Getting babies and toddlers to sleep during the heat of summer can be a challenge. Our baby sleep expert Dorothy Waide shares her tips for keeping little ones cool and helping them sleep better in the warmer months.
Babies – milk or water?
For babies under six months it is recommended that breast is best, especially in the hot weather because the foremilk quenches their thirst. In the past, it was always recommended to offer water to your baby, however the view these days is that babies under six months who are breastfed, do not need water, as it takes away from satisfying their thirst with breast milk. For bottle-fed babies, the same applies, as formula is made with water and will help keep them hydrated. Water has no nutrients, so by giving water to babies under six months you are taking away their ability to fill up on the good nutrients that come with both breast milk and formula. This advice is for healthy babies; when babies are sick, it’s best to seek medical advice on what they require.
Babies – how to dress
I find it’s cooler to handle a baby that has a sleeveless or short-sleeve light cotton bodysuit with snaps on. It’s also easier to burp a baby with a cotton bodysuit on. For babies who are swaddled, I use a swaddle that is 100% cotton, or a lightweight a muslin wrap. Why cotton? It's a natural fibre that is absorbent and breathable.
If you’re using a sleeping bag, look at the TOG rate, which indicates how warm the sleeping bag is, and what season it is suitable for. The higher the TOG, the warmer the sleeping bag. For homes that aren’t air-conditioned, I would put a baby/toddler down for naps during the daytime in a short-sleeved or sleeveless bodysuit, and a 0.5 TOG-rated (summer weight) sleeping bag.
For night time, depending on how cold the room gets at night I would use a long-sleeved bodysuit, so baby’s arms don't get cold later in the night, and again the 0.5 or 1.0 TOG-rated (summer weight) sleeping bag.
Out and about – walking
When going out with baby, I recommend having morning walks, as it’s cooler then than it is in the afternoon.
Sunblock is not recommended for babies under six months, however more and more products are appearing on the market for this age group.
For walks in buggies, I recommend using the UVH covers. Unlike a blanket or muslin, the UVH covers protect your baby or toddler from the sun’s harmful rays. It also acts as a blackout cover for when it is time for your baby or toddler to nap. Remember buggies can be very hot, so don't overdress babies when taking them out.
Out and about – in cars
Cars are normally hotter inside than outside, so if you’re parking your vehicle in the sun and leaving the car seat in, it’s a good idea to throw a cover (a blanket, towel or cloth) over the seat so that on your return the straps are not hot.
It takes quite a while for the cool air from the car’s air conditioner to reach rear-facing car seats. I tend to switch the aircon on high and as cool as possible and by the time you’re cold in the front, the baby is probably just starting to feel the cool air. I always look at it that the cool air has to hit the back of the car and then come forward to where your baby is and also with the rear facing car seats if you have aircon vents in the back they are still not aimed at the babies unless they are forward facing.
Some car seats have great hoods to protect the babies – if yours doesn't or you have a toddler in the car, you can purchase shades to go on the side windows.
It is not recommended using tank water for babies or toddlers, so remember to boil your water to keep their tummies safe. Here’s a helpful article to read on checking how to keep your water safe.
There are many ways to keep the house cool. The easiest is to close your blinds or curtains in the morning. It means the house is dark, but it can keep the rooms a lot cooler. Having good cross-ventilation is also helpful (but not always possible).
Turning off any electrical equipment during the day will also help.
Electrical fans are good, and while it seems they’re only moving the hot air around, it still makes the room feel cooler. Fans in babies’ and toddlers’ bedrooms are good, but do ensure they are safe, and if they are blade fans, that they are on a stand or on a piece of furniture so little fingers will not be caught in them.
How to get your toddler to sleep in the daytime
I suggest giving your baby or toddler a nap straight after lunch – rather like the European siesta.
Try keeping the bedroom cool and dark. Babies and toddlers sleep better in the daytime if their room is dark. My suggestion is to stand in your child’s bedroom and flutter your eyelids - don't close them tightly. If you can see any light, the room isn’t dark enough.
The quickest and easiest way to darken the room is to use tin foil on the windows. The windows need to be damp for it to stick, so wipe with a wet cloth and then put the tin foil up.