Now that the weather is turning much colder, we parents have a few more worries to add to our list! How to keep baby warm enough while she’s sleeping, without letting her over heat? Safe sleep guidelines recommend that parents ensure babies do not get too hot while they sleep, but how can we make sure they’re still warm enough? At the end of the day, we want to protect our precious bundles, but how do we know if we’re doing the right thing or not? Here are a few winter sleeping tips for babies that might help. Please remember that we are not medical experts and if you are at all concerned, please do call your health visitor or GP for more information.
Watch the layers
As the weather gets colder and colder, we tend to dress up in more layers to keep the cold at bay. I know I can often be found in vests, t-shirts, jumpers AND a coat most days during winter. And that’s fine, because if I get too hot I can easily remove a layer or two to stay comfortable. The problem is that your baby can’t do that. If she gets too hot, she has no way of removing a layer to ease her discomfort and keep her safe. So if you are layering baby up, make sure you remove some of those layers when you come inside, and keep checking regularly to make sure she isn’t too hot. Layers are a good idea because they can be removed, but remember that babies cannot regulate their own temperatures so you need to be on hand to help at all times.
A good rule of thumb is to go by how hot you are feeling yourself. If you move into a building with central heating, make sure you take a couple of layers off baby too. And during sleep, remember that your baby cannot kick off the covers if she’s feeling too hot. Use a sleeping bag to make sure she's snug and warm, but you really don’t need extra layers under her sleep suit unless it’s very cold. Again, use your judgement and check regularly to make sure she isn’t over heating. A room thermometer is also a good idea to keep an eye on the temperature in the nursery too. Tempo Disc is another one of our handy inventions that records ambient temperature.
If your baby is sleeping inside, you need to make sure that she is nowhere near heaters or radiators, and again check how many layers she has. In very cold weather, just one extra layer is ok and often you won’t need any more than that. Always place your baby to sleep on her back, and make sure there are no loose covers or toys in her bed. If you’re not sure, place a hand on baby’s neck or tummy- if the skin feels clammy, she is likely to be too hot.
It’s important to remember that if the room is already warm, your baby won’t need an extra blanket or vest. Being too warm can affect her natural breathing rhythm so its something you need to make sure all care givers are aware of.
As busy parents, we all know that sometimes our babies have to sleep on the go, in the pram or buggy perhaps. Some parents like to regularly allow their babies to sleep outside, and this is absolutely fine to do. It is important though to make sure that you baby is warm enough while sleeping outside, and just as imperative that she doesn’t over heat too.
As a general rule, apply one extra layer to your baby when you go outside during cold weather. Always put a hat on your baby, and make sure you remove it once inside again. Babies can lose a lot of heat through the head, and similarly they can struggle to cool down once inside if you don’t take the hat off. If you’re in the car, don’t be tempted to pop a blanket over your baby as cars can heat up quite quickly and once you're en route you might find it difficult to stop and remove the extra layer. It’s also worth noting that guidelines recommend babies do not travel in car seats with thick winter coats on- so make sure you leave the coat for when you arrive.
Most importantly, trust your instincts. If you feel hot/ cold then its likely your baby will too. Use a room thermometer to keep temperatures stable inside, and check regularly whilst your baby sleeps. For more safe sleep guidance, please see the Lullaby Trust for up to date recommendations.