Winter is coming, but who wants to stay all cooped up in the house? For new moms, you’ll probably get a bit stir crazy with your little one, especially during the cold weather months. “Babies and new parents need fresh air,” says New York pediatrician Erika Landau, M.D., coauthor of The Essential Guide to Baby’s First Year. “Unless it’s dangerously cold, being outdoors helps infants acclimate to the seasons and the day-and-night cycle, and it often calms fussiness.”
Even so, new parents must follow safety precautions. Once the temperature gets below freezing, you shouldn’t take your baby out, except for quick trips back and forth to the car. Even when it’s above freezing, wind chill can make it dangerous. “Newborns and infants do not yet have the ability to self regulate their core temperature,” says Janice Montague, MD, director of pediatrics at Good Samaritan Hospital, a member of the Westchester Health Network in Suffern, NY. She recommends limiting the exposure to the cold elements to a few minutes at a time, and saving play in the snow for when kids are older.
“Infants lose heat faster than adults, and the younger their age, the less able they are to cope with cold,” adds Kate Puttgen, M.D., director of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, in Baltimore “Small babies lack the ability to increase heat by shivering and don’t have the body fat needed to warm back up once they get cold.”
To keep your baby warm and safe this winter, follow these tips
Dress your baby in layers.
“If you are comfortable with a jacket on top of your clothes, you should have your baby in a jacket or snowsuit and a blanket,” says Molly Broder, MD, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. Dressing your infant in layers allows you to adjust to her needs. “The bottom layer can be snug, like leggings and a bodysuit. On top of that, you can put another layer of pants and a long sleeve shirt. Finish up with a jacket, hat, mittens, and warm booties to keep hands and feet warm!” says Dr. Broder. Choose breathable fabrics such as cotton and muslin so you can take clothes on and off as needed.
Ditch the coat in the car.
Taking off your baby’s coat in the car may seem counterintuitive. But the problem with that cute puffy coat is if there’s too much material between the baby and the car seat straps, the material could compress during an accident, leaving space for your baby to become unsecured. “Coats are unsafe because you need to loosen the car seat harness in order to accommodate them, but in a crash they can compress, leaving a big gap between the harness and child, upping her chance of injury,” explains Rallie McAllister, M.D., of Lexington, Kentucky, coauthor of The Mommy M.D. Guide to Your Baby’s First Year.
Instead, click your baby into the car seat first, and then layer. “If you’re using a car seat cover, you should buy one that doesn’t come between the baby and the car seat—it should be over the lower part of the baby, like a blanket,” Dr. Broder says. “Alternatively, you can use a blanket or coat (placed on top), and then remove it once the car warms up so the baby doesn’t get overheated.” You can also pre-warm the car to keep your baby cozy.