How Warm is Too Warm? Dressing Your Baby for Winter

winter babyThe first snowflakes haven’t even fallen yet for most of us, and babies everywhere are showing up in knitted caps and poofy jackets just to travel from the car to the grocery store for an afternoon shopping excursion. The cold nights of autumn seem to mysteriously compel parents to put their baby to bed wearing fluffy footed sleepers with long sleeved onesies underneath and double the blankets on top. While it is always important to keep your baby warm and snuggly, every parent has to consider how warm is too warm. This is especially true at night and in the car.

It is obvious from the way labor and delivery nurses instantly place pink or blue caps on newborns' heads, whether they are born in the summer or winter, that body temperature is one of those things young babies are not adept at monitoring for themselves. These caps remain on for weeks or months and are very important for allowing your baby to retain their body heat (not to mention cute as a button). However, the layers of added clothing and covers that parents are privy to dressing their baby in are unnecessary.

In fact, some pediatricians recommend that an infant between birth and one year only require one light layer of clothing more than what you would wear. If you would be stifling wearing the get up your baby is adorned in, chances are your baby is hot as well and needs to be undressed. A good rule of thumb to follow when you are indoors is to keep their head and feet covered and perhaps dress them in a one-piece suit, gown, or long sleeved onesie. Be forewarned that feeling your baby’s hands or feet is not a good way to gauge their body temperature, as their circulatory system is immature. Instead, feel their belly, back, or underarm area.

The dangers of over bundling a baby have been directly linked to SIDS. Part of the problem of swaddling young babies in too much clothing or blankets is that their body heat is unable to escape their body and elevates their internal temperature unnecessarily. This is perhaps why, after naps or long car rides, it is only natural to feel your baby and wonder if they are running a temperature or not. More than likely, they are just overdressed. On a similar note, infants should never be placed in their car seats wearing thick clothing, jackets, or blankets. In order to ensure that the straps are tight enough to avoid injury, an infant should be buckled in their regular clothes, and if it is especially cold, then a blanket can be used over the harness. If you are ever unsure about whether your baby has a fever or is just dressed too warmly, undress them for a few minutes, and then take their temperature.

Infants are unable to express their discontent to heat verbally and are physically unequipped to take off a jacket or kick off the covers when they overheat. Even worse is that heat related problems with a newborn aren’t really symptomatic until there is already a serious and sometimes irreversible problem. The best bet is to dress your baby in layers and monitor them closely. It is recommended to keep the temperature of your home a few degrees warmer than normal rather than pile on clothing and blankets.

When temperatures become unbearable and you have to be outdoors, then of course, your baby should be dressed accordingly. Realize that no matter how you dress your baby when you go out, there will always be the kind grandmotherly woman who will make a comment about their lack of hat, earmuffs, scarf, socks, or shoes. Just do what you always do and smile! It seems that over bundling babies is one of those things that has been around since motherhood itself.

What do you think?

How Warm is Too Warm? Dressing Your Baby for Winter

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17 comments

  1. LIZ says:

    my baby is a winter baby she loves to take all her clothes off and shes happy like that

  2. krgjsl0323 says:

    This is very helpful. I’m a first time mom and always worry if my son is to hot or cold. Reading this helps a lot I have always been told to bundle them up good.I usually put the body suit on him or a warm outfit and blanket over gloom after I buckle him and so I’m glad I’m doing it right a little. Thanks so much for the helpful tips

  3. Moorie says:

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  4. Amy says:

    good information

  5. Janice says:

    I always worried like a grandmother does. I also am normal according to this article, but not always correct.

  6. Sara says:

    The problem with Missouri is that is will be freezing temperatures one day, and 60 degrees the next, even in the middle of winter! He didn’t even need a coat when we left the hospital on the 10th but he will need it tomorrow for sure!

  7. Melody says:

    good to know this!

  8. sej518 says:

    Definitely helpful since I live in Minnesnowta. I had 2 different sized snowsuits and realized how ridiculous of a purchase it was. I have no intention of going out and playing in the snow with my newborn haha

  9. Jeanetta says:

    Great article…will keep this in mind when I take my baby out this winter.

  10. Faleshia says:

    wow i never thought that over bundling my baby could cause problems. ill sure be looking at what the temp is inside and what i should be dressing him in!! thanks for the advice.

  11. Hi, I totally agree, too much is no good, the baby will get wet because it’s too hot and then cold because of that. I’m from Norway where the babies take naps outside, even in winter. The secret is to use merino wool next to skin. EVERY parent in Norway knows about this, in hospitals they even use this on premature born babies to stay warm. Read how http://ellaswool.com/pages/why-wool

    • Grace says:

      i think it is harder to find wool products here, because we (most of us) did not know this. i knew about wool because i grew up on a farm, and a good american store with wool products is woolrich- grew up not far away from them too. thank you though for letting us in or a trick that you know…

  12. meredith says:

    Always a big fear of mine and this explains it well, thanks.

  13. lawmaria says:

    thanks for the info.

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