Warmer temperatures are finally here and that means plenty of fun in the sun for you and your baby. While you’re likely adamant about keeping your baby protected from the sun and heat during the day, it’s important to note that warmer temperatures outdoors can affect your baby’s sleep indoors.
When the heat rises outside, the warmer temperatures can make sleeping uncomfortable and even dangerous for babies. Overheated babies can become irritable and restless, making a good night’s sleep difficult. Because babies can’t self regulate their temperatures until 2 to 3 months old, knowing the right steps for safe and comfortable sleep is important.
In this article, we talked to two experts who explained what parents need to know about keeping their baby safely sleeping in warmer temperatures. Read on for their best tips for understanding the heat, what you can do, and what babies should wear to sleep during warm weather.
Understanding the Heat
As parents, we can be overzealous and layer too many clothes and blankets in well-intentioned efforts to keep them warm, but overheating is a big concern for little babies. During the summer months, less is more when it comes to layers. Getting too hot while sleeping can increase a baby’s risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Although the cause of SIDS is still relatively unknown, it appears that SIDS might be associated with defects in the portion of an infant’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep. Warmer temps can make babies lethargic and more difficult to awaken. Because babies cannot sweat, they have a more difficult time cooling off, so it’s imperative to be mindful of their sleeping environment during these months.
Interestingly enough, during colder months, babies are just as likely to overheat because, as mentioned before, parents are quick to over-layer in attempts to keep them warm. It’s important to be just as mindful of your baby’s sleeping environment during the winter months as well to ensure that they are not overheating and have the ability to cool down.
What You Can Do
Dr. Sarah Mitchell, a sleep and parenting expert at Helping Babies Sleep, tells The Everymom, “The risk of warmer weather sleeping is higher for newborns who still can’t regulate their body temperatures well. Skin-to-skin contact with the mother helps your baby regulate her temperature. And for babies older than 4 months, the risks of overheating decrease.”
Keeping the temperature of the baby’s room cool at night is important, notes Nicole Cannon, a certified infant and child sleep consultant at Sleepy Mama, “The ideal room temperature for babies and children is between 68-72 degrees. This means that even if it’s getting warmer outside, a child’s room should still be kept within that range.”
Along with a temperate room, parents should check to make sure their baby isn’t sweaty or too warm, especially on their neck or chest. If a parent has no control over the room temperature, they should consider dressing their child in less clothing than normal to compensate for the warmer environment.
Fans are an excellent way to circulate stagnant air throughout a child’s bedroom and help keep the room on the cooler side. In addition, they provide a source of white noise which also aids in sleep. Just be careful not to place a fan within reach of a baby or toddler.
What Babies Should Wear
The bedding inside a baby’s crib should be minimal, as should what they wear to sleep.
Dr. Sarah Mitchell says parents should avoid synthetic materials and stick to cotton or wool, which are more breathable than polyester and help to regulate temperature. Avoid too many layers which can trap heat. “A simple muslin 100% cotton swaddle cloth layered over a diaper only on a flat crib or bassinet is my favorite suggestion for young babies in very warm weather,” says Mitchell.
Cannon also explains that most sleep sacks have a TOG (Thermal Overall Grade) rating which refers to the thermal insulation of the sleep sack and in the summer. “A TOG rating of 0.5 or 1.0 are sufficient when paired with the proper pajamas,” she tells us.
For older babies, a bodysuit and thin muslin sleep sack work well. And for toddlers, shorts pajamas and a thin, breathable blanket is a good choice.