How Warm is Too Warm? Dressing Your Baby for Winter
The 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.