Experts say the signs of your baby being cold can be subtle.
5 Signs Your Baby Is Too Cold

It can happen during the day and at night when they’re sleeping.

by Olivia Youngs and Abi Berwager Schreier
Originally Published: 

One of the hardest things about being a new parent is learning your baby's cues. Since they’re unable to fend for themselves or verbally communicate things like “It’s freezing in here,” it's crucial parents learn signs of hunger, tiredness, sickness, temperature, and more. When you want to know how to tell if your baby is cold, both when they are asleep and awake, there are some signs you can look out for.

Babies don't have the ability to self-regulate their temperatures like adults, according to InfantCPR. Their bodies lose heat through unprotected surfaces, such as their head, hands, or feet — which is called "radiated heat," according to Mayo Clinic. Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper that a baby’s ability to regulate their own body temperature gets better as they get older, and usually between 3 and 4 years old. “Nonetheless, even at older ages, kids still need reminders to dress well before going outside. Even teenagers need reminders. Temperature self-regulation is not perfect and must always be accompanied by proper clothing,” he says.

Similarly, if babies don't have enough layers on or are in a very cold room, being too cold and, in rare cases, experiencing hypothermia are real threats. Even in warmer months, it's important to monitor your baby's temperature to make sure they're warm enough, especially indoors. In the colder months, you'll need to keep an eye on their temperature outside as well as indoors.

In fact, there’s even an optimal baby room temperature (regardless of how cold or hot it is outside). Dr. Gina Posner, board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, says, “I usually tell people to keep their house around 72 degrees. But, some kids run warmer or colder than others, so if at 72, your baby feels too hot and they are in only a diaper, then cool it down. If they feel too cold at 72, then give them an extra layer of clothing and check again.”

Obviously, appropriate pajamas, swaddles, and blankets (if your baby is old enough), can be used to help regulate their temperature as well. “Remember, the temperature on the thermostat in the hallway does not always match the temperature in the bedrooms,” Ganjian says.

As overwhelming as it may sound to have to learn all of your baby's cues, soon they'll become second nature. And once you do, regulating your child's temperature will be simple.


Their hands and feet feel cold

Although this is generally a poor indicator of your baby's overall body temperature, heat escapes quickly through the hands and feet and they're often the most exposed. An article in Indian Pediatrics noted that your baby's feet and hands should be warm like the rest of their body. So if your baby's hands or feet feel cold, throw on an extra layer, just to be safe. Posner confirms, “Your baby is too cold if you see mottling of their extremities, and if the hands or feet are cold to the touch. You can also feel the back of their neck and if it is cold, that can be a sign that they are chilly.” If you’re worried about them when they’re in bed, see if your baby is cold to the touch while sleeping. That can be a good indication to layer up.


Pale skin

If your baby is feeling cold, they could potentially have paler skin than normal. However, if this is accompanied by inactivity and being lethargic, this could be a sign of hypothermia. If this happens, Posner says, “Slowly warm them up — wrap them in blankets or you can even do skin-to-skin with you with blankets on top of them. Also, putting a hat on their head is helpful since babies lose a lot of heat from their head. My biggest concern with a baby that is too cold is that they might have an infection causing it — especially if you are not in a particularly cold environment. In that case, bring them to the hospital or their doctor.”


They're fussy for seemingly no reason

In the beginning stages of being cold, your baby may fuss when nothing else is wrong to let you know they're chilly. If this happens, simply add some socks or a warmer outfit and your baby will be more comfortable. “I tell parents to put one extra layer on their baby than what they are wearing. So, if you are wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants, then baby might need a jacket on top of that,” Ganjian says.


They snart sneezing

Ganjian says, “When your baby starts sneezing, usually it is a sign they are cold. This is due to a response connected to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain which controls temperature in the body. That is why babies usually sneeze when they are being changed. It is very normal and not related to them being sick with the cold virus.”


They're still and lethargic

One of the more dangerous signs that your baby is cold is being very still, quiet, and lethargic. These are signs of hypothermia in infants, which shouldn't be ignored, as your baby's body can't heat itself properly at this point. “When your child becomes quiet and does not move much, it can mean that they are too cold. Take them inside the house and let them have skin-to-skin on your body, while wrapping a blanket around both of you,” Ganjian says.

Warming up your baby if they are asleep is not impossible, but you have to be extra mindful of safety as you can’t simply tuck a blanket around them. (Babies should not sleep with soft blankets or toys in their crib until they are at least 12 months old as it’s a suffocation hazard). You could risk waking them up by adding another layer (either clothing or a sleep sack), or you could bump up the heat or bring in a safe space heater.

Luckily, there are numerous ways to warm up your baby when they are awake. Bring them into a warmer environment (into a warmer room of the house or indoors if they are outside), crank up the thermostat, add a few more layers to their outfit, or use your own body heat.


Gina Posner, board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center

Daniel Ganjian, pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center

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