. Ideal fabrics include cotton and wool. Wool can be an investment, but properly cared for it lasts a long time, often passed on from child to child or even from generation to generation.   

In the Nursery

Wherever baby sleeps, maintain the temperature in the room to between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius. (65-75 F)  Avoid adding padding or stuffed animals to baby’s crib as they block air flow – preventing air circulation. When the sun is beating down on the windows close the blinds or invest in some black-out shades (you’ll love having them later when you need to put Baby down for a mid-day nap).

Sarah Cosman

Cosman & Webb Townships Organic, Bury, Quebec, Canada