From snow and sparkling lights to hot cocoa and cute, cozy onesies, winter is a magical time — especially with a newborn — but it can be stressful for new parents.
After all, keeping your baby safe in the cold is tricky. That said, it is not impossible. There are dozens of ways to protect your little one this winter.
Here’s everything you need to know about cold weather safety.
The short answer is yes: Babies can go outside in the winter. However, trips should be limited — in distance and duration — because babies aren’t able to regulate their body temperature yet.
Newborns, toddlers, and young children also lack body fat and have smaller body size. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this means that they can lose heat more quickly than adults.
Avoid temperatures below -15 degrees Fahrenheit. Always check the wind speed and wind chill. Keep outdoor trips limited to 15 minutes or less, and know the warning signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Keep an eye out for shaking, shivering, and/or red or grayish-colored skin.
On the other side, you should also check on your child regularly to make sure they are not too hot, as overheating can result in a rash, discomfort and — in some cases — in increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
What your baby should wear in the winter depends on where they are and what they will be doing. If, for example, your baby will be staying inside, a long sleeve sleeper should suffice. However, the general rule of thumb is that your baby should wear the same thing you would comfortably wear, plus one layer.
Clothes for the house
As mentioned, if your baby is staying inside and if the house is warm, one layer is, in most cases, sufficient, though you may want to add socks and/or cotton mittens to keep their extremities warm.
Consider the temperature inside your house and adjust their clothing as needed. If your heater is blasting, they may be happy in just a onesie or shirt. But if you’re wearing flannel pajamas and a warm blanket to stay toasty with the heater on low, they might do better with a thicker, footed pajama on top of a onesie.
Clothes for the snow and/or a stroller
If your baby will be in their stroller and/or the snow for a prolonged period of time, you want to make sure they are as comfortable as they can be.
Several, thin layers will keep them warm and dry. A hat can (and will) protect their head, and waterproof snowsuits and coats are a good option if your baby will be exposed to the elements. Gloves, socks, and booties are also recommended.
Stroller covers can also be purchased; however, you will want to be mindful of how insulted said cover is. If it keeps the stroller warm, you may want to remove some layers of clothing to avoid overheating.
Clothes for the car
Dressing your child for their car seat may seem tricky. After all, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding snowsuits and winter coats when your baby is strapped in.
The reason for this is car seat safety. When the snowsuit or coat is worn in the seat, the straps cannot be fitted closely to your baby’s body. In the event of an accident the coat could compress, and your child could slip out of the looser straps, suffering serious injury.
Choose thin, close-fitting layers, like tights and/or leggings instead of that bulky coat. Add pants and a warmer top, like a sweater or fleece shirt, and don’t forget socks, hats, booties, and mittens.
Once baby is secured in their seat, place a coat or blanket over the straps instead of between your baby and the straps. You can always adjust for comfort once your baby is safely buckled into the warm car.
Clothes for bedtime
When it comes to bedtime, erring on the side of caution is best. The truth is, babies sleep better when they’re cooler. It also reduces their risk of SIDS.
Footed pajamas are a good choice, as are bodysuits. Swaddles and sleep sacks can be used for younger babies if the room is on the cool side and/or if your baby prefers the comfort of a swaddle.
However, remember blankets should not be used before 12 months of age.
The ideal temperature for your house (and baby’s room) varies, depending on what they are wearing — and your comfort level. Most pediatricians, however, recommend keeping your thermostat somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees.
The reason? Keeping your child’s room at this temperature will prevent them from overheating and reduce their risk of SIDS.
The best way to protect your child from the elements is to dress them appropriately. Keeping them covered and well-clothed will help keep them safe and warm. But there are other important guidelines to follow during the winter months.
Baby wearing is a great way to keep your little one warm during the winter months. After all, you can wear your baby inside your own coat, if it is big enough. This allows you to stay aware of their comfort and warmth.
However, if you’re wearing your baby in the winter, you’ll want to be particularly mindful of the conditions. Icy surfaces, sidewalks, and roadways can be hazardous to your health and your child’s in the event of a fall.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re keeping their face clear and not allowing scarfs, jackets, or other items to block the free flow of air to your little one.
Car seat safety
Following car seat safety guidelines is imperative at all times, but particularly in the winter. Why? Because as previously mentioned, fluffy or puffy garments can (and will) flatten out during a crash — and this could cause baby to be thrown from their seat, and the car.
For optimal care seat safety, it’s important to:
- Avoid bulky garments.
- Make sure straps are tightened and appropriately placed.
- Store baby’s car seat inside when not in use. This will allow you plenty of time to get them buckled in safely without losing body heat.
Overall distance and duration
Newborns and young children should not be exposed to the elements for more than 15 minutes at a time so plan accordingly. Take breaks, and if you are out and about, be sure to find shelter several times an hour.
Cold weather can be hard on your baby’s skin, but fear not: There are numerous products designed to keep your baby soft and supple even during the winter months.
- Lotions rehydrate delicate skin and act as a barrier.
- Moisturizers keep moisture in — and stop the cold from damaging the skin. Mild body washes can also be helpful, especially since many “baby blends” contain ingredients designed to replenish and rehydrate the skin.
- Shea butter and dry heat can have a huge impact on the softness of your baby’s skin.
You may also want to reduce the number of baths your baby takes, as long, hot baths may actually cause dryness and irritation.
While caring for your baby in the winter comes with special challenges, the truth is that — with a little foresight, a little care, and a whole lot of layers — even the youngest members of your family can enjoy this season.