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.
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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