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Here's How To Dress Your Baby Just Right Whether It's Just Chilly Or Totally Freezing

Baby, it's cold outside.

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Getting your baby dressed for a chilly day can be a surprisingly difficult task. You want to ensure they aren’t too cold, but you also have to be careful not to get them so cozy that they overheat. As daunting as the task may seem, finding the right balance of clothing and blankets and mastering how to dress your infant for every temperature this winter is possible. It’s all about choosing the right fabrics and layering up.

“Most adults who are uncomfortable in the cold recognize their child will be as well,” pediatrician Lee Engelbreth, MD, tells Romper. “We don’t really see a lot of issues with it [at the hospitals where I work].” What she does frequently see, however, are parents over-dressing their children, causing them to get extremely uncomfortable or overheat.

“Overheating is an increased risk for SIDS,” NYC pediatrician Dyan Hes, MD, tells Romper in an email, but both she and Dr. Engelbreth say this can be avoided simply by layering your baby’s clothes. “Layering traps the air between the layers and keeps kids warm,” explains Dr. Hes, “Also, if you are overdressed or see that your baby is sweating, you can remove a layer.” Dr. Engelbreth recommends parents dress their babies in one extra layer than what they’re wearing themselves. “If you’re outside in pants and a shirt and jacket, then your child needs a warm outfit, plus a jacket, hat, mittens,” she says,”[or] their extra layer might be a blanket or a fleece onesie.”

Still, dressing a baby for a 20-degree day is very different from dressing them up to go outside on a sunny 50+ degree day. So, here are some tips to keep your baby comfortable and protected throughout the winter months.

1

In The Fantastic 50s

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When the temperatures are in the 50s and the skies are sunny, you can absolutely still take your baby outside for a stroll to soak in some of that vitamin D. However, as you approach the end of winter and the beginning of spring there are going to be some rainy days in the forecast, too. If you’re taking your baby outside when it’s raining, you definitely want to keep them protected from the elements, and a great way to do that is with a rain guard over the stroller.

“Rain guards are perfect for those rainy, snowy, or windy days,” says Dr. Hes, “They are well ventilated with slits cut out or mesh on the sides.” You still want to be mindful of how your baby is dressed, though, because it can get hot under the rain guards. “I would make sure that you do not overdress your baby under the plastic guard,” Dr. Hes says, “It is a good insulating tool and you do not want your baby to overheat underneath.”

A good outfit for a sunny 50-degree day might include a long-sleeved shirt, a light sweater, and a hat. If you’re going to be outside for a while or if it’s really windy, you will probably also want to bring a blanket or extra layer for protection, just in case.

2

In The Brisk 40s

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It can be tricky to dress for 40-degree weather because it’s not really cold, but it’s also definitely not warm. Your baby will likely be cozy and comfortable in a long sleeve shirt with a sweater or a light to mid-weight jacket on as well. It might also be a good idea to bring a hat and some gloves to keep them warm if needed. “I think that if you can keep mittens on your baby’s hands this is important because their feet and hands get cold and the hands are usually exposed to the elements,” notes Dr. Hes.

Both Dr. Hes and Dr. Engelbreth are fans of hats, since they’re easy to put on or take off as the situation calls for it. It’s also an easy way to quickly cool your baby down if you’re noticing signs of overheating. “A baby who is overheating is likely to fuss and cry and show signs of discomfort,” says Dr. Engelbreth, “Over time, they get kind of sleepy and tired … [and] they might get red in the face.”

3

In The Freezing 30s

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Once the temperature dips down to 32 degrees, you’re officially in freezing weather and you should try to avoid bringing babies under six months old out at all. For older babies, you should try to limit their exposure outdoors as much as possible because they’re more likely to get frostbite than adults. “Even having their face exposed for more than 10 minutes or so, I would try to avoid,” says Dr. Engelbreth.

On those days where it’s not quite freezing temperatures, but still very cold, layer your baby up and cover as much skin as possible using hats, mittens, and warm boots. If you’re taking them outside, consider getting a footmuff to attach to their stroller for extra warmth. “Footmuffs are perfect for cold days,” says Dr. Hes, “It is a cozy way for your kids to stay warm and see all their surroundings.”

If you’re not strolling anywhere, but are driving, Dr. Engelbreth advises you to give the car a moment to warm up before you put your baby inside. Babies shouldn’t wear their coats when they’re strapped into their car seat, and it’s also not safe to attach footmuffs to them. "If you know you’re going to be leaving, you can start warming up that car five minutes before you put the baby inside," she says.

4

In The Unbearable 20s

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If it’s 20 degrees or lower, skip going outside and grab yourself a hot cup of coffee and stay inside snuggling your baby instead. Of course, that’s not always possible, so in this case, you’ll want to make sure you protect every inch of your baby’s skin and, even if they’re going to be inside all day, layer them up wisely. “One hundred percent cotton is always the best choice for the layer against your child’s body,” says Dr. Hes.

“The other layers’ [fabrics] are not as important,” Dr. Hes notes, but you do still want to choose materials that your baby will be comfortable in. “Wool can be irritating to a baby if it is not soft like cashmere [and] polyester can often make a baby sweat a lot and lead to rashes.”

Remember, babies can overheat even if it’s 20 degrees outside. If you notice your baby sweating or showing any other signs of overheating, take off some layers and get them cooled down immediately.

Experts:

Dr. Lee Engelbreth, MD, Pediatric Hospitalist

Dr. Dyan Hes, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City

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