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NEW TO THE COLD – HOW TO KEEP YOUR NEWBORN WARM THIS WINTER

New to the Cold – How to Keep Your Newborn Warm This Winter

In winter months – especially when temperatures dip below freezing – it becomes especially challenging for babies to regulate their body temperature. Unlike fully grown adults or older children, newborns just don’t have enough body fat to provide the necessary warmth when it gets cold. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “newborn infants are prone to hypothermia because of their large body surface area, small amounts of subcutaneous fat, and decreased ability to shiver.”

While your instinct may be to go for more clothing and blankets, the solution is not quite that simple – particularly because overheating and suffocation are real risks for newborns, as well.

However, there are several things you can do to keep your infant warm.


Know when to stay inside.

It’s best to remain indoors when temperatures fall below 32°F. If you need to take your newborn outside for some reason, limit cold exposure to only a few minutes at a time. And save playing in the snow for a time when the child is slightly older.


Bundle up for the outdoors.

If you bring your infant with you into wintry weather, make sure you dress them in plenty of thin, warm layers. The easier to put on and remove, the better. The AAP rule of thumb is to dress infants and young children in one more layer of clothing than you would typically wear yourself.

Go for some thin, snug layers underneath a winter coat, boots, mittens, and a hat. However, once you get your baby into the car, remove any winter coats or snowsuits. The extra bulky material can leave space for your infant to become unsecured in the case of an accident.

How can you tell if your baby is too cold? 

If you start to feel uncomfortable, head inside as soon as possible. Your baby is likely just as – if not more – uncomfortable. Your newborn should be brought inside right away if they start shivering or if their feet, hands, and face become cold and red (or pale and hard). 

When you make it back indoors, check your infant’s hands, toes, and belly. While their belly should be warm to the touch (not hot or cool), their toes and hands should be cool (not cold). Too warm? Your baby was probably overdressed. Too chilly? Apply a warm washcloth gently across the child’s skin and replace their clothes promptly with warm, dry ones. Then, be sure to add more layers the next time you go out!

NOTE: If your newborn doesn’t warm up within a few minutes, call your pediatrician ASAP. You can reach the Carolina Pediatrics team at 910-763-2476 (Wilmington, NC office) or 910-777-2013 (Hampstead, NC office).


Keep your baby close.

Make good use of your baby carrier. One of the best – and sweetest – ways to keep your baby warm is to keep them nice and close, sharing your own body heat with them. But remember to check on your baby regularly to ensure they have plenty of breathing room and their face isn’t pressed against your chest or clothing.

At night, place your infant’s crib or bassinet near your bed so you can continue to check on them throughout the night.

NOTE: The AAP recommends that babies sleep in their parents' room in a separate space for at least the first six months of life. Read more about the AAP’s infant sleep recommendations at the bottom of this article.


Monitor the room temperature.

Warm indoor air tends to dry out a newborn’s sensitive skin. To keep your child safe and comfortable, maintain an indoor temperature between 68°F and 72°F. 

Then, when your infant is sleeping, lower the thermostat a little – keeping the baby's room somewhere between 65°F and 68°F. You may consider investing in a room thermometer to make sure your thermostat is working properly and keeping your home at the correct sleeping temperature.


Dress smart for sleep.

Instead of blankets, experts recommend swaddles for infants under two months of age and sleep sacks (also called sleeping bags or wearable blankets) for infants who’ve passed the two-month mark. 

The AAP suggests avoiding hats and other head coverings while sleeping – as research has shown they increase the risk of overheating and sleep-related infant deaths.

What are the signs of overheating? 

If your newborn becomes red in the face, has extra warm skin, starts sweating, is breathing faster and heavier, or becomes unusually fussy, they may be too hot. If you sense that your baby is overheated, reduce the room temperature, keep them in light clothing, apply a cool compress, and give them plenty of fluids (i.e. breast milk or formula if younger than six months and 4 to 8 ounces of water a day if older).

NOTE: Not every infant is capable of sweating. Preterm infants or newborns under two months may not have developed their sweat glands just yet.


Be smart with bedding

In order to prevent suffocation, smothering, and overheating, the APP says you should NOT place soft objects – like pillows, quilts, loose bedding (non-fitted sheets and blankets), etc. – in your baby’s crib. Choose a firm baby mattress and tight-fitting crib sheets, and make sure you place your newborn’s crib or bassinet away from fans, outside walls, air vents, and drafty windows to keep any cool air off of them.


What experts say about newborn sleep

The AAP has several recommendations for safe infant sleep practices

  • Place your baby on their back to sleep (until they are at least one-year-old).
  • Have your infant sleep on a firm mattress – softer surfaces are NOT suggested for the first four months.
  • Use safety-approved cribs, bassinets, and co-sleepers. Avoid old, broken, or hand-me-down cribs or bassinets.
  • Use only a fitted sheet (with no other bedding) for the first year.
  • Keep toys and stuffed animals out of your newborn’s sleep space.
  • Avoid crib bumpers and sleep wedges or positioners.
  • Do your best to avoid letting your baby sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair.
  • Pay close attention for signs of overheating, and try not to overdress your infant.
  • Consider breastfeeding your baby – which reduces their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Do NOT expose your baby to alcohol, smoke, or any illicit drugs.
  • Make sure you bring your infant to your Pediatrician for routine check-ups and immunizations. Bring up any concerns about sleep safety during those appointments.

CAROLINA PEDIATRICS | WILMINGTON & HAMPSTEAD, NC

Have more questions about protecting your newborn this winter? Call us today at 910-763-2476 (Wilmington, NC office) or 910-777-2013 (Hampstead, NC office).

Or schedule an appointment with your Pediatrician through our Patient Portal.

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