A hot New Zealand summer presents a muddling conundrum for parents. How do you dress your newborn baby in the heat?
We all have vivid delivery-room memories of the midwife rushing to wrap your baby in a blanket when they were first born. Then there’s Grandma’s obsession with booties and hats.
It all points to everyone being very focused on keeping your baby warm. But babies have a limited ability to regulate their own temperature, so it’s just as important to keep your baby cool in the warm months as it is to keep them warm in the cool months.
Your baby’s temperature: The must-know facts
- Your baby’s temperature in the womb was about 37.7°C and then they came out covered in amniotic fluid. So it was a bit like stepping out of a warm swimming pool into the air. That’s why everyone rushed to bundle your baby into a blanket at birth. You don’t need to apply this same ‘warm baby up’ hysteria in the summer months.
- Outside the womb, your baby’s temperature should be somewhere between 36°C – 37°C.
- If your baby’s temperature is between 37°C – 37.5°C it’s not likely to be a fever; instead this slightly elevated temperature is usually caused by overdressing, over-wrapping, or being in a hot car or room. Take some layers off your baby and move into a cooler room, and the temperature should come down.
Are socks and hats necessary?
Sweating is one way the human body cools down. Babies have a limited ability to sweat – they only sweat from their neck, hands, feet and head (30% of their overall body). Because of this, they can become overheated very quickly. So putting socks and hats on babies when it’s hot will limit their ability to cool themselves down again. So ditch the socks and hats in summer, unless it’s a sun hat, and even then, it’s better to keep your baby in the shade.
How much clothing is too much? How little is too little?
What are you wearing? Are you cold? If you’re comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts, then your baby will be comfortable in similar clothing. For hot days, a cotton short-sleeved bodysuit that fastens beneath the crotch is perfect (for your baby, not you!). You can add layers when things cool down.
Similarly, if it’s so hot that you feel like hanging around in your undies (but common decency prevails), dressing your baby in a nappy only is completely appropriate.
Similarly again, if you find nylon, polyester and synthetic fabrics uncomfortable and itchy in summer, so will your baby. Soft, breathable cotton is best.
What about wrapping?
Most babies still like to be wrapped for sleep, even when it’s hot. So if it’s a really hot day, just strip him down to his nappy and wrap him in a light muslin or cotton wrap. Leave your baby’s head uncovered and his hands poking out of the wrap to allow him some ability for self-cooling.
How do I know if my baby is too hot?
Here are the signs that your baby is too hot:
- a flushed face
- rapid breathing
- skin that is unusually warm to the touch
To check how hot or cold your baby is, place the back of your hand on the back of your baby’s neck. Their skin should feel comfortably warm.
Overall, babies become irritable when they’re hot – they cry and fuss. So keeping baby cool in summer is a win-win for everyone. Just ignore all those old ladies telling you your baby should be wearing socks, thank Grandma for the booties and put them away for winter. You know best. Use your common sense and you’ll be fine.