As the weather turns, parents in various parts of the world are folding away short-sleeved onesies and trading them in for fleece pajamas. It can be difficult to know what is, and isn't, an appropriate amount of clothing that will keep your baby comfortable enough to (hopefully) enjoy a full night's sleep. Too little and your baby might be cold, but if you load them up with too many clothes your baby could overheat. If adults tend to sleep better with slighter lower temps, is sleeping in cold weather good for babies, too? It seems that for some — like Scandinavian parents — the answer is a resounding yes.
According to a BBC report, Nordic moms and dads regularly lay their babies down outside for a nap in below-freezing temperatures. The result, apparently, is a longer nap due to the inhalation of fresh air, which allows a deeper sleep. A Finnish study further backs up this particular claim, stating babies do, in fact, sleep longer in cold weather temperatures. The results may have had more to do with fresh air and less to do with the actual temperature of the air itself, though, as suggested by this study in the Journal of Sleep Research.
If you're not sure how cold is too cold, though, Dr. Jennifer Shu, M.D., pediatrician and coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn warns people caring for a newborn via Parents that, "young babies aren't able to regulate their temperature well and can lose heat quickly." Babies and children, especially ages 2 and under, might be more susceptible to things like frostbite and hypothermia if they're not layered properly.
If Nordic temperatures seem a little too drastic, Fit Pregnancy advises keeping your household thermostat between 68 and 72 degrees. Overheating is among one of the concerns connected with the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) — specifically during winter when babies are most as rick because of how they're dressed. Parents afraid of their babies being too cold will inadvertently dress them too warming, and overheating interferes with their breathing which, in turn, can interfere with the natural patterns of nighttime breathing and their ability to wake up if that breathing becomes inhibited. National Institutes of Health (NIH) adds not to use additional blankets or covers when your putting your baby to sleep, and to always lay baby on his or her back. With SIDS as the third leading cause of infant death, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's important to take all the necessary precautions in cooling your house and dressing your baby the correct way for sleep.
The Baby Sleep Site has a few guidelines on "winterizing" your baby. For a swaddled newborn, they suggest a simple short-sleeved onesie in the summer, and long-sleeved in the winter with socks. If you've moved past the swaddling stage, you can dress them the same as a newborn, with the added warmth of a sleepsack. Some parents swear by cracking a window or use of a fan for the extra cooling factor to assist in better sleep. But, if you're out for a walk in hopes your baby will nap the way the Scandinavians do (in the chilly temperatures), it's important to shield any direct sunlight or wind, and don't cover the entire stroller as it interrupts air circulation and can become dangerous.
Parents also highlights other worries associated with cold weather — mostly germs that lead to illness — that could impact your baby's immune system. Staying up-to-date on vaccinations, washing your hands before and after interacting with your baby, using hand sanitizer, and if breastfeeding, continuing to nurse when you're sick so the natural antibodies in breast milk can help your baby fight off any lingering illnesses.
The bottom line is, as always, safety. Safety is key. In cold weather, a baby can sleep welly, safely, if they're dressed in the correct layers (not too much, not to little), your baby should be fine sleeping during the cold, winter months. It's not exactly a science, but definitely takes solid parental judgement and regular skin checks to make sure your baby is comfortable and safe.
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