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Dad with baby dressed for warmth.

Keeping Baby Safe and Warm This Winter

By Dr. Richard L. Curry, Nansemond Pediatrics

Newborns can have a hard time regulating their own body temperature, so they’re relying on you to manage it for them. It’s important to keep your baby warm, but you also need to make sure they don’t overheat. Before the weather gets too frightful, we want to make sure you’re feeling delightful about keeping your baby safe and warm with these tips.

Follow Safe Sleep Guidelines

Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, most often comes with no symptoms or warning signs before tragedy occurs. Avoid having your baby sleep on their stomach, on a soft surface, or with loose blankets, pillows, or other objects nearby, as any of these factors can increase their risk for SIDS. Your baby should always sleep alone, on their back, and in a crib.

Add One Layer

Many parents make the mistake of over-layering when they fear the baby could get too cold. If you overlayer, your baby’s body temperature may get too high. Generally, the rule of thumb is to add one layer more than what you would wear in the same conditions. If you are comfortable inside the house with a long sleeve shirt and pants, the baby should be fine in a long-sleeved onesie and a blanket.

While babies don’t sweat as we do when they get too hot, their skin can get clammy if they are too hot. Test the back of their neck if you suspect your baby is too hot. Check for signs of overheating such as a red or flushed face, crying, or a rash on their stomach or back. Layers that are easy to add and remove are best so you can adjust as needed.

Bundle Up Outdoors

With COVID-19 keeping so many cooped up, it is important to enjoy the outdoors when possible. If you decide to go outside with your little angel, make sure they’re bundled up appropriately. Factors such as the temperature, what you’re going to do, and the length of time you will be spending outdoors can affect what your baby should wear.

Babies lose body heat most quickly from their heads and hands. Make sure you are prepared with a hat and mittens. Also, keep their chest covered. If a coat is not necessary, a blanket can go a long way toward keeping your baby warm. When in doubt, don’t forget the “add one layer” rule.

Try Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo care involves holding your newborn skin-to-skin against your body. A shirt, blanket, or robe can be wrapped around you both for additional warmth. This type of touch isn’t just good for bonding and keeping your baby warm — it’s also medically beneficial for your baby and encouraged for premature babies in the hospital.

The benefits of kangaroo care to your baby include stabilizing your baby’s heart rate and breathing patterns, decreasing crying, and more successful breastfeeding.

Consider Bath Time

The temperature you set for your baby’s bath can affect their body temperature. The general rule is to make the bath warm but slightly cooler than you would prefer for yourself, or about 98 to 100 degrees. Use your wrist or elbow to test the water temperature.

Be sure the room is comfortably warm, too. A wet baby can be easily chilled. After bathing, dry your baby off well, and bundle them up until their body temperature adjusts.

Never Use a Heating Pad

There are several dangers associated with placing a heating pad in your baby’s crib. Not only can they cause overheating or be a suffocation hazard, your baby’s arms, legs, or even neck could become entangled in a power cord, if there is one. We recommend swaddling your baby with a single blanket or using a sleep sack instead.

Don’t Forget Fire Safety

Everyone loves a crackling fire or the extra warmth from a space heater on cold winter nights. Before you get too comfortable though, check that your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguisher are in working order.

Your baby should be kept a safe distance from a fireplace or heater. A fireplace should have a screen in place for further protection. Better yet, place a baby gate around the fireplace that will not only protect them from the heat but also from harming themselves on any hard brick or stone edges.

More tips for keeping your baby safe this winter:

  • Wool and thicker fabrics can irritate the skin. Use baby-friendly lotions and creams to help soothe skin irritations.
  • If you are cold, your baby could be too. Test the baby’s torso, rather than their hands or feet, to see if they are cold to the touch. Other signs of cold can include paleness of fingertips or the tip of the nose, or a bluish tint to the lips or around the mouth.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a good swaddle. Not only does this keep your baby warm, but it also gives them a sense of security.
  • As a general rule, bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, should not be worn under the harness of a car seat. In the event of an accident, fluffy padding can flatten out from the force, leaving space under the harness that could allow a child to be thrown from the seat. Instead of keeping a coat on during the ride, warm up the car ahead of time and tuck a blanket into place after your baby is strapped in.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.