How to know if your baby is too cold at night - Evidence Based Babies
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how to tell if baby is too cold when sleeping

How to know if your baby is too cold at night

When you become a matter for the first time, it’s hard not to worry about almost every single thing possible. Whether you’re worried about their milk intake and weight gain and growth, or whether your baby is comfortable at night.

Being worried is so normal and it just shows how you want what’s best for your baby. Worrying about your baby’s temperature while they’re asleep is a good instinct, as being too hot or too cold can have negative effects on their health and even increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Signs that your baby is too cold

If your baby is too cold at night, they might show the following symptoms: 

● Shivering 

● Can’t stay asleep 

● Fussy 

● Pale 

● Skin is very cold 

● Early wakings

Usually, if your baby is too cold, they will cry and wake up, which will let you know they need more warmth. But this isn’t always the case, and if you know it’s colder than usual, be sure to check in on your baby to make sure they’re comfortable.

Signs that your baby is too hot

There are many signs and symptoms that your baby’s temperature is too hot. Some of these include:

● Wet hair 

● Sweating 

● Heat rash 

● Rapid breathing 

● Red or flushed cheeks 

● More tired than normal 

● Temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius

Just like with being too cold, babies will often wake up and cry when they’re uncomfortable, but not always. Especially not with overheating as heat often makes babies sleep deeper for longer. If you know it’s hotter than usual, be sure to check in on your baby.

The dangers of being too cold

If your baby gets too cold, in severe cases, hypothermia can happen. This is mainly because your baby is smaller in size and cannot regulate their temperatures as well as adults can. 

Babies who get too cold might wake up constantly throughout the night, not be interested in eating, and can end up getting sick.

Sometimes, when newborns get too cold, they will use more energy to try to warm up their bodies, which can affect their weight gain.

Most studies about the risks of SIDS have found that it is mainly when your baby has a higher temperature, not a lower temperature.

The dangers of overheating

When your baby’s body temperature gets too hot, it can lead to dehydration and can increase the risk of SIDS.

Most often, if your baby gets too hot, they will not wake up as the heat will make them drowsier and more lethargic. This is a potential danger that can lead to many problems, especially SIDS.

What is the best room temperature for your baby?

The best room temperature for your baby’s room has been found to be between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit or 20 and 22 degrees Celsius. This is just a general rule of thumb though. No need to obsess. Just keep your little one as comfortable as you possibly can. Parenting is no science, follow your motherly instinct and follow your baby’s cues.

You’ll be able to tell if your baby’s room is in this temperature range by how they get when they sleep.

If they sleep just fine throughout the night and are acting normally, that is usually a good sign you have the ideal temperature, and with sleeping just fine, I mean normal baby wakings and behavior, not excessive waking and crying paired with signs of being too hot or too cold.

How to keep your baby at a comfortable temperature

The best core body temperature for babies is between 98 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 36-37 degrees Celsius.

No need to get too technical and start taking their temperature though, checking their back or their stomach will tell you whether your baby may be too hot or too cold.

Sometimes, you can check the nape of their neck to see if they have a heat rash or excess sweat.

It is not wise to check your baby’s hands or feet to tell whether they’re too hot or too cold. Usually, their hands and feet are left uncovered and will lose heat faster than the rest of their body, but that is okay. As long as their core is warm enough, that’s all that matters.

If your baby is freezing cold, then that’s a sign that they need additional help. 

If your baby is warm but not wet, they are typically okay. If they are cool or sweaty, it’s time to make changes. 

In general, a sleeping baby needs one more layer of clothing than we as adults do to be comfortable.

Depending on if your baby is too hot or too cold, there are plenty of things you can do to help them get to the right temperature.

What to do if your baby is too cold

Even with the colder temperatures, you still want to dress your baby in lightweight, breathable clothes. This will help you to check their temperature throughout the night and add on a sleep bag or swaddle if they are too cold. 

If your baby’s feet get too cold, you can add on some socks. If your baby has cold hands, you might try using baby mittens, but make sure they are not too loose and that they don’t have any strings attached to them. 

Usually, a safe TOG sleep sack or swaddle that won’t come loose while your baby is sleeping is the easiest way to maintain a comfortable sleep environment for your little one. 

You can try to adjust the temperature if it is not the optimal room temperature yet. Wait 10 to 15 minutes and check on your baby once again.

What to do if your baby is too hot

If your baby’s body temperature is too hot, you can try to remove a layer of clothing. If they are wearing a swaddle or sleep sack, try removing it to see if that helps.

Make sure to dress your baby according to the weather in your area. If you live where there is warm weather, lightweight, breathable clothes are best. In fact, breathable clothes are always the best choice. 

If the hot weather is making the baby’s room too hot, try keeping the room cooler and make sure it stays ventilated. You can try using a fan for a couple of minutes to see if that helps. If you use a fan, check on your baby’s temperature regularly, as a fan can make them get cold quickly. 

Keep your baby hydrated throughout the day to help them not to get overheated or dehydrated while they sleep. 

If your baby is still too hot, you can try moving the baby’s cot or crib to another room that is cooler. 

If the temperature changes frequently where you live, do your best to keep a comfortable room temperature. As always, dressing your baby in lightweight clothes is the best way to get restful sleep and to make adjustments easily as needed.

Things to avoid when it comes to keeping your baby warm while they sleep

Before you make any changes, you must ensure that you follow safe sleeping habits. 

Don’t put hot water bottles or electric blankets in your baby’s crib. These can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Loose blankets in your baby’s crib have the highest risk for suffocation, so do not use them when they get too cold. 

Do not put a space heater in your baby’s room. There is no way to fireproof these, and it can be a risk factor for making the room have higher temperatures that can increase the chance of your baby overheating. 

Sometimes, in the colder months, our first instinct is to put on an extra layer of clothing or two. But that can make your baby overheat.

Don’t put on a hat, as that is not safe while sleeping.

Do not have your baby’s sleep space in direct sunlight or by a window. This can make them get too hot or too cold a lot quicker as the window temperatures change quite frequently.

Keep where baby sleeps a safe distance from heaters and windows to help regulate and maintain a comfortable temperature.

Important notes on baby sleep and body temperature

Newborns can’t regulate their own body temperature and they need your help with this.

Bedsharing often helps prevent your baby from becoming too cold but be sure to keep your baby from overheating and remember to follow safe bedsharing guidelines.

Dressing your baby in layers with breathable clothing is the best way to help control their temperature. Breathable sleeping bags are a great way to keep them nice and warm, but not too warm. Adjust the room temperature accordingly, not too hot or too cold.

Keeping your little one comfortable is not that hard, trust yourself and your baby. Check on them and dress them in another layer or adjust the room temperature if needed.

Skin to skin (while awake during the day) is a great way to regulate your baby’s core temperature.

Bedsharing also helps keep your baby more stable as they’re in constant contact with you.

Additional information and resources

Ambient temperature is associated with changes in infants’ arousability from sleep

Efficacy of skin-to-skin vs. cloth-to-cloth contact for thermoregulation in low birth weight newborns: a randomized crossover trial

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