By Erin Ollila
Having a spring or summer baby seemed like a great idea when you were pregnant, but now that your little one is here, all you can think about is how to keep them safe from the heat. There’s a lot to know about keeping a newborn cool during the summer months. From concerns on what to do inside or out, we’ve got you covered.
There is a good chance that you’ll be spending much of the newborn days indoors, as babies do a lot of sleeping. If you have central air conditioning or at least AC units in the rooms baby spends the most time, you should be all set. Simply keep the temperature set between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This range is perfect for sleeping or playing.
If you are in a space without air conditioning that can help to control the temperature, make sure you have access to a fan, which can help to circulate the air in the room. Moving air helps to make the room feel a bit cooler and circulated air helps to prevent SIDS.
When it’s warm, you probably wear as few layers as possible. Your baby likely feels the same! If you’re inside and the temperature is well-regulated, a short sleeve onesie or even just a diaper is enough for your baby—pending the AC doesn’t make the room too cold!
But dressing your baby for the outdoors is a bit more complicated. Unfortunately, it isn’t recommended to use sunscreen on a newborn’s fragile skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sunscreen is ok to use on babies older than six months. Younger babies should use other forms of sun protection.”
But what other forms of sun protection are there? Clothing! Newborns should always be dressed in a wide-brimmed hat, and when outdoors, they should be wearing a light long-sleeve shirt and long-sleeve pants made of breathable materials. And don’t forget footwear—socks and shoes can help prevent sunlight exporsure. Then, when you’re outdoors, aim to get the most shade as possible. This can be accomplished with umbrellas (handheld and larger options that can be secured to the ground) or with a pop-up tent (although it is recommended not to spend too much time in there as temperatures can rise quickly in a space like that).
It’s also important to know how to dress your baby during the night. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states, “In general, dress your baby in no more than one extra layer than what you would wear. Your baby may be too hot if she is sweating or if her chest feels hot.” For summertime sleep in a room that is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, light cloth, zip-up, footie pajamas are an appropriate choice. Just remember: no sheets, blankets, toys, or anything else should be placed in your baby’s crib or bassinet for safe sleep.
Transportation and Temperatures
The car can be a dangerous place for a baby in the summer. According to San Jose State University’s Department of Meteorology & Climate Science, there have already been 15 pediatric deaths by vehicular heatstroke in 2019 alone, and we’re only halfway through the year.
So, how hot are our cars? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) explains, “An outside temperature in the mid-60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees Fahrenheit.” So, imagine how hot it can be in there when temperatures are in the 70s, 80s, 90s, or above! NHTSA also alerts that “The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes.”
Don’t let these numbers scare you from ever taking your baby out in the car. Instead, take safety measures to prevent something like this from ever happening. First, cool off your car before getting in it. Start the car ahead of time, turn on the AC, and cool it down before bringing the baby carrier into it. Just doing that will make the ride much safer for your baby.
It’s also important to dress your baby carefully for a long car ride—they can get very warm sitting in the without air circulating around their body. Remove extra layers—you can always dress them warmer when you get out of the car. Muslin cotton blankets are great to bring for the car ride. If the air conditioning gets too cool, you can drape this breathable blanket over your baby’s legs.
And finally, set up habits that will remind you to get your baby out of the backseat. Of course, we’d all like to believe we will remember our babies, but accidents happen, so it’s better to be prepared. Many parents say to leave something important in the backseat, like your purse or workbag. One quick and easy reminder system is to place a large, bright, laminated sheet of paper in the base of your baby’s car seat. When you click the car seat in, place this colored paper on the dashboard as a visual indicator that your baby is in the backseat. When you take them out, return the paper to the base for the next time. It sounds silly that you’d need to do this, but anything to protect your baby helps!
Cooling Down a Warm Baby
Even if you follow all the advice above, your baby may get warm from time to time. For example, if you’re at the zoo and you’re wearing your baby in a carrier, you’ll both get hot from sharing body heat. In times like this, carry a manual personal fan or mist them with a gentle water bottle. Some fans even come with a gentle misting option! These can clip on to a stroller or can be tossed in a diaper bag for added convenience.