When a baby is born, they enter an environment that is significantly colder than what they've been used to, so take precautions to keep your baby warm, and at a comfortable temperature.
Baby's head is 20% of the body surface, so must be dried immediately after birth, and kept warm. Did you notice all those knitted woolly hats at the birth unit or maternity ward reception? They're not just for show! When going out on a cold winter's day the head - and hands and feet - must be covered.
Adults shiver when we're cold, and the movement helps raise our temperature. Babies don't have this mechanism to keep warm, but they are born with a special kind of fat called brown adipose tissue, which the baby metabolises to produce warmth. Clever!
However, perhaps due to these reasons babies are often kept too warm, which can lead to dehydration.
FACTS & TIPS
- A full term baby can produce heat well, but is not as good at conserving heat.
- Energy baby spends on keeping warm could instead be spent on the vital process of growing.
- If babies are left to get cold it can be very serious, and they risk being chilled.
- A warm baby is relaxed and happy.
- At four weeks after birth, a baby can get too hot, because at this stage they are better at conserving heat rather than losing it.
- Be careful not to put too many clothes on your baby to the point where they sweat without the opportunity of evaporation from passing air.
- Aim to dress your baby in three layers - a vest and nappy, jumpsuit and blanket. This should keep your baby warm enough in a room that is about 18-20°C
- Adjust your baby's clothing for the surrounding temperature, whether indoors or out, or if it is night or day.
- Babies can often sleep through being too cold or too hot. Be sensitive to your baby's temperature changes and try to keep them as consistent as possible.
A CHILLED BABY
- This baby will not be restless; instead he/she will be quiet as it takes precious energy to cry.
- Their hands and feet will feel cold to the touch, as will their chest and body.
- Extra clothes will not remedy this situation - the baby now needs to be warmed up as they cannot produce the heat themselves. Adding extra clothes will only insulate the cold.
- The baby should be taken into a warm room, and then given a warm feed. Alternatively you could warm baby with your own warmth by holding baby next to your own skin. Then you could add extra clothing to insulate that heat.
- If your baby is left when he/she is chilled you risk a condition known as "neonatal cold syndrome". The baby's vital bodily functions will slow down and baby will be floppy and difficult to rouse. A baby suffering from this condition will need immediate medical attention and intervention.
SUMMER TIME AND HOT WEATHER
- Keep baby well hydrated and dress them in loose clothing so they can sweat, which is a mechanism to cool the body.
- Cotton is preferable to synthetic fabrics as cotton allows for air circulation.
- Be mindful of the car. The sun can dramatically heat a car - use sun blinds on the windows.