Summer is here, which means it's time to break out the sunscreen, sand toys, and air conditioners. (As if babies didn't already have enough gear.) Parents of newborns wrapped up like tiny burritos have even more questions. Some may be wondering, should I swaddle my baby in summer? Nobody wants a sweaty baby, but nobody wants a baby to wake up with flailing limbs.
Romper spoke with Ruby Sibal, newborn care specialist and the founder of Beyond Baby Care. In New York City, she's well-known among Manhattan moms as the baby whisperer. Here's how it works: after the baby is born, Sibal lives with her clients 24/7 for up to three months, helping new families through the notoriously difficult "fourth trimester." Over the course of her career, she has personally cared for 47 infants — and their anxious parents, too.
According to Sibal, it is safe to swaddle babies in summer, but you should choose a lightweight, breathable fabric, to prevent overheating. Dress the baby lightly, and if you don't have air conditioning, it's OK for baby to wear nothing but a diaper beneath the swaddle.
Sibal refers parents to the Academy of American Pediatrics, which cites overheating as a risk factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Overheating is especially scary, because infants tend to sleep when they feel warm. While a baby that's cold will alert you with a cry, a baby that's overheating may simply keep sleeping.
Sibal recommends touching your baby's forehead, neck, and chest. If skin is damp or sweaty, it may mean that baby's too hot. Reddened skin is another sign to watch out for. "Also, check the breathing of the baby. Rapid breathing is a sign of overheating," she says. Finally, be careful with hats, especially at bedtime, because hats may trap heat inside the body.
Sibal has a few more tips for navigating the summer heat with your newborn, including keeping babies under 6 months old away from direct sunlight as much as possible, taking stroller walks during the coolest party of the day (maybe with a battery-operated stroller fan), and dressing babies accordingly and in single layers at night. A good rule of thumb during the day? Babies should wear one more layer than you feel comfortable in.
Swaddling is a powerful tool in the newborn-care arsenal, even in summer. It can calm fussiness and help your baby sleep better, longer. However, fabric should always be kept loose around the hips, to prevent dysplasia, and you should stop swaddling as soon as baby starts to roll. If swaddling doesn't calm your baby, you might not be swaddling tightly enough. According to Sibal, tight wrapping is necessary to mimic the sensation of life in the womb: "Newborns don't need freedom. They need security."
Because her mission is to help as many families as possible, and because not all parents can afford a baby nurse (would that we could, and baby nurses for all), Sibal also offers online consultations. Among other things, she'll teach you how to swaddle — she's well-versed in the best techniques, and can demonstrate on 14 different fabrics. Probably even with her eyes closed.