Dressing babies for sleep time for the chilly Winter nights can sometimes be tricky—after all they can't exactly tell you if they're too hot, too cold or just right.
As parents we can either overdo it or unintentionally under dress our babies.
For newborns especially, its important to get this right. Over dressing could potentially run the risk of overheating and under dressing could mean loss of precious calories, especially in the early weeks when you're trying to increase or maintain precious caloric weight gain.
Did you know that newborns use up precious calories to retain body heat?
A newborn’s body temperature goes up and down quickly as the temperature around them changes. Calories that are needed for growth can be spent trying to keep warm or stay cool. Therefore, it's really important to help your newborn keep their body temperature normal by dressing them appropriately.
[photo image taken during a supervised professional photography session]
When does your baby self-regulate body temperature?
Not many know that babies under the age of 15 months haven't yet developed the ability to regulate their body temperature. For babies, feeling cold in the night can be one of the reasons for night wakings. A baby's fight or flight mechanism to feeling cold is to roll-over onto their tummy as a way to protect their internal organs. If your baby is in some form of a swaddle wrap or suit that restricts their arms, this can pose a risk.
Tips on keeping your precious baby sleeping "just right" in the Winter season
Assess Your Environment
First things first, there is no one size fits all answer to determining what is "just right" for all babies. Just as all babies are different, there are a number of environmental factors that need to be considered to help you determine what is right for your baby.
These factors include the external environment such as the current season or climate you live in as well as your internal environment (your home) and includes your home temperature during the day and night time, the type of clothing and bedding you use for your baby.
It's important to note that there are differences in temperatures and humidity levels depending on where you live, your climate and what season you're in. Winter in the southern parts of Australia for instance is a lot colder than in the northern parts like Queensland and the Northern Territory, where it is fairly much a tropical and warm climate. Therefore, varying climates and seasons will very much dictate how you assess your internal environment for working out what is "just right" for your baby.
Your Baby's Room Temperature
There is much advice out there on what is a comfortable room temp for your baby's room. Knowing your baby's general room temperature helps you to work out how to dress your baby for sleep.
Lets take the example where a baby's room temp is around 18C to 22C during the dayin Winter and at night time can drop down to below 15C overnight where no other form of heating is used in the house or bedroom. You will almost be guaranteed that your baby will wake due to coldness at some point during the night.
When choosing your baby's bedding, it is recommended to use sheets and blankets that are made of natural materials such as cotton or bamboo. These are natural materials that provide a high level of breathability.
Breathability means air passes through the fabric more easily and doesn't trap heat and moisture between your baby and the fabric and won't cause your baby to sweat or overheat unlike polyester materials which are a synthetic material and can cause babies to sweat even when cold.
Make sure baby is dressed appropriately. Similarly to bedding, choose clothing made of natural materials, cotton or bamboo, to ensure breathability.
Using a TOG rated sleeping bag is recommended especially for older babies that start to move around in bed. We all know that blankets will almost surely come off in the night. A winter sleeping bag serves the same purpose as what a doona does for adults.
However, you may be interested to know that the TOG rating for an adult doona is somewhere around the 16 TOG mark. So just think about your baby in a 2 or 3 TOG rated sleeping bag - they will certainly need a few layers of blankets over them.
If using additional layers of blankets, make sure to firmly tuck in blankets under the sides of their bed mattress to ensure blankets don't come off. NEVER tuck a sleeping bag onto the sides of their cot, as this may cause them to become stuck in a risky position.
Always remember, there's no one right answer to everything. Sometime's it takes a bit of trial and error to find what works for you and your baby.
Your baby will often communicate with you by way of waking and or crying if something is not right. Listen and watch for signs if your baby is too cold or too hot. Touch your baby in the forehead, back of neck and chest to check if they are too hot or too cold.
As with most things when it comes to your precious babies, please use common sense.