This summer has made it more obvious than ever that the British weather is completely unpredictable and constantly changing, which causes a headache for parents of newborns. Tiny babies find it tricky to regulate their own temperature in stable conditions, let alone the widely fluctuating hot and cold flashes autumn brings.
But don’t let the autumnal weather stop you from venturing outdoors with your little one in her first six months. Just take a little extra care to ensure she stays a safe and comfy temperature - here's what to watch for.
When is it safe to take your baby outside?You may venture outside with your baby as soon as you wish – there’s no set age. However, newborn babies up to the age of about six months only have a limited ability to regulate their own body temperature, so it’s up to mummy and daddy to do this for them.
It can be tricky; even just a walk to the shops involves many different temperatures, from the brisk winds outdoors, to the busy bus or train to the warm coffee shop. It’s best to dress your baby in several thin layers – that way you can shed a layer if needed. As a rule, dress your baby in one more layer than you would dress yourself in, and add a warm hat, mittens and insulating shoes or socks.
For older, walking babies, a set of waterproof trousers and wellies are a must-have. And if, or when, snow sets in (here’s hoping for a white Christmas!) let your baby join in the magic by dressing her in an all-in-one snow suit. Snow suits aren’t practical unless it is extremely cold however, as they can be a struggle to take on and off and can lead to overheating if worn indoors.
If your baby seems uncomfortable at any point when you are outside, take her inside to warm up.
Many paediatricians recommend you keep your baby away from crowded places, as this is where germs are most likely. Autumn is the beginning of the cold and flu season so ask anyone who touches your baby to wash their hands first – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How can you make sure your baby isn’t getting too hot?It’s important to regularly check your baby whether you are indoors or out, as babies’ cooling systems are not as effective as adults.
Check by placing your hand under the clothes to feel the skin on your baby’s chest, tummy or nape of her neck. It’s best to avoid the hands or feet as a baby’s extremities often feel cool.
- If her skin feels more than just warm to touch, or if she’s perspiring, remove a layer of clothing and test again in a few minutes.
- If her skin feels cool, add another layer.
A more scientific way to keep an eye on temperature is by using a thermometer. Nowadays, you can find a good digital thermometer without breaking the bank, which are easy-to-use and provide accurate results within a few seconds. This can provide valuable peace of mind, especially to first time parents.
A rectal reading is the most accurate for babies, so your doctor may ask you to take this type of reading until your baby turns three months old (you might want to wait until you’re home to do this reading though). But once your baby is over three months, you can take your baby’s temperature under her arm, in the ear or orally. These three thermometers are easier to use on the go.
At home - what temperature should baby’s nursery be?The NHS recommends keeping your baby’s room between 16 and 20 degrees Celcius.
The beginning of autumn is when most households begin to turn on their central heating, but think about the difference in time between baby’s bedtime and your bedtime – if you’ve set a timer to go off at your bedtime, your baby might be warm when you put her to bed, but cooler a few hours later. Check in on her regularly and before you go to bed and add an extra blanket if necessary.
If the nursery has a number of exterior walls, this may make the room colder, but if the room is small without a large window, it may retain more of its heat.
Keeping your baby warm enough at nightRunning heating devices during the night are not very practical and as the air becomes dry, it can cause your baby to cough or get dry skin.
One idea is to buy a baby sleeping bag – your baby can’t kick it off, which means she will be less likely to wake up feeling too cold. In the winter, choose a sleeping bag that’s no more than 2.5 togs. You can buy sleeping bags for different ages, including for newborns. The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths recommends using a sleeping bag without a hood that is the right size around the neck so your baby doesn’t slip down inside. Also, never use a sleeping bag as well as a duvet, as your baby is likely to become too hot.
Don’t go by your own habits; go by your baby’s. If she is particularly vocal and you can’t work out what’s wrong, it’s often likely to be because she’s too hot or too cold. Be vigilant, but try not to obsess – keep tabs on your baby and the perfect temperatures for her will soon become second nature to you.