No one wants their little one to get cold. We all know how miserable a feeling it is when the bite of air hits a little too long on exposed skin — the deep, chattering cold that comes with winters in the north, cold snaps, and too much air conditioning. In our efforts to warm our babies though, we might go too far to the other side, over-dressing our littles. While we may not think about them, the dangers of over-bundling your baby in the winter are real and can be deadly.
It's true that babies require more insulation than adults. They are smaller, have faster metabolisms, and there just isn't as much energy in their tiny forms to fuel the engines as there are in adults, but they don't need to be in a snowsuit 24/7. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), they only require an additional layer or two above what an adult needs to be warm and comfortable without overheating. Otherwise, you're putting your child at a greater risk for SIDS, as well as dehydration and overheating.
Another risk of over-bundling your child in the winter that might not occur to you is that if you put your child in their car seat or stroller without first un-bundling them, their car seat and stroller cannot protect them on impact as they should. The bundling causes them to slip from the confines of the seat or stroller, propelling them out of the safety of the seat, noted the AAP.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) began issuing warnings about the dangers of over-bundling your baby in the winter a few years ago. Up until then, parents just sort of went with their gut instinct of how to dress their baby for the winter and hoped it was good. The NIH began educating parents when a study they completed showed that the rates of SIDS spiked dramatically in the winter months. They found that too many blankets, heavy clothing, and swaddling clothes made for a dangerous situation for baby.
The babies who are swaddled so heavily are harder to rouse, according to the study, and they have a tendency to get overheated. Also, when there's too much bundling over a baby, say, in a car seat that you have draped with a blanket to keep out the harsh chill, it causes something called "re-breathing," Dr. Yvonne Gustafson, PhD, told ABC 7 Los Angeles.
When babies breathe nothing but recirculated air, it causes a buildup of carbon dioxide in the environment, which is associated with sleep-related deaths and SIDS. You want your baby to be comfortable, but not too warm. Gustafson recommended that you check the back of the neck for temperature. Also, your baby needs access to fresh, clean air, even if you think it's too cold.
As for the car seat and stroller dangers, while they're not the first thing you think of when you hear the term "over-bundling," it's insanely important. Car seat guidelines have come a long way since we were little. Heck, I used to sit in the front seat when I was barely past toddlerhood, drinking my Diet Coke and jamming to the Beach Boys in my aunt's white Mazda. Now there are more regulations about car seats than there are to get into college, but they're there for a reason.
According to the AAP, your child should go into the car seat wearing minimal jackets and outerwear. After they're securely strapped in, then you can add blankets layer by layer, in removable layers so that if the car gets too warm, you can easily remove each piece, making baby comfortable and safe.
Just remember, if your baby's core and the back of their necks are warm, then it's likely they are warm. Sure, you might want to give an extra layer on their fingers and toes, but they don't always need to resemble the Stay Puft marshmallow man to be comfy and cozy. Think layers, not bunting, and you're good to go.
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