Nursery safety: NZ temperature tips for baby's room
It’s a given that new parents get less sleep than others, and that when your baby isn’t sleeping well, neither are you. You’ll find numerous articles and tip sheets on helping baby (and you) to sleep better in the OHbaby! baby sleep section; here though, we explore the importance of the correct room temperature on your baby’s sleep quality, and how to make sure your little one stays safe and comfortable while they snooze.
Newborns and young babies can’t regulate their temperature and rely on us to control it for them. Newborns in particular can suffer from hypothermia due to a combination of their proportionally large skin surface area, the fact that they have less subcutaneous fat, and their lack of ability to shiver (the body’s attempt to warm you up through movement).
Combined with baby’s inability to keep themselves warm—or cool—is the changeability of NZ’s climate and the way our homes are built. This makes it even more challenging to manage the temperature of a baby’s room. In NZ, it’s not uncommon to have 30oC days, with a cool southerly that drops the temperature to 16oC in a matter of minutes. Many homes are not well insulated, adding to the challenges that come with keeping baby’s room an even, healthy temperature.
Will baby wake up if too hot?
Room temperature isn’t just about comfort. It’s also a safety issue. When your baby is hot, they will are harder to wake, which may increase the risk of Sudden Unexplained Death of an Infant (SUDI). When they’re too cold baby can easily become uncomfortably chilly and wake up unnecessarily.
Do babies cry if they are too warm?
The temperature of your baby’s bedroom can be the difference between a night of peaceful sleep, or potentially no sleep. Our body temperature is designed to dip at night which does two things. It triggers the brain to prepare for sleep, and it also means your baby will have a better sleep.
The ‘climate’ of a room means the humidity, or amount of moisture in the air. A room that is a bit too warm isn’t a big deal for us, but babies are more susceptible to temperature and humidity. For example, if the humidity level is too low, it can cause dry eyes and throat. And when it’s a little too cold or warm, babies can’t regulate their body temperature the way an adult can.
What temperature should a babies room be in NZ?
There isn’t really an ideal room temperature for babies. Instead, think of the best nursery temperature in a range rather instead of a specific temperature. The optimal room temperature for your baby is between 16˚C and 19˚C, and humidity levels should be maintained around 40% - 60%. If you wish to use one, a smart baby monitor can continuously track the humidity and temperature of the room.
Depending on your monitor, you can set upper and lower thresholds, and it will alert you when these are exceeded. That way, you know the room is always at the most optimal temperature.
What room temperature is too hot for a baby?
Anything over 22oC could be too hot for your baby. It’s totally fine to have your baby sleep in just a nappy and a light swaddle, such as a muslin cloth. If it’s still too hot, try:
- A cool bath before bedtime
- A cold compress on the backs of the knees, neck, and inner elbows
- Keep your baby well hydrated (this also helps to avoid your baby developing constipation due to dehydration)
- A fan can help, either a ceiling fan or a floor/ desk fan with a bottle of frozen water in front of it.
How can I tell if my baby is too hot in bed?
You do need to check on your baby regularly while they’re sleeping to make sure they’re not getting too hot. Carefully feel your baby’s stomach or the back of their neck. If your baby feels sweaty or hot, remove one or more layers of clothing. The best way to check on your baby’s temperature is by putting your hand on the skin on their tummy or the back of their neck. Don’t use their wee hands or feet, as these extremities will generally feel colder than the rest of them. Cold hands and feet don’t always mean a cold baby.
What temperature is too cold for a baby room?
The temperature for baby room should be above 16oC, if possible. Below that, especially with newborns that should not be wearing a blanket, it gets difficult to keep them warm enough safely. Heaters, especially oil radiator types and the wall panel heaters, emit a gentle, regular heat that can help to regulate their bedroom temperature.
If your home is a rental, there are certain standards that NZ landlords must meet under the Healthy Homes standards. There must be underfloor and ceiling insulation, and all draughts must be stopped. Contact your landlord to discuss the options for baby’s room. While there are things you can do to keep the room warmer, like heavy thermal-lined curtains and extra rugs, the home must have a certain level of insulation and weather-tightness.
How many blankets should a baby have at night?
For the first six months or until the baby can move of their own will, do not use blankets. This is a risk factor for SUIDS. Babies also do not need to wear hats while sleeping, as well as being a suffocation risk, their bare head is vital for maintaining their body temperature by releasing heat.
How do I cover my newborn at night?
Keep your newborn warm with layers of clothing, sleep sacks, or swaddles. Once they are older, you can start using blankets as needed.
It’s rarely necessary to keep your heating on all night and adding an extra layer will usually help. If you do feel your home is too cold and you want to leave the heating on all night, make sure it is set at a low temperature, and certainly no higher than 20⁰C.
The rule of thumb is to add a layer more than you personally would want at that temperature. While you would be comfortable with PJ’s and a duvet, the baby will need three layers—say, PJs, a onesie, and a swaddle or sleep sack. Also consider the weight of the fabric, as you can get winter and summer weight sleeping sacks and swaddles.
Every baby is different and our advice on room temperature is intended as a guide.
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