Being a first-time mom is both exciting and exhausting. But even as you are adjusting to a sleep-deprived life, one thing’s for sure: Your baby’s health is always your top priority. Winter is especially challenging as you need to take extra steps to protect your baby from the biting cold.
Here are five things to keep in mind to help you survive your baby’s first winter.
1. Keep your baby warmBabies cannot adjust to their environment’s temperature the same way their moms and dads can. In fact, infants lose heat almost four times faster than we do, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).
During winter, draft-proof your home, especially areas near your baby’s crib and changing table. Experts also recommend dressing your baby in layers so you can easily take it on and off your baby, adjusting her clothing as needed.
As a rule of thumb, wrap your baby in one more layer of clothing than you are wearing. If you are comfortable with two layers of clothes, your baby should wear three. Keep her heads, hands, and feet covered too, as these are the first to lose heat and are prone to frost-nip.
2. Create a safe sleeping environment for your babyAccording to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), blankets, quilts, pillows, and loose beddings can suffocate or overheat your baby. So clear the clutter in your baby’s sleeping space. Use one-piece sleepers, or dress your baby in thin clothing and put them in a sleep sack or wearable blanket. This will keep your baby warm without interfering with her breathing. If you opt to use a blanket, tuck it under the mattress and pull it only up to your baby’s armpits.
3. Give your baby a few quick baths
A part of you may want to bathe your baby often to keep her germ-free. But the Pediatric Center warns that too much bathing can dry your infant’s skin.
To keep this from happening, limit your baby’s baths to three or four times a week, and focus on the diaper area. Give your baby a quick sponge bath or use damp washcloths to gently wipe (not scrub) your baby’s skin. Make sure to use lukewarm (not hot) water and immediately pat dry (not rub) the areas you wash.
Before bathing your little one, be sure the room is extra warm. Raise the thermostat and close windows and doors to keep cold air from entering the room.
4. Use gentle skincare productsTo protect your infant’s skin, choose alcohol-free and fragrance-free products and shampoos specially made for infants. Apply hypoallergenic lotions or creams to moisturize her skin. If your baby’s skin is extra sensitive or dry, look for natural oils and massage it into her skin.
The AAP and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend keeping babies under 6 months away from direct sunlight. Even during winter, light reflecting off the snow can also cause snow burn. To protect your baby’s skin, clothe her in light, tightly woven fabrics. Keep a brimmed hat on her head to protect her neck and ears. When spending a few minutes outdoors, stay in a shaded area or use a stroller canopy.
While it may be tempting to use sunscreen on your baby, keep in mind that her skin is less mature compared to yours. Consult your pediatrician before applying sunscreen on your baby’s skin.
5. Avoid overheating your baby
According to the Mayo Clinic, overheating can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It can also dry out your baby’s skin, and lead to heat rashes.
If your baby’s cheeks are flushed, she looks sweaty, or the nape of her neck is warm, it’s possible that she is overheated. If this is the case, remove a layer of her clothing.
Also, check the temperature in your room--is it too hot? Experts suggest keeping the indoor temperature between 68°F and 72°F, or lowering it to between 65°F and 67°F when your baby is sleeping.
Here’s a bonus tip for you One of the best ways to keep your baby warm can actually build a stronger bond between you and your little one. Studies have also shown that skin-to-skin contact (also called kangaroo care) can help regulate your baby’s body temperature, stabilize her heart rate, promote weight gain, and support her cognitive development.
To perform kangaroo care, choose a top that opens in the front. Remove your bra and place your baby on your chest in an upright position. Make sure your baby is only wearing diapers and a head cover, as too much clothing may overheat her. Then wrap your top around her or cover her back with a blanket. The Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center in Ohio, recommends doing this for 60 minutes around four or more times each week.
Use these tips to make your first winter with your baby extra special. Don’t be afraid to spend a few minutes with her outdoors, or spoil her with a warm, gentle bath.