For many of us, there is nothing more serene or beautiful than a landscape coated in a fresh falling of glistening snow. It is rife with possibilities of long nights before a fire and making snowmen with coal eyes and carrot noses. It's only natural that you would want your children to experience the wonder of snow as early as possible, but precautions are a must when it comes to the littlest babies. So can you take a baby out in the snow, or are the freezing temps too low for your tiniest one?
It's best to err on the side of caution when it comes to the infants in your lives, noted Rajyalakshmi Rambhatla, MD, who wrote for the Cleveland Clinic that "babies and young children don’t have the same tolerance for cold that adults do. It’s important to limit time outside." She wrote that during the period of time that your smallest kids are exposed to the cold and snow, you should bundle them more than you would your older children or yourself. Dress them how you would dress yourself to keep warm, and then add one additional layer to assure that your child is safe and happy when outdoors — and don't neglect the hats and mittens.
All over the world, there are groups of people who traditionally believe that getting your children outside in the fresh air is beneficial for their health, even if the the mercury plunges well below zero. In Nordic countries, it is not uncommon for parents and caregivers to bundle up babies in strollers and let them nap outside in temperatures as cold as -10 degrees Celcius, according to a report by the BBC. This tradition would likely seem peculiar to American parents who aren't usually faced with winters as long as they are that far north, and who generally have their kids take naps indoors.
The advice given by doctors in the United States is a great deal more cautious and circumspect. While Rambhatla acknowledged that taking babies out in the cold is not what gives them a cold — that's the work of bacteria and viruses — babies are simply more susceptible to cold-related complications like hypothermia and frostbite than the rest of us, and with those can come some pretty severe consequences. That is likely why Janice Montague, MD, director of pediatrics at Good Samaritan Hospital, told Parents that babies should really only be out in the cold and snow for brief periods of time. Ideally, no more than a matter of minutes.
Is winter fun completely out? Can you take a baby out in the snow at all? You don't have to turn down the snowy memories completely. For instance, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is slightly more lenient in their official recommendations. Their primary directive when addressing this issue is that your baby is properly attired. They wrote that you should "dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities. Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Always remember warm boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat." They also noted that babies can get colder much more quickly, and feel the effects of the cold more rapidly than we do, so keep an eye on your little one.
It's extremely tempting to bring your baby out in the snow, especially when you've been stuck inside all winter, but the AAP recommended that you exercise caution in this endeavor. When it's unavoidable, follow what the experts have directed and bundle your loved one up before taking them outside. When you are out and about, keep an eye on them, make sure they're still warm and cozy in their little cocoon, and maybe save the snow play for when they're a little older and can better handle the cold.