Inside: A genius trick you can use to easily tell if your baby is too cold (or too hot).
Imagine your newborn telling you exactly what he needs you to do for him. While that would certainly be nice, it doesn’t happen, and we have to do some guesswork to figure out what to do to get our babies comfortable.
It takes time for our babies to begin communicating with us, and for the first year of life, we have to read our baby’s cues and make observations to then decide what they need.
When a baby cries, the first thing to do is to check for signs of hunger, see if he wants to sleep and check if he needs a diaper change. Another thing to check is whether he is too cold or too hot.
Babies cannot regulate their body temperature for the first few weeks of life. What this means is they can get too cold or too hot much faster than older children or adults would. So it’s important to know the warning signs and to make adjustments to keep your baby’s temperature at a comfortable level.
Disclaimer: I’m a mother raising five kids, but I’m not a doctor. The tips in this article are given from a parent’s perspective and should not be viewed as medical advice. If you do need medical advice, contact your child’s doctor.
How to tell if your baby is too cold
Is simply touching your baby’s cold hands or nose enough to determine whether he needs an extra layer? It’s not always the best way to determine if your baby is at a comfortable temperature. If you’re taking a stroll outside on a cool fall evening, your baby’s hands and nose may feel cold to touch even if he’s completely comfortable.
The good news is, there’s another way to check if your babe needs more warmth. It’s a good idea to touch the back of his neck where the neck meets the back. If his skin feels cool to the touch, he needs another layer of clothing.
How to tell if your baby is too hot
If you think your baby might be too hot, feel the back of his neck. If the skin feels very warm and sweaty, your baby may need to be unbundled. Make sure it’s not a fever that’s causing his skin to be too warm.
Be careful when you undress your baby in an air-conditioned room. If he’s sweaty, the air-conditioner will cool him down too fast, and you’ll have the opposite problem. Take one layer off your baby, wipe the perspiration off his skin, and if his onesie feels damp, change him into a dry one.
What if your baby got sick?
If your baby got the common cold, has flu symptoms, or has another sign of illness, don’t blame yourself. According to the Mayo Clinic, within the first year of life babies can get sick with common colds up to eight times. And it’s not because they needed an extra layer of clothing.
This is because their immune systems are still working on building immunity to common viruses. Newborn babies that are around other kids more often (like at a daycare center) tend to get sick more because they’re exposed to viral infections from other children.
Ear infections are a common complication of the cold virus. If your baby has common cold symptoms like a runny nose or a sore throat, keep him indoors on cold days until his symptoms resolve. Here’s more info on ear infections from Johns Hopkins.
Because newborns are still adjusting to the world around them, any fever in babies under three months of age should be discussed with their healthcare provider. This article from the Mayo Clinic has a thorough list of symptoms to look out for in newborns.
How to dress your baby in the winter
You may have heard the advice that your baby needs to be dressed in layers. But how do you do it? Our number one baby layette item was the onesie. Sometimes called the bodysuit, it’s the best first layer of clothing to put on your baby over their diaper. It’s made of thin cotton material and it’s super versatile.
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A onesie goes over the diaper and has snaps to keep it in place.
This is a great first layer option. It keeps your baby’s back and belly from being exposed to cool air since it doesn’t rise up when you pick up your baby thanks to the snaps.
The second layer can be a footie pajama (we used these a lot at home), or another outfit, like pants and a sweater.
For winter strolls, depending on where you live, your baby may need more or less bundling. In warmer winter climates, a fleece bodysuit may be enough.
In cooler climates, you may need a baby snowsuit.
As far as your baby’s head – always have a hat on hand. A hat that will cover the ears is ideal. These bonnets (girl version) are handmade with 100% cotton, are super soft, and will keep your baby comfy and warm. Here’s a boy version of the bonnets, too. Use this bonnet underneath the hood of the bodysuit or snowsuit and don’t forget to periodically check the back of your baby’s neck to make sure he’s not too cold or too hot.
When your baby is cold, the quickest and easiest thing to do is to cover him with a blanket. Pick something warm but not too heavy. This handmade cotton blanket is a great option.
If you need to warm up your baby quickly, use your own body temperature to do the trick. Pick her up, hold her skin to skin, and cover her with a blanket as you warm her up with your body heat.
If you’re outside in cold weather, simply putting her to your chest and wrapping your coat around her will help. Remember that a baby’s body cannot yet regulate its temperature well, so be careful not to hold newborns inside your jacket for too long, as your body heat can cause them to overheat.
How to dress your baby in the summer
Well, this is super easy. The same type of onesie you used as the first layer in winter outfits can be used in the warmer months. All you have to do then is slip tiny shorts or pants over the bottom of your baby and the outfit is complete.
Babies are cute, and we’re often tempted to dress them in cute outfits. But it’s important to keep in mind that for babies, comfy is more important than cute. Dress him up in a cute outfit for Sunday service or to go to Aunt Lucy’s 50th birthday party, but keep a couple of extra cotton onesies in your diaper bag in case he gets uncomfortable.
How to dress your baby before bed
Although pediatricians say that the ideal temperature for a baby’s room is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, there are variations based on your climate and other factors. Therefore, there is no one universal optimal room temperature for a baby’s sleep.
Keep the thermostat at a number comfortable for you, but a general rule of thumb is to add one extra layer of clothing on your baby than you’d wear. Putting on a onesie underneath a swaddle or a sleep sack should keep them comfortable. Remember to feel your baby’s skin at the back of his neck and make adjustments to his layers as needed.
It’s tempting to cover a baby with a blanket while they sleep, but babies should not be left with loose blankets unattended to minimize the risk of suffocation.
Learning to care for a newborn can get overwhelming for a new parent. But it’ll get easier. Take these tips and use them as a guide, but don’t forget to trust your mama heart. You know your baby best, and with time, you will learn his cues.