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Dressing Your Baby For Cooler Weather

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New parents want to keep their baby comfy, snuggly and warm.  As the weather gets cooler, you may wonder how many blankets to use, if a baby can overheat and other common concerns. These guidelines will help answer some of your questions.

Babies lose heat much faster than older children and adults. They have less fat to keep the heat in, a much larger skin surface area compared to their weight to lose heat from (13% compared to 3% for adults) and they don’t shiver which produces heat. Similarly babies can overheat quickly which can be dangerous as well.  So what should you do?

As a general rule of thumb, infants should wear one more layer than adults.

Cold Weather

Your baby will need several layers of clothing to keep warm. It's generally best to dress your baby in an undershirt and diaper, covered by pajamas or a dressing gown, and then a wearable blanket sleeper or sleep sack. Avoid loose blankets as these pose a risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Choose layers when dressing your baby. Dressing newborns in layers is a great way to make sure that they are warm and comfortable. Layers can be easily added or removed depending on the temperature and your baby's comfort level. When outside, don't forget hats, mittens, and socks or booties. Babies lose a lot of heat through their head.

If your baby is premature, he may need still another layer of clothing until his weight reaches that of a full-term baby and his body is better able to adjust to changes in temperature.

Certain clothing features can make dressing much easier. Look for garments that:

  • Snap or zip all the way down the front, instead of the back
  • Snap or zip down both legs to make diaper changes easier
  • Have loose-fitting sleeves so your hand fits underneath to push the baby's arm through
  • Have no ribbons or strings to knot up, unravel, or wrap around the neck (which could cause choking)
  • Are made of stretchy fabric (avoid tight bindings around arms, legs or neck)

Winter Car Seat Safety

Heavy winter clothing can be dangerous with car seats. As a general rule, bulky clothing, including winter coats and snowsuits, should not be worn underneath the harness of a car seat. In a car crash, fluffy padding immediately flattens out from the force, leaving extra space under the harness. A child can then slip through the straps and be thrown from the seat.  Use a coat or blanket over the straps to keep your baby warm and safe. 

Overheating  

Overheating can easily occur in infants and places your baby at increased risk for hyperthermia and SIDS. Be careful about over bundling your baby, especially when you come inside from the cold (for example into a heated car or store). When you come inside, remove your baby’s hat and open or remove their coat or outer layer (even if your baby is sleeping).  Keep your baby’s room at a comfortable temperature (not too warm) and check his neck to see if your baby is sweating. 

Swaddling  

Many parents wish to swaddle their baby since it can be soothing and provide a sense of comfort and security. Swaddling, however, is controversial and not recommended by many infant health authorities due to its association with SIDS and hip dysplasia. If you choose to swaddle your baby, use a sleepsack swaddler rather than a loose blanket. Also swaddle only the arms and keep the hips and legs loose. 

See the following articles for additional information on Swaddling, SIDS prevention and Car Seat Safety.

Unwrapping the Controversy Over Swaddling

Safe Sleep For Your Baby

Winter Car Seat Safety Tips From the AAP

Car Seat Safety

Click here for a referral to a Good Samaritan Pediatrician.

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