You’ve heard about hot flashes during menopause. And you had your fair share of hot spells during pregnancy. But did you know the sweats can happen at other stages of life, too? Even — get this — babyhood.
If your baby’s waking up hot and sweaty at night, you may be alarmed and wonder if it’s normal.
Rest assured: While sweating at night — or in the daytime, for that matter — can affect anyone of any age, sweating in newborns and babies is common.
Why does it happen? Well, for one thing, a baby’s body is immature and still learning to regulate its own temperature. And at the same time, babies are often overdressed and get hot, but they can’t do anything themselves to fix the problem — or let you know what the problem is.
Remember: You’ve got this
How many of us are told when our babies are born that they love a warm, cozy environment because it reminds them of the womb? It’s true (and why newborn swaddling is such a good idea), but it’s still possible to overdo it through no fault of your own.
Don’t worry. Just adjust your little one’s layers if they’re sweating without other symptoms and move on. You’re doing great.
Sometimes babies sweat all over. Other times you may notice sweating or dampness in specific areas, like the hands, feet, or head. Again, this is quite normal. Humans just have more sweat glands in certain areas.
It’s true that in rare cases, sweating can signal a health issue. Let’s look at what causes the sweat, how it can be treated, and when you should see your pediatrician.
(tl;dr: If you’re worried about anything at all, call the doc.)
Here are some of the reasons why your baby may be sweating.
Crying or fussing themselves into a sweat
Crying can be hard work and require a lot of energy. (So can calming your little one during one of these fussing sessions!) If your baby is crying hard or has been crying for a long time, they can become sweaty and red in the face.
If this is the cause, sweating will be temporary and resolve once all is calm in baby’s world again.
Too many layers turning up the (body) heat
Conscientious parents — that’s you! — often bundle their baby in extra layers of clothing or blankets to help ensure they don’t get too cold. Well done!
However, if a baby is overbundled, they can get hot, uncomfortable, and sweaty since the skin can’t breathe.
In this case, your baby can feel hot all over. You may notice sweat anywhere on their body.
Deep sleep (aren’t you a wee bit jealous?)
Newborns spend most of the day and night sleeping, but they usually sleep in short segments, typically only about 3 or 4 hours at a time. This may have you wondering how on earth the phrase “sleep like a baby” came to have positive associations.
But during these times when your baby is sleeping, they’ll move through different sleep cycles, including very deep sleep. In deep sleep, some babies may sweat excessively and wake up wet with sweat. It’s actually quite common and is usually no cause for concern.
A cold, fever, or infection
If your baby is sweating but usually doesn’t sweat or doesn’t sweat much, they might be getting a cold or have an infection.
A fever is a telltale sign of infection, so take your little one’s temperature. You can usually use infant Tylenol to lower the fever and ease symptoms, but talk to your doctor about dosing and recommendations if your baby is younger than 6 months.
Infant sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition where you pause for 20 or more seconds between breaths while sleeping. It’s very rare in infants but can happen, especially in preemies in the early months after birth.
If you think your baby has sleep apnea, have them evaluated by your pediatrician. Signs to look for include:
- open mouth while sleeping
Sleep apnea isn’t a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) — many parents worry it is — and babies usually grow out of it. Still, it’s best to talk to a doctor if you’re concerned.
Hyperhidrosis in infancy
Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes excessive sweating, even when the temperature is cool. Localized hyperhidrosis can happen on certain parts of the body, such as the hands, armpits, or feet — or several of these areas at once.
There’s also a form of hyperhidrosis, called general hyperhidrosis, that can affect large areas of the body. It’s rare but not serious. The condition often improves as baby grows.
Hyperhidrosis can occur when awake or asleep. A more serious condition sometimes causes it, so your pediatrician will run some tests if they suspect this.
Congenital heart disease
Babies who have congenital heart disease sweat nearly all the time because their bodies are compensating for the problem and working harder to pump blood through the body. Experts estimate nearly
Babies who have congenital heart disease will have difficulty eating and start sweating as they attempt to eat. Other symptoms may include a bluish tint to the skin and fast, shallow breathing.
On a serious note, overheating (but not sweating, just to be clear) is a risk factor for SIDS. Therefore, it’s important to prevent situations where your baby might become overheated.
Since sweating can mean your baby is too hot, it’s a useful symptom that can signal you need to remove layers or otherwise cool baby down.
When you notice your baby is sweaty, the first thing to do is see if there’s anything you can do to adjust the environment so it’s more comfortable. If those changes don’t help, you may need to see a doctor.
Here are some things to check and consider.
Find and fix the problem
If your baby is crying hard and has worked up a sweat, take the time to figure out what they need and help them, and see if the sweating stops. (Yes, we know you do this on the daily and don’t need the reminder.)
While the cause of the crying could be that your baby’s hot, there may be other reasons: They’re hungry, need a diaper change, or just want you to hold them.
Adjust room temperature
Make sure the temperature in your baby’s room stays somewhere between cool and warm but isn’t hot. Your baby’s sleep environment should stay between 68 to 72°F (20 to 22°C).
If the room doesn’t have a thermometer, you can purchase a portable one to keep track. Many baby monitors also report the temperature of the room.
If you’re not sure, stop and ask yourself if you’re hot. If so, then your baby probably is, too.
Remove extra clothing
Dress your baby in lightweight, breathable clothes. Remove layers as needed. Resist the urge to bundle your little one unless it’s very cold. For safety, be sure to keep any blankets, quilts, and comforters out of their crib.
Be alert to fever and other symptoms
If you’ve taken steps to adjust the temperature and remove layers of clothing from your baby and they’re still sweaty, they could have a fever. Seek medical attention for your baby if they’re:
- younger than 3 months old and have a fever with a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C)
- over 3 months old and have a fever of 102°F (38.9°F) or higher
- over 3 months old and have had a fever for longer than 2 days
If you notice any of these other symptoms in addition to sweating, see a doctor:
It’s normal for babies to sweat. In most instances, there’s nothing to worry about. Often a simple adjustment — such as lowering the room temperature or dressing your baby in fewer layers — is all it takes. So don’t sweat it.
As your baby grows and is better able to regulate their temperature, it generally will happen less. If your baby has hyperhidrosis and it continues to be an issue as they grow older, your pediatrician can treat it.
But, as with any issue your baby might be having, trust your instincts. If you have concerns, make an appointment to see your pediatrician.