Your Winter Baby

Here’s what you need to know about having a baby in the chilly season, explains maternity nurse and postnatal advisor Katie Thomas.

So your baby is due in winter, or you’ve got a young baby and the cold season is fast approaching… nothing to fret about!! All seasons have their benefits and challenges when it comes to babies, but winter for sure has it’s upsides. The following are some handy tips and good-to-knows for the chilly season ahead.

How to leave the house when it’s cold outside

You can still get out of the house! In fact, I encourage you to do so. I understand that getting out and about with a newborn can be a really daunting thought, regardless of the season. With winter comes the fear of cold and flu bugs, unpredictable weather and not knowing how many layers you need to bundle up your baby in. It’s not as scary as it sounds, I promise you. Fresh air does wonders for both you and baby, as does a bit of sunlight. The sun and vitamin D will, in fact, assist hugely with the regulation of baby’s circadian rhythm, which is basically the day and night biological clock our bodies all run on – so it will help them sleep better at night!

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 onto that a hat that preferably covers the ears, 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 in particular as it naturally draws away any moisture from baby’s skin. 

Ensuring baby isn’t too cold/hot

Babies cannot regulate their temperatures as effectively as adults and older children can, so it is important to be conscious that they are not too cold or overheating. 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 your house is 19-21 degrees. 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 traveling in the car it is important to dress baby appropriately. Try to 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 carseat unsafe. Cover baby with a blanket if necessary after they are buckled in, and remove once the car temperature has warmed up.

How can we beat those bugs?

When we think of winter we think of colds and flu, coughs and runny noses, a parent’s nightmare – especially with a newborn in the picture! It is important to try and keep newborns away from these bugs as much as possible, a blocked nose can cause havoc on those tiny little nasal passages. Ensuring that all friends and family visiting the baby 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.

Breastfeeding in winter

Breastfeeding baby will help load them up with antibodies to help fight any winter bugs that they may be exposed to. Boosting your own immune system by eating nutrient rich foods and drinking plenty of water will help to keep the bugs away. If you are unable to breastfeed for whatever reason, it might be helpful to talk to your healthcare provider about any vitamin supplements that will benefit baby’s immune system during these months, or to have on hand just in case. Sometimes, as hard as we try to avoid it, sickness does arrive and takeover the household, especially if there are older siblings around! Continue breastfeeding for as long as possible and try to keep up your own fluids and rest as much as you can. A product that can help when talking about coughs and colds for baby is a vaporiser. It helps to humidify the air using essential oils that will help with blocked noses, coughs, and general wellbeing. There are also nasal sprays and snot suckers if little one is highly congested and it’s interfering with feeding and sleeping. Be aware of when it’s appropriate to see a doctor if your baby does get sick. Coughing, a fever (body temp over 37.5), reduction in feeding, any form of wheezing or difficulty breathing and it’s best to pay a visit to the GP or emergency room as soon as possible. Appointments are free – it’s always better to get them checked out, and give yourself peace of mind.

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 may be helpful. Moisturise baby’s skin if it appears dry, 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 can be beneficial for breathing during winter or when sick.

It may feel overwhelming 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.