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Babies in cold weather

7-minute read

It can be hard to know how your baby feels when it comes to dressing them. So it is normal to worry if your baby is feeling too hot or cold. Getting the balance right, and feeling confident about your baby’s comfort, can take practice and time.

What are the effects of cold weather on babies?

When a baby is cold, they will feel uncomfortable and are unlikely to sleep well. Similarly, if they feel hot, a baby can become unsettled and irritable.

Healthy babies, who are on track with their development, can maintain a normal body temperature with ease. But if they are sick or the weather is very cold (or hot), how they are dressed may need more consideration.

Since babies lose body heat from their head and face, hats and beanies — as well as warm clothing — are good ways to help them maintain warmth. Keep in mind that warm clothing can also cause a baby to overheat. To help prevent hats or beanies from overheating your baby:

  • Take your baby’s hat or beanie off when you are indoors or in a warm place, including in the car or on public transport. This will help them to avoid becoming overheated.
  • Always take your baby’s hat or beanie off before they go to sleep. To keep them safe when they are sleeping, it is important that your baby’s head is uncovered.

How can I tell if my baby is too cold or too warm?

A good guide for dressing your baby in cold weather is to think about how you are dressed. Generally, the recommendation is the same number of layers as you have on plus one more for your baby. Try to dress your baby in lightweight layers that are easy to remove if they warm up. It does not take much for them to overheat if they are dressed or wrapped in thick layers of clothes.

Although your baby’s hands and face may feel cold, this may differ from their core body temperature. To give you a better idea if they are warm or cold, feel the skin on their tummy and back. Their skin should feel warm and not too hot or cold.

Your baby’s behaviour will give you an insight into how comfortable they feel. Signs that your baby is comfortable, include if they are happy, active and feeding and sleeping well.

What are the risks for babies in extreme cold weather?

Due to a baby’s smaller size and having less muscle mass than an adult, babies are at a greater risk of developing hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, breathing slowly and having pale, cool skin. Babies who are hot, tend to look uncomfortable. Like adults who overheat, a baby’s skin will become red, and they will look flushed.

Where possible, consider dressing your baby in natural fibres such as cotton or bamboo. These will help your baby’s skin to breathe and not overheat. If the weather is cool, put socks on your baby’s feet. When the weather is even cooler, dress them in clothing that has a closer weave. This will help to keep your baby warm.

Should I take my baby out in cold weather and how can I protect them?

It is safe to take your baby out when the weather is cold. Make sure they are dressed warmly and protected from the wind and rain. Outside play and activities help children to learn about how their body responds to the environment.

If your baby becomes wet, they are more likely to feel cold. Take spare clothes with you when you go out, even if you do not plan to be out in the weather.

Dress your baby in an extra layer of clothing and take a lightweight blanket to cover them if they are in a pram. Choose clothing that covers your baby’s arms and legs. A good alternative to separates is an all-in-one jumpsuit. It will not ride up and need tucking in.

Remember that your body heat will warm up your baby if you carry them in a carrier or sling. Baby sling safety is important. Follow this checklist to make sure your baby stays safe.

How do I dress my baby for cold weather, outdoors?

Dress your baby in lightweight layers that are easy to remove if they warm up. It may help to check the weather forecast before you go out and to pack extra layers of clothing in case your baby becomes too cold.

How do I dress my baby for cold weather at bedtime?

Whatever the temperature, it is important that you follow the safe sleeping guidelines when you put your baby to sleep. Because babies control their temperature through their face and head, they should sleep on their back. This will help to protect them from overheating. You may like to dress your baby in night clothes so they are more comfortable for sleep.

To keep your baby warm and safe when they are sleeping in their cot, put them in a safe sleeping bag. A correct-sized sleeping bag will help to keep your baby warm and their face and head uncovered. Make sure the sleeping bag has a fitted neck, armholes or sleeves and no hood.

Cold weather guide

Step by step guide on how to dress your baby for cold weather.

Never use an electric blanket or a hot water bottle in your baby’s cot. These can easily make your baby overheat. Instead, use layers of lightweight blankets that you can add or remove. Make sure the blankets are large to be able to be tucked underneath the mattress to ensure sleep safety.

Avoid using soft bedding like doonas, pillows, cot bumpers, lamb’s wool and sheepskin in your baby’s cot. These can make your baby overheat and may cover their face.

Will my baby sleep more in winter?

Babies do not necessarily sleep more in winter, though it can be easier to care for them when the weather is cool. Like adults, babies like to feel warm and cosy. When you swaddle a baby, they feel more secure.

You do not need to measure the room temperature where your baby will sleep or leave the heating (or cooling) on all night. Make sure you dress your baby in clothes and bedding that are suitable for room temperature.

Read more

Dressing a newborn

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Having a healthy pregnancy means following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, knowing what to avoid and making sure your vaccinations are up to date.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2022

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