If you’re due to give birth during the winter or will have a newborn or young baby during the winter, it’s important to be educated about the hazards of cold weather on your baby. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the physiology of babies and children leaves them unable to regulate their body temperatures as well as adults, and this can cause serious health problems if exposed to extreme temperatures.
Here are some common winter scenarios in which your baby may be faced with extreme cold, and how to remedy the situation.
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s important to remove any coats or snowsuits before putting baby in the car. The extra space created by the padding may compress in an accident, leaving enough space for baby to slip out. To keep baby warm in a cold car, be prepared with a blanket to use over the straps once baby is strapped in. Once the car heats up, you can easily pull it off.
Despite the cold temperatures, it’s important that baby still sleeps alone in the crib, without any blankets, pillows, or other loose items. To combat the cold weather, dress baby in a warm sleeper such as a sleep sack. Remember, overheating is a risk factor for SIDS, so don’t overdo it with the layers.
If your baby is still a newborn, it’s perfectly okay to skip the outdoor festivities when it’s too cold outside. Keeping your baby home and unexposed to cold temperatures or germs is never a bad choice. If the temperature isn’t below freezing or uncomfortable and baby is healthy, the rule of thumb for dressing is to put baby in one more layer than you would wear. Don’t forget warm socks, boots, mittens, and a hat! However, pay close attention to baby’s temperament and appearance. If you notice red cheeks, blue lips, a pale nose, or cold extremities, it’s probably time to head indoors. Similarly, if baby’s body seems hot and sweaty, they may be too hot and need a layer removed.
Cold and flu germs abound in the winter, and because your baby’s immune system is still young and immature they are more susceptible to getting sick than you. The two best things you can do to reduce baby’s risk of getting sick, besides staying current with your vaccinations, are:
1) Wash your hands frequently and correctly, and
2) Avoid exposure
Keep baby away from infected people and crowds. When you go out, be sure to sanitize public surfaces you touch, and to wash your hands as soon as you come home. If you’re breastfeeding, continue to do so because as your body creates antibodies to defend against germs you come in contact with, it passes the antibodies to baby through the breastmilk, strengthening baby’s immune system.
Follow these tips to help keep your baby safe and healthy this cold winter season.