How does the cold weather affect your baby? – By Jo Ryan

Now it is getting cooler, we need to talk about how best to deal with babies and winter. In my experience, winter can be better for sleeping than summer is. Who doesn’t love to snuggle down under their blankets!? It is also easier to warm a room and a baby, rather than cool them down. That said, it is important to not let your child get cold overnight, as this can cause them to wake. Waking from being cold usually happens when the temperature drops around the 4-5am in the morning.

As well as dressing your baby appropriately, if your house is cold at night then I am a fan of warming the room. You can do this with a heater, either switched on before the baby goes to bed, or kept at a steady temperature overnight. It seems to be best when the room is about 20 to 22 degrees, but down to 18 degrees is fine.

If it isn’t possible to heat the room, then you will need to dress your baby more warmly. The best combination is having them firstly in a singlet (can be an all-in-one) then an all-in-one sleep suit. The suit should have long arms and long legs and feet covered. And finally use a sleeping bag or swaddle bag that is a winter weight – usually a 2.5 or 3 TOG is enough. If you still feel this isn’t warm enough then you can add another layer to the baby. This can be a jumper or cardigan over the sleep suit and under the sleeping bag.

Some people like to use a blanket as well, which is okay as long as the baby can’t get stuck underneath it. My preference is to use a lose blanket, particularly if your baby is moving around. But ideally it is better to dress your baby more warmly and not use the blanket, for safety’s sake. For very young babies who are not moving, then a sheet and a blanket is lovely and cosy when tucked in tightly.

Young babies lose heat faster than adults and the younger they are the less able they are to regulate their temperature and cope with the cold. So, if you are venturing out into the cold, make sure your baby is layered up. Don’t overdo it though! Overdressing a baby can be an issue too. So, the rule of thumb is dress them as you would dress yourself, then add one layer. Hats/beanies are also a good idea for the outdoors when they are little.

Winter is also a time for colds and germs, so try to keep your children away from other children who have colds. Also make sure everyone’s immunisations are up to date, and don’t’ forget to wash hands! Particularly if you have an older child at childcare or school, have them wash their hands as soon as they get home and before they go near the baby.

Babies’ skin can get very red and dry in the winter months, particularly the cheeks and lips. This is due to the cold, dry air. You can help by applying a gentle moisturiser every day to these areas, and some baby-safe lip balm to help with the dry lips. You also don’t need to bath your baby every day if they have particularly dry skin. When they do have a bath use a cream cleanser rather than a soap the wash them. You can also use a humidifier in their bedroom at night, to help soften the air and relieve the dryness.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.