Newborn babies are so tiny and vulnerable that it’s normal to worry about them. And one of the things that causes new parents anxiety is wondering if their baby is too cold or too warm, because it’s not always obvious right away.
Overheating in babies can increase the risk of SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is why many parents worry about it.
SIDS is rare and so worrying about it should not overshadow your first few weeks or months as a new parent. The NHS has some advice to reduce the risk of cot death, including advice on preventing overheating.
No matter what season, there’s always the chance your baby will get too hot.
It happens more in the hot summer weather, but even in winter simple things like wrapping a baby up in too many layers can make them overheat.
Babies cannot regulate their own temperature
Babies lose heat four times faster than older children or adults.
They can’t shiver and tell you they’re cold.
They can’t remove clothing to let you know they’re hot.
And so they rely on you to keep an eye on things for them.
Dress them in what you’re wearing plus one layer
It’s important to dress babies appropriately for the weather.
A good rule of thumb is to dress your baby in as many layers of clothing as you are wearing and comfortable in. Then add an extra light layer on top.
An exception to this rule is if you are walking briskly or running with the pram. The light exercise would make you hotter than you would normally be so you would probably be wearing fewer layers.
In this case put the baby in whatever you would be wearing if you were standing still in the same weather plus one light layer.
Don’t cover prams with a blanket
This is a common mistake that parents can make.
We go out in the sun and see the sunshine hitting our baby in the pram.
We worry about the sun bothering them so our instinct is to place a muslin cloth or blanket over the hood to shade them.
It seems to make logical sense. However the muslin can decrease the flow of air into the buggy and result in it getting very, very hot in only a few minutes.
A number of experiments have shown the inside of prams reaching temperatures as high as 37 degrees within just 20 minutes of being left in the sun with a blanket over the hood.
These high temperatures can put the baby at risk of heat stroke and increase the risk of SIDS.
So remember to never cover the baby’s pram with a muslin or blanket.
If you’re worried about sun exposure you may want to look at buying ‘mesh’ covers that prevent the sun rays from coming into the pram but allow the air through.
Keep their heads uncovered
Unless you are taking your baby out on a very cold day then there’s no need for a hat.
Never cover their head when they sleep at home or in mild weather.
Babies lose most of their body heat through their heads, so covering them with a hat can trap too much heat inside their body.
If you do pop a hat on your baby’s head on a cold day then take it off as soon as you come indoors or enter a warm bus or car. Even if it means waking them.
Check the temperature in their room
Babies are so small that you might feel you need to make extra sure that they’re snug and warm at night by setting the temperature high.
But babies don’t need a hot room. Just keep it at the same temperature you’re comfortable with at night and not more than 24 degrees Celsius.
Also don’t be tempted to add any extra sources of heat close to your baby when they sleep.
Hot water bottles and blankets are a no-no, as is placing your baby’s crib or Moses basket in front of a radiator or fireplace or in direct sunlight.
Adjust what they’re wearing at bedtime
At bed time dress baby appropriately as well.
If temperatures are normal then again put them in the same layers as what you are wearing plus one light layer.
If it is a hot night then make sure you don’t wrap your baby up in too many warm clothes at bedtime.
It can help to have a thermometer in their room for you to keep an eye on the temperature.
If it is very warm you can make sure they are dressed in just a light sleepsuit or vest.
Use the right amount of bedding
Many parents like to swaddle their babies in a light muslin. This works well as if the muslin is a light, breathable material. Remember not to swaddle over the shoulders and to never put a swaddled baby to sleep on their front, always on their back.
If you’re using bedding then a light sheet is usually enough for baby.
When it comes to bedding there are a few key rules that we need to keep in mind:
- don’t use any duvets or quilts
- don’t have any pillows or soft fabric items in the crib with baby
- don’t have any loose sheets or blankets in the bed. Make sure any bedding is tucked securely under the mattress.
- position baby ‘feet to foot‘ that is with their feet at the bottom of the cot. This is to stop them from being able to wriggle under the sheets while sleeping and ending up with the sheets over their face.
Spot the signs that your baby is too hot
- Check their head and neck. Any dampness means they are sweaty and too hot.
- If your baby has a flushed red face it can mean they are too warm.
- If you notice your baby’s breathing is fast and their chest rising and falling quickly this can be a symptom of overheating. Feel your baby’s chest to see if it feels hot, which is another sign that she is too warm.
- If your baby is restless, difficult to put down to sleep or wakes more often it may be a sign that they are too hot. If you put this together with other symptoms it could mean they are overheating.