Wondering how to keep a newborn or infant toasty warm despite the icy wind? Most people don't enjoy the bone-chilling cold, or live in an ice castle a la Frozen. But parents still have to take their babies outside, even if they're just running to the car. Sure, it's tempting to stay by the fire all day, drinking hot chocolate, and lounging in fleece pajamas, but every parent has to take a walk in the great wide world sometime, or risk a serious case of cabin fever. So knowing how to dress your infant for every temperature this winter can set your mind at ease when you venture into the wide world.
According to Dr. Lee Engelbreth, MD, the pediatric medical director for Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, parents do a great job keeping little ones cozy and warm. "Most adults who are uncomfortable in the cold recognize their child will be as well. We really don’t see a lot of issues with it," she tells Romper. What she does see come winter is over-bundling, when babies are so layered up they actually overheat, even when there's snow on the ground. Her rule of thumb is to dress your baby in one more layer than you're comfortable wearing. "So if you’re outside in pants and a shirt and jacket, then your child needs a warm outfit, plus a jacket, hat, mittens … their extra layer might be a blanket or a fleece onesie."
When the weather is still 50s and lovely, you can absolutely still take your baby outside for a stroll. Of course, every parent has to take little ones to and from the car — and cars get cold overnight. Parents reminded moms and dads that car seats with attached bunting or sleeping bags aren't safe, but if you worry about that chill in the morning, Dr. Engelbreth advises you to give the car a moment to warm up before you put your baby inside. "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.
Just be careful not to over-bundle for that trip to the post office. "If babies are bundled up too much for car rides, they can develop heat rashes even in the winter," pediatrician Dr. Jarret Patton, MD, tells Romper. "There is a fine balance between too many clothes and too little."
If you've gone outside to stroll or play, a 50-degree temperature means a long-sleeved onesie with light sweater and a hat. If you'll be outside longer than 10 minutes or so, consider bringing a blanket for an added layer.
It's not freezing yet, and a warm onesie beneath a sweater or jacket is fine if you're comfortable in something light. Additionally, a hat is an easy layer to lose if the day warms back up on your picnic or stroll.
Here are a few overheating signs to look out for:
"A baby who is overheating is likely to fuss and cry and show signs of discomfort," says Engelbreth. "Over time, they kind of get sleepy and tired ... They might get red in the face, but we don’t usually see that as much. It’s more starting to fuss and cry."
Remember, babies can overheat any time of year.
When it drops below freezing, you don't want to have any baby under 6 months old out for any length of time. If you're itching for a walk around the block, a covered stroller and a short jaunt is a good choice. For winter wear, cover as much skin as you can — if it's freezing out, it's time to break out that down jacket or full body suit. Don't forget mittens to keep tiny fingers warm.
Keep in mind that babies get frostbite quicker and easier than adults, so be sure to cover as much skin as possible. "Even having their face exposed for more than 10 minutes or so, I would try to avoid," says Dr. Engelbreth.
Facial skin is absolutely the hardest to keep protected from cold winds, and Dr. Patton reports seeing lots of chapped cheeks or eczema on baby's faces. A covered stroller and limited time outdoors when it's colder than 32 degrees is the best way to protect fragile skin.
Dr. Engelbreth notes that the same basic guidelines apply for premature babies — one extra layer than you would wear, and keep skin covered — but it's a good idea to pay extra attention if your little one was born early. "Premature babies have a little less body weight and their tolerance is probably a bit lower ... You just might have a smaller window before they start being uncomfortable," she says.
20 degrees? Yikes. Protect every inch of skin you can, warm the car before you put your baby in it (when possible), and move your walks to an indoor place like the mall or a museum. Keep an eye out for overheating, and remember that warmer days will come sooner than you think. Happy winter.
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