Here's what you need to know about having a baby in winter, explains maternity nanny and postnatal advisor Katie Thomas (katiethomaschildcare.co.nz).
So you're due to have a winter baby, or you’ve got a young baby and the cold season is fast approaching, and you’re freaking out. Not to worry! All seasons have their benefits and challenges when it comes to babies, but winter definitely has its upsides. Here are some handy tips and good-to-knows for the chilly season ahead.
How many layers of clothing do I dress my baby in?
When it comes to clothing layers, there is a very simple rule to follow: Dress baby as you have done yourself, plus one extra layer. However many layers you are comfortably wearing, inside or outside, dress baby in the same plus one more (note that a swaddle counts as one layer). When outside, add to that a hat that preferably covers the ears, as well as socks and mittens. The best fabrics for baby clothing are cotton and merino, as they breathe and therefore assist with the regulation of baby’s temperature. Merino is great in winter as it naturally draws any moisture away from baby’s skin without that damp feeling.
Ensuring baby isn't too cold or too hot
Babies cannot regulate their temperatures as effectively as adults and older children can. Checking the back of the neck and down their back is the best way to gauge their temperature. They should feel warm, but not clammy or sweaty. The ideal temperature for baby’s room or inside the house is 18-22°C. Using a heater in winter is safe if you follow appropriate safety guidelines and ensure the room doesn’t overheat. Most heaters have inbuilt thermostats; otherwise you can get a little room thermometer and keep an eye on the temperature using that. When travelling in the car, it is important to dress baby appropriately. Dress for the temperature of the car rather than outside, and use blankets or a jacket to get to and from your vehicle. When in the car seat, avoid dressing baby in any bulky jumpers, coats, vests, snowsuits etc, as this added bulk makes the harness of the car seat unsafe. Cover baby with a blanket after they are buckled in if needed.
How can we beat those bugs?
When we think of winter we think of colds, flu, coughs, and runny noses: Every parent’s nightmare – especially with a newborn in the picture! It is important to keep newborns away from these bugs as much as possible, as a blocked nose can wreak havoc on those tiny little nasal passages. Ensuring that all baby's visitors are healthy and germ-free is a great place to start. If friends or their children are sick, politely decline the visit until everyone is better. They will understand! Those that do come to visit, ask if they can give their hands a wash on arrival. Also, it’s important to ensure that everyone’s immunisations are up-to-date so that you’re not exposing your baby to any illnesses or diseases they can’t fight off before their own immunisations.
Dealing with dry winter skin
The lack of humidity in the winter air can sometimes cause baby to have some dry skin. Bathing less frequently is a good idea, as this washes away the skin’s natural oils; once every two to three days is completely fine for a small baby. Putting a few drops of natural almond or similar oil in the bath when you do is helpful. Moisturise baby’s skin if it appears dry, up to three times a day with any natural, fragrance-free baby moisturiser. If it feels necessary for you, then look into purchasing a humidifier; this is
similar to a vaporiser but it is usually cooler air instead of the warm steam from a vaporiser. Both put moisture back into the air, which is beneficial for breathing during winter or when sick.
It may feel like a lot to think about preparing for winter with a new baby, but it needn’t be a huge stressor. Being prepared for the side effects that the colder months bring is all you need to do. Use the winter months as an excuse to cosy up in your newborn bubble with your brand-new family member. All of those sleepy warm newborn cuddles seem all the more magic when it’s cold outside.