Keeping a baby warm at night isn’t always easy, but things get a tad challenging when it comes to keeping young faces and hands warm on chilly wintery nights. When it’s subzero temperatures outside, every adult wears the warmest clothes they have. But how do you make sure your baby stays warm at night in the winter season and holds cold, flu, and cough at bay? In this article, a real mother (yours truly) shares a few tips on how to help keep your baby warm and comfortable when arctic weather conditions dominate winter nights.
Babies Have Trouble Regulating Body Temperature
That’s why they need help to stay warm on frosty winter nights. It’s somewhat challenging for grownups to maintain consistent body temperature when it’s insanely cold outside. But keeping the body temperature at comfortable, consistent levels is even harder for babies.
Having tons of fat under one’s skin may not be healthy, but it helps one handle cold better. But babies naturally have low body fats. That’s probably because babies burn body fat at a faster rate than do adults, according to a 2007 University of Delaware study.
A baby who has a medical situation such as hypothyroidism suffers even more since this medical condition tends to sharpen the body’s reaction to cold temperatures. According to Medical News Today, hypothyroidism slows down the body’s metabolic rate. And that results in a low core body temperature. A child with this condition usually has a noticeable lower tolerance of cold temperatures, often having cold hands and feet.
Fortunately, your baby has a loving and responsible mom. A mom who won’t stop until she learns everything she can about making their little one’s winter nights more bearable.
How Do I Know My Baby is too Cold?
Well, no mom can address a problem they’ve not identified yet. So, is there’s a surefire way to tell if your little one is experiencing too much cold? What are the signs that a baby is cold at night?
Usually, if the hands of a baby and feet feel cold to touch, it’s time to do something to make them feel warm and cozy. Sometimes, you may find that your baby has cold hands while their feet remain warm. In that case, the baby is fine and you have no reason to panic. At least, that’s what my pediatrician told me when I asked whether I should worry about the issue.
Another place to check to know whether your child is too cold is the nape of the neck. If the nape of the neck feels too cold, it means the baby is too cold. You must move fast to resolve the situation.
Additionally, most babies cry when they’re feeling too cold. If they’re too young to communicate their discomfort and aren’t crying their lungs out, they’re most likely OK. But if your child speaks, they’ll usually let you know whenever they develop chilly hands and feet. So, be observant and attentive so you can quickly help your baby stay warm on even the chilliest winter nights.
But these aren’t the smartest ways to tell if a baby needs an extra layer. So…
What’s the Most Reliable Way to Know Whether a Baby’s too Cold?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that 97 – 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is the normal temperature range for infants. So, if your baby’s body temperature falls significantly below 97 degrees Fahrenheit, they might be too cold and you should act. And of course, you want to call your pediatrician if the temperature drops to a worrying reading.
The AAP further says that for children under the age of 3, taking rectal temperature is the most accurate method of determining a kid’s body temperature. The association recommends using a digital thermometer as opposed to a mercury thermometer, though.
Some of these keep your baby warm at night tips may seem pretty simple and straightforward — because they are. But I hope you learn something helpful before leaving this page.
6 Ways to Keep Your Baby Warm on Freezing Winter Nights
Let’s dive right in.
1. Position the Crib Away from Drafty Conditions
When solving a problem, it’s always wise to start off with the easiest and simplest ideas. So, why not address drafty baby rooms first? Be sure to seal leaky windows. Also, it may be a good idea to not run fans in the nursery. But I’m not saying it’s harmful to operate a fan in the nursery. But who runs a fan in the baby room on a freezing-cold winter night? Nobody, so I guess that suggestion is the easiest to implement, huh?
But if you run a baby room air purifier that features a fan, make sure it oscillates. That means you should be able to turn direct airflow away from the crib. Even better, turn off the fan function altogether.
The Dyson Pure Cool TP04 purifier is a great ozone-free air purifier that babies and adults can use without worry. Oh, and it oscillates. The downside is it’s a pretty expensive machine, and there’s a ton of cheaper alternatives that perform similarly or even better.
2. Swaddling Your Baby Helps — a Lot
Mothers have swaddled their babies at night for thousands. People in Crete and Cyprus swaddled babies 4,000 and 4,500 years ago, respectively.
Moms everywhere still swaddle their babies today. According to Dr. Claire McCarthy of Harvard Medical School, swaddling a baby offers a bunch of great benefits.
First off, swaddling a newborn baby makes it easier for them to fall asleep on their back. And according to this medical professional, sleeping on their back is the best protection against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Additionally, swaddling helps babies sleep better especially if they entered the world addicted to drugs. Or if they have neurologic problems. A baby so wrapped feels like they’re back in the womb, says Dr. McCarthy — they feel super warm and cozy.
But there are downsides of swaddling your baby on a cold wintry night or any other night. One of the disadvantages of swaddling the baby at night is that it can increase suffocation and bad hip development risks. Additionally, if the swaddling blanket comes loose and the baby happens to be sleeping face-down, smothering becomes highly likely.
But the third reason against not swaddling a baby made me cringe. According to research published in the Pediatrics Journal (2016), SIDS risk significantly increases when a swaddled baby sleeps on their side or belly-down.
Conclusion? Swaddling a baby is an effective way to keep their hands, feet, and body warm and cozy throughout the night. But considering the demerits associated with the baby swaddling, it may not be the best possible approach. Luckily for parents, swaddling a baby isn’t the only way to warm a cold baby at night.
3. Give the Baby an Extra Layer at Bedtime
If you’re wondering whether newborns and babies need more layers than do adults, well, they do. If it is a snowy night and it feels like you need an extra layer to stay warm, your baby certainly needs an extra layer for warmth, too.
A generally rule to follow is to clothe your little in one layer more than you’re wearing. But if it seems like your baby is uncomfortable at some point maybe due to feeling too hot, peel off a layer.
I used wool or polyester clothes as the base thermal layer for my babies as opposed to cotton. That’s because while cotton is highly absorbent, it doesn’t wick away moisture that well. Plus, it tends to get pretty damp, making a baby feel even colder.
Wool and polyester are probably the best alternatives to cotton. According to one cold weather clothing expert at Raindrops.co.uk, Merino wool is a great natural fiber with the ability to absorb nearly 40% of humidity without feeling chilly and damp.
4. Use a Sleep Sack, Preferably a Woolen One
The beauty of preferring a wearable blanket over swaddling a baby is that a sleep sack lets the baby move their legs. The child can easily bend their legs up and out at the hips. Another great thing about a winter baby sleep sack is that it prevents suffocation since the head stays out of the sleep sack.
We live in a place that gets really nasty weather when the winter season rolls in. Normal nights get as cold as 59 degrees Fahrenheit. As a new mom, I needed a way to keep my son’s hands warm.
First, I bought him a comfortable pair of mittens. But the little, active dude couldn’t resist putting the mittens in his mouth. Consequently, the mittens got wet, and that made them a tad colder. So, what did I do to address this little problem?
Woolen Sleeveless Sleep Sacks Vs Polyester Fleece
A friend recommended a woolen sleep sack. I had read reviews that said polyester fleece sleep sacks were as good as woolen ones. But in my experience and that of many moms out there, wool trumps fleece every time.
Wool keeps a baby’s cold hands and feet warm and cozy without trying too hard. That’s because wool breathes really well. The fabric is super comfy and keeps the baby warm, comfortable, and happy even when it gets a little damp.
Not so with fleece. While fleece keeps things warm in the sleep sack on even the coldest winter night, it doesn’t have as great air circulation as wool. As a result, fleece may not soak up sweat as well, and moisture tends to stay on the baby. And won’t too much moisture on your baby’s skin give them a chill?
Sleep Sacks Are Sleeveless
While I’d managed to keep my baby’s feet and body warm, I still needed to find a way to cover the head and hands. I obviously didn’t want my baby freezing and becoming completely numb.
To keep my boy’s hands warm even on the coldest winter and spring nights, I put a long-sleeve cotton romper on my baby over a long-sleeve onesie. I made sure my baby’s long-sleeve romper was loose enough so it could adequately trapping body heat.
5. Socks Keep Cold Baby Feet Warm
People have worn socks to keep warm for centuries. There’s no reason your baby shouldn’t wear socks if they have a tendency of developing cold feet (literally) during winter. To keep my son’s feet warm when it got really cold outside and temperatures were in the single-digit territory, I put on their little feet socks that went up to the knee.
6. Use an Electric Blanket ….with Caution
The sleep market offers various types of electric winter blankets to keep cold bodies warm and cozy at night. But, is it OK to use an electric blanket to keep a baby’s hands and feet warm at night? Yes and no.
DON’T use an electric blanket unless you intend to exclusively put it to pre-sleep use.
I’ve found that under electric blankets are the best option for pretty much every situation. Leave this e-blanket running for some time (about half an hour) before putting your little tyke to bed. You should put the blanket between the crib mattress and bedding. I’ll say it again: don’t let your baby sleep with their e-blanket. Once the blanket has warmed up the crib mattress sufficiently, take it off and tuck your baby in.
The DON’T’s of Keeping a Baby Warm in Winter
I’ve discussed 6 ways of keeping a baby warm no matter how nasty the weather inside or outside the home is. But there’s always a chance that you may go overboard in your efforts to keep coldness away from your baby.
It’s not uncommon for parents to get overambitious and provide too much warmth as to cause overheating.
Here’s a list of 4 things not to do if you want to help your baby avoid overheating.
Don’t DO the Following:
1. Don’t Use Duvets for Infants
Duvets could be a great way to keep a cold baby warm at night if they didn’t pose a suffocation risk. This kind of bedding tends to have a relatively high TOG (Thermal Overall Grade). That means baby duvets for winter use are pretty warm.
Whether it’s OK to use a duvet to warm up your baby at night or not depends on their age. Generally, it’s not a good idea to cover your child with a duvet if they’re under 1 year old. Infants don’t have enough strength to move a heavy duvet away from their face whenever doing that becomes necessary.
You can use duvets to keep toddlers and children warm at night, though. For toddlers, a duvet with a TOG of around 4.0 or less would be all right. As for keeping children warm during winter, a 13.5 TOG duvet would be ideal.
Here’s what I did for my baby. To achieve a TOG of 13.5 in the coldest months, I’d combined a 4.5 TOG warm summer duvet with a TOG 9.0 autumn and springtime duvet.
I find that a wool-filled duvet works better than other options when it comes to helping a baby regulate their body temperature.
2. Don’t Put a Hat on a Young Melon at Bedtime
A hat will prevent heat loss from the head of your baby. However, too much trapped-in heat can lead to overheating. I’d advise you to only put a hat on your baby’s noggin only when they’re awake and active.
It’s a bad idea to put a baby to bed on a bone-chilling winter night with a hat on. I’d say the same thing even to the most vigilant parent with an extra pair of eyes from the best baby monitor.
3. Avoid Using a Hot Water Bottle
Few strategies can keep your feet, hands, and the entire body warmer than using a hot water bottle. When the winter season shows up and every night is just a little blizzardier than the previous one, I use a water bottle to keep out cold.
My duvet and wool blanket trap the heat from the hot water in, and it’s warm in there the entire night. It’s still cozy in the morning, which makes me sleep longer than I should most days.
But don’t use a hot water bottle to warm up your baby’s hands and feet on those chilling wintry nights. Why? It’s because as mentioned earlier in this post, babies can’t easily regulate their body temperature as do adults.
Also, don’t use an electric winter blanket in the crib unless it’s for the purpose of addressing the chill pre-bedtime. Just as it is with a hot water bottle, an electric blanket can end up overheating the baby since they have trouble regulating body heat.
4. Never Have a Radiator, Fire, or Heater Next to a Sleeping Baby
Never have your baby sleeping next to a fire of whatever kind, a radiator, or a heater. The same goes for direct sunlight, but it’s not like sunlight ever shows up in the winter, huh?
All these sources of heat might end up doing more than warming your baby’s hands and heat. Don’t put your baby to sleep next to these heat generators unless suddenly finding yourself and your baby in the Emergency Room is exciting for you.
How to Keep Your Baby Warm and Cozy at Night During Winter
There are many steps you can take to make sure your baby enjoys life to the max even when the temperatures drop to subzero readings, especially at night.
You can swaddle them or use a sleep sack with a romp. You can also add a layer or two to keep them warm. Additionally, you should avoid positioning the crib where there’s cold air or wind blowing toward it. Socks reaching up to the knee are also a good idea.
But hats should be avoided for the most part particularly if the baby is too young since they can cause overheating. Electric blankets, a hot water bottle, direct heat sources such as radiators or fires are also a no-no when it comes to warming a baby’s body at any time.
Now that you know what to do and what not to, it’s time to choose a strategy that’d suit your nursery situation just right. Let’s keep that bundle of joy warm, cozy, and happy whether it’s winter, summer, or whatever.
I'm Esther Moni, a proud stay-at-home mom and a psychology graduate of the United States International University (USIU) . I hate it when anyone calls me a housewife, because what does housewife even mean? Being a mother of two babies and a pup, Bailey, as well as being Ricky's wife tires me to no end, but I still manage a smile at the end of it all. And when my boys aren't done doing mischief, I juggle writing a post on parenting or baby gear performance for this blog and running my little counselling office based out in Nairobi. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/esther.moni/">Visit my Facebook profile here</a>, and this is my <a href="https://ke.linkedin.com/in/esther-moni-3841b573/">LinkedIn profile</a>, and here's my <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKcVb3NNDrURDH8C0KiAE1g/">nascent youtube channel.