Heatwaves and babies don’t always mix well, but our resident baby sleep expert, Hannah Love has some great advice about helping your baby sleep in the heat.
Here in the UK we have an obsession with the weather and temperature control. And with so much written on the importance of keeping babies the right temperature it’s no wonder we parents worry if our baby is too hot or too cold.
Temperature regulation in babies is important as they don’t have the ability to safely control it themselves. Because of this, severe overheating in babies has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) - even more reason for us to find the whole subject frightening.
No need to panic though as the only thing we need to do to avoid our babies overheating or getting cold is to dress them appropriately. Babies in Thailand and other hot climates thrive (and sleep!) in extreme heat because they are dressed in the appropriate way. Unfortunately babies in the UK are not used to sleeping uncovered so just leaving them in a nappy can unsettle them, unlike babies in hot countries where that is the norm.
So where do you start? Getting the balance right between vests, baby grows and sleeping bags is key. Tog ratings (measurement used for sleeping bag thickness) are a good guideline and there are some great products available that can be used even in the height of summer. Opt for a 1 tog sleeping bag which will keep your baby covered like they are used to being, while being light enough to keep them cool on hot nights.
It is rare for your baby’s room temperature to increase drastically overnight. So whatever clothing you decide to put them in at bedtime is safe all the way through to the morning, with no risk of them overheating.
What happens if the room temperature drops drastically overnight? If this happened and your baby felt too cold they would simply wake, at which point you can put them into a higher tog sleeping bag like Bloomsbury Mill's organic baby sleep bag and put them back to bed to go to sleep. In small babies that are waking for feeds you could change them into a warmer sleeping bag or add another layer at the feed before you go to bed.
With parents I work with who find the extreme temperatures affect their baby's sleep, I always first look at whether baby is settling at naps/bed time without parents (or milk) helping them. Teaching babies to sleep independently helps them self soothe overnight and make their sleep more settled even in these extremes of temperatures.
I also find that many parents dress their baby in too little as they are frightened by the risk of overheating. I always ask the parents if they themselves are wearing anything or are using a cover/ sheet/ duvet. If you are, then the chances are your baby will need to also.
Finally, there are a couple of other important things to remember on these hot summer days. These include hydration, breast fed babies may well need an extra feed or two and bottle fed babies water offered between feeds.
Here's a little recap of my top 10 tips for managing the heat with a baby:
- A frozen bottle of water in front of a fan can act as a home made air conditioning unit, cooling the room down more than just a fan alone
- Keeping the bedroom curtains closed in the daytime will keep the room cooler, and more so with the window open if safe
- Some parents worry about the noise of a fan in the room but this can act as a good white noise - which babies love
- Take a bottle or beaker of water to bed with you so if you baby wakes you can offer that rather than milk overnight to keep them hydrated
- Coconut water is naturally high in minerals and potassium. Diluted coconut water is a great way to counteract dehydration in older babies and children
- Although babies in hot climates sleep in just a nappy, babies that are not used to sleeping that way can find it hard. Instead opt for a very low tog sleeping bag or muslin doubled up as a lightweight, breathable blanket to keep them comfortable (muslin also allows airflow to help regulate a baby's temperate)
- In smaller babies it is fine to alter their routine so they are going to bed a little later when it is cooler (and they should sleep in a little for you too!). As when the clocks change just push their whole day forward with their bed time
- A tepid (not cold) bath before bed can help cool your baby down. Following this have relaxed time so they don’t get excited and heat up again
- Weaned babies can reduce their intake of solid foods in the heat - this is normal and nothing to be worried about. The most important thing is fluids
- In bottle fed babies try offering their milk at room temperature (or colder if they will take it). This can help cool them down before bed
Above all else - enjoy it! Plenty of outdoor time, picnics, trips to the park and no muddy prams to deal with. Before you know it, we will be worrying about snow suits, rain covers and hats and scarves again!