Newborns don’t have the best thermostats. Many of them – like my skinny guy – lack “insulation,” and their surface area, when compared to their insides, is much greater than our adult ones. They can quickly become overheated, and if you can’t reverse the symptoms quickly, you’ll need to get medical attention for your baby.
This is no joke, especially if you live somewhere like I do, where summer days often see temperatures of 100 degrees and beyond. My daughter was born at the end of July, and I remember some SCARY car trips. Even though I lived about 5 minutes from Target, if I made the short drive with her in those early days, even with the air conditioning blasting in the car, when I would pull her out of the car seat, she would be pale and clammy. SO SCARY.
And now with another hot-weather newborn (it was 102 degrees here on Saturday), I’ve learned a few things:
- If it’s too hot to go out, stay in, even if you’re bored or need something from the store. That might seem extreme, but before long, your baby will be better at regulating his temperature, and you’ll have more flexibility. It’s scary as heck to see your baby WHITE, cool, and damp.
- If you have a choice, use a car that has air vents in the back seat (pointing at the car seat). And make sure they’re working properly. If you don’t have a choice of car, something like a clip-on stroller fan could help in a pinch. Opening the windows part-way can help too.
- Use tummy-to-tummy babywearing positions (in a soft structured carrier, wrap, or ring sling). Even if you both get sweaty, this helps keep baby a good temperature if you have to be somewhere hot. This position also allows for easier nursing, so baby can stay hydrated. Speaking of which…
- Offer more milk. Don’t give a breastfed infant water to drink. When your body detects heat, it makes more watery breastmilk. I forget where I read that, but I swear it’s true. Your body will adjust to provide your newborn with the milk and hydration he needs. Just be sure to nurse a lot if you’re spending time in the heat. Formula-fed babies should also be offered more formula, but never add more water than recommended.
- A water sling or mesh wrap will let you wear your baby in the pool to cool off.
- Dress for success. Make sure not to overdress your baby. Removable layers are great, so you can adjust as the temperature fluctuates. Natural fibers like cotton are best.
- Find shade or make shade. When we hang out in the front yard, I use a large umbrella to shade Joey if I’m not holding him. If I am, I often cover him with the tail of my ring sling if he gets a bit warm. (And if he gets more than a bit warm, it’s time to go inside.) When we go for walks with the stroller, I make sure to adjust the sun shade so that he stays as cool as he can.
- Steal air conditioning. Think of places to visit that someone else pays to cool. Movie theaters are often cold (and a newborn will usually just sleep in the dark, with all that white noise). If you go to the zoo, instead of standing in the blazing sun watching elephants poop, head to the reptile house. The lizards may have heat lamps, but you’ll get to enjoy cool air and shade. Target, Barnes & Noble, the library, the mall – all of these are great places to hang out when it’s hot enough to pop corn outside.
- Cool water sprinkled in baby’s hair or dabbed on with a moist washcloth is as refreshing to a baby as it is to you.
- Watch the clock. Obviously the details depend on where you are, but going out before 10am and after 5pm will do a lot to keep baby cool. The middle of the day is a time for caution when it comes to overheating, and peak temperatures are usually between 3pm and 4pm, not at noon.
And one more note… please never EVER leave your baby in the car. Even with the windows opened part-way, or the vents opened, or the car parked in a shady spot. Even if your car is parked in your garage and the baby is asleep and you don’t want to wake him to move him, and it seems cool enough. NEVER leave your baby in a car. Cars trap heat, so even if it’s cooler outside, temperatures can rise in the car very quickly. Check out this SafeKids article for preventing hyperthermia deaths. And if you ever see a child alone in a car, call 911 immediately. It’s better to be safe than sorry.