Safe & Cozy
When winter arrives, it’s your responsibility to make sure your baby keeps cozy and dry. But if you’re like most moms, the prospect of dealing with a squirming baby in a bulky jacket, falling blankets, diaper bag, and car seat may sound like a monumental hassle. Here are some tips that make it easier to keep your baby safe and comfortable, whether you’re going on an outing or tucking your little one in for the night.
To prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), experts recommend that you put your baby to sleep on her back without pillows or blankets. They also want rooms at a cool 68 degrees.
Choose a warm bedding material like a flannel fitted sheet and don’t forget to have some extras on-hand for leaky diapers and spit-up disasters. Snug sleepers with built-in footies keep feet toasty without the choking hazard of socks. For an extra layer, put a bodysuit or undershirt underneath the sleeper.
Sleep sacks are basically wearable blankets that zip up the front or side, and can be worn over a sleeper. These are sleeveless, so your baby can still move his arms around while the rest of his body stays securely in a blanket that cannot ride up.
The Great Outdoors
When you’re planning to head outside with your baby, you’re going to need to give yourself ample time. Multiple layers are a time-sucking drag for both parent and baby.
Easy-on, easy-off outer layers like snowsuits or bunting provide a great buffer against the cold and wet. Once baby is dressed in her outfit, you can just put her into the snowsuit or bunting just before you head out the door or get out of the car. Snowsuits have form-fitting legs and arms, and most are equipped with hoods, while buntings are more like little sleeping bags, with a seam between the legs to make stroller snap-ins easier. Look for gear with a good layer of insulation and a water-repellent exterior fabric.
A soft hat and mittens will ward away the cold. If you have a finger or hand sucker, keep some extra mittens handy. Make sure your baby has on very warm socks or booties, too.
On especially frosty days, you can wrap a blanket around the bunting or snowsuit if you don’t own a stroller sack (designed to attach to a stroller so it won’t slip off). If you don’t want to invest in a bunting or snowsuit, dress your baby in warm, layered clothing, then wrap him in a cotton receiving blanket, and top it off with another, heavier blanket.
Once you’re inside, take at least one layer off your baby so he won’t perspire. Otherwise, the dampness will make him colder when you get back out in the winter air. And if you’ve covered your baby with a blanket in the car, you’ll want to take it off once the car warms up.
In order to work properly in a crash, car seat straps must be snug—so make sure your baby isn’t wearing clothing that’s too bulky in the car seat, and don’t put blankets between your baby and the straps. Instead, dress her in clothes that allow the straps to go between her legs, adjust the straps to allow for the thickness of her clothes, and pile blankets or other bulky layers on top of the harness straps instead of under them.
As long as the weather isn’t too unfriendly, it’s good for your baby to get some fresh winter air every day, whether it’s in a stroller, carrier, or backpack. Just keep in mind that while you’re working up a sweat exercising, your baby is just sitting in the cold—and he’ll get chilly well before you do. But how will you know when he’s had enough?
Be sensitive to your baby’s nonverbal signals. If she’s happy to be out at first but starts fussing after a while, she may be trying to tell you that she’s cold. It’s a good idea to check little fingers, toes, ears, and face regularly and head inside before she gets uncomfortable.
If your baby’s skin seems to be turning white, he’s becoming frost-nipped, and you’ll want to get indoors right away. Don’t try to warm his skin by rubbing it, or you might cause more damage. For the same reason, don’t let your baby bear weight on frost-nipped parts—by crawling or walking, for example. Instead, hold his skin against yours (tuck his hands in your armpits if they’re frost-nipped). Then immerse the skin in warm (not hot) water. If his skin looks yellowish, stiff, waxy, or significantly swollen, or if it starts blistering, he has frostbite, and you’ll need to take him to the emergency room right away.
Chilly air outside and dry heat indoors make a recipe for chaffed skin, not to mention sunburn is an issue 365 days a year.
Keep your baby’s skin moisturized. Pediatricians recommend you not put lubricants on a newborn’s skin, though—wait until she’s a month old.
Be careful not to overdo the baths in the winter months. When you do wash your baby, use a mild soap, and don’t let him soak in the tub too long. Wrap him in a hooded baby towel as soon as you take him out of the water and pat (don’t rub) him dry quickly. Put a mild baby lotion on his skin, and then bundle him up. If the house is very dry, you might consider putting a cool-mist humidifier in the room. It will help both baby’s skin and breathing by warding away dry nasal passages.
Even the winter sun can damage skin. If your baby is under six months old, try to keep her skin out of the sun. Dab a little sunscreen on any parts that might be exposed—like her cheeks—before you head out. The safest sunscreens for babies are chemical-free and made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (these ingredients physically block the sun). If your child’s six months old or older, apply sunscreen every time you go outdoors. Sunglasses are a good idea, too. #
Sources: Consumer Reports, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Nemours.