Winter can be super fun for babies, but it can also be dangerous. This is not to alarm you; rather, it's to help you prepare for the upcoming season. You and your baby don't have to stay inside just because it's cold. Winter can be really fun for parents who want to teach their little ones to catch snowflakes on their tongues, but everyone can probably agree that winter is most enjoyed when everyone is warm and comfortable. Being prepared is key, and there are things to know before taking your baby out in the winter.
My oldest daughter was born in January, and I was concerned about taking her outside. My child's pediatrician told me it was fine — if not encouraged — to go out for walks with my baby every day , if only for 15 to 30 minutes. Obviously, on days where the temperature dipped below zero or there was freezing rain, we stayed inside, but overall, those walks became my sanity. My baby often fell asleep during those walks and the quietness it provided me was just enough to gather my thoughts and take a few much needed deep breaths (even if I could see my breath).
Before venturing out in possible snow, ice, and wind there are eight important things to keep in mind that will help keep your baby safe and comfortable during the winter months.
1. Use The One More Layer Rule
Dressing a newborn can be tricky, as you walk the fine line between overdressing and underdressing. Generally speaking, your baby will need one more layer than you, according to Parents. If you're wearing a long-sleeved shirt and jacket, make sure your baby has that and a sweater layer in between, as well as, gloves, a hat, and some booties. If you're taking a walk, a blanket may be considered your one more layer.
It's a good idea to continually monitor your baby's temperature to make sure they're not too hot, because overheating puts babies at risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) according to Everyday Family. Feel your baby's feet, hands, underarms, and back frequently. The same website noted that if you see them visibly sweating, it may be a sign they're too hot.
2. Don't Put A Bulky Coat On Your Baby If In A Car Seat
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that babies and children riding in cars wear thin, snug layers and not bulky coats or snowsuits during the winter. Additionally, any type of blankets, coverings, or buntings that's attach to the bottom and inside of the car seat are a big no-no because they can compress in a crash, which increases a baby's risk of injury. To keep your baby warm without a coat while the car is heating up you can put one or two blankets on top of them (and the car seat), and remove as the car gets warmer.
3. Waterproof Gear Is Necessary For Playing In Snow
Playing in the snow can be really fun for you and your baby. Babies are exploring right now and part of that is feeling different textures according to Baby Center. Snow is a pretty cool texture (pun intended) for your baby to examine, but keeping your baby safe and not at risk for hypothermia is of utmost importance. Generally, you can follow the one layer rule for cold layer, but as Parents suggested with the added layer of something waterproof as well.
I always used a waterproof, one-piece snowsuit because it was just easier with my baby. But for older babies you could probably do snow pants, waterproof boots, and a waterproof jacket all separate. You'll have to gauge their level of activity outside and their comfort.
4. Set Time Limits On Outside Time
Not every cold day will be the same. Some days it will be cold with wind, some days it will be cold without and the sun is shining. Some days the temperature will hover just above freezing. As Parents suggested it's important to set time limits for outside time depending on what is going on with the weather. By all means if your baby is visibly uncomfortable outside then bring them inside for a break, before trying again.
Infant hypothermia, frostnip, and frostbite are real risks of overexposure to cold temperatures noted the same article. It's imperative to set limits, know the signs of these conditions, and take the necessary actions to help treat your child as quickly and appropriately as possible.
5. Allow Yourself Plenty Of Time
Dressing your kid for a winter outing and getting there (especially if there is snow on the roadways) can feel like a very long process. It is a very long process. Obviously it's all worth the length of time if it keeps everyone as safe as possible. Be prepared to spend extra time getting dressed or accept the fact that you might be late a lot.
When I visit my folks in New York during the winter, I always build an extra 15 to 20 minutes into my getting ready routine with my kids. I have to prepare for the following: heating up the car, wiping off the snow, possibly shoveling a pathway to the car, dressing my kids in their warm gear, and packing extra clothes that can't be worn in the car seats (like big jackets and snow pants) that way I don't feel rushed.
6. Monitor Your Baby Closely And Adjust As Needed
You don't have to take a thermometer with you everywhere you go and constantly poke your baby with it, but being aware of whether or not they're overheating is paramount. The best way to gauge whether or not a baby is overdressed or not is by touching a baby's toes, Mark Windome, professor of pediatrics at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine told CNN. If the toes are a little cool, but not cold and the baby's belly is warm the baby is dressed warmly enough. But if the belly and the toes are both warm, the baby could be overdressed.
Being prepared with extra clothing or a place to store extra layers as they come off will be paramount for a winter outing.
7. Have Fun With Your Baby
Snow balls, snow angles, snow forts, sledding, and ice skating the options are endless. OK, maybe you won't be doing some of these things with a baby in tow, but sharing all of winter's pleasures with your baby can be a blast as long as it's not below freezing. The same CNN article noted that babies zero to six weeks old should stay inside as much as possible (except for short trips to and from a bus, train, or car) if you're dealing with subzero temperatures. If they do go outside, several layers, not just one, maybe necessary. Generally, babies six weeks to one year are good with the one layer rule.
The way that everyone has fun outside during colder seasons is if they're warm, comfortable, and dry. There are ways to do it, they just take a little (OK, sometimes a lot) of work. If you want to experience winter joys and playtime with your baby in the best possible way, all you have to do is prepare, be willing to adjust as needed, and be ready to pause to catch snowflakes on your tongues along the way.