A swaddle is not only a comfort for your sleeping baby but also helps keep them nice and warm. But what if you’re past the swaddling stage?
As we head into winter and the temperatures start to drop you’re probably wondering how to keep your baby warm at night without a swaddle.
I remember constantly worrying about whether my son was warm enough when we first moved him from a swaddle to a sleep sack. Is he wearing enough layers? Is his room warm enough? How do I know whether he is warm enough? The list goes on!
The aim of this post is to answer these questions and guide you through how to keep your baby at a comfortable temperature at night time.
How do I know if my baby is warm enough at night?
As we head towards colder nights, it can be hard to know whether your baby is warm enough. And it can be easy to worry about it nightly!
So how do you recognize that your baby is cold in the winter months?
Signs baby is cold at night
If you are concerned about your baby being too cold, the important thing to check is their core body temperature. Do not rely on cold hands as an indicator. Babies often have cold hands, particularly at night. It is totally normal and nothing to worry about.
To check your baby’s core body temperature feel the back of their neck or their tummy. If either of these feels cold, then your baby could do with an extra layer of clothing.
But more often than not, you’ll find that your baby’s tummy is nice and warm meaning a perfectly happy and comfortable baby.
There are other more obvious and concerning signs that your baby is too cold. These include blue lips, not feeding as well and being less responsive.
What happens if baby is too cold at night?
Babies tend to sleep better in a cooler room. However, if your baby is too cold at night they will start to feel uncomfortable, just like us grown-ups. This can lead to them being more restless, crying out, and waking more frequently.
Will a baby wake up if too cold?
Just like with other discomforts, if your baby is feeling cold they’re likely to wake more often. They’ll probably cry out to let you know that there’s a problem.
In extreme cases, a baby may become less responsive as they try to conserve energy to keep their body warm. A baby that’s much too cold will be less interested in feeding too.
The importance of keeping baby warm at night
It is important to keep your baby at a comfortable temperature at night, not too hot and not too cold. Being too hot can increase the risk of SIDS and too cold you’re not going to have a very settled baby.
Do babies sleep better if they are warm?
Babies will sleep best at a comfortable warm temperature. Being either too hot or too cold could unsettle your baby leading to more frequent wake ups, or not settling properly at bedtime.
How do I keep my baby warm in his crib at night?
The most important thing to ensure is that your baby’s core body temperature is warm enough. You can do this by dressing them in appropriate clothing. If they’re wearing the correct number of layers for the room temperature, you should have a happy baby.
More detail on dressing baby at night time coming up.
Secondly, look at your baby’s environment. Covered below are tips on how to help keep your baby warm. These include correctly positioning their crib, and even buying a certain type of mattress and crib sheet.
What temperature should a baby’s bedroom be at night?
The recommended temperature for a baby’s bedroom is between 16-21 degrees celsius or 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your baby’s nursery temperature is somewhere in this range, and they are wearing the appropriate clothing, they should have a safe and comfortable night’s sleep.
Space heaters are not recommended for use in a baby’s nursery. Make sure the central heating is at the right level to maintain the recommended room temperature safely.
What temperature is too cold for a baby
In the height of winter, it can be difficult to maintain the recommended temperature throughout the night. And not many of us are keen, I imagine, to have the heating on all night!
Once your baby is asleep, if they’re dressed appropriately, it shouldn’t matter if the temperature dips from the recommended 16-21 degrees celsius or 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, it’s a good idea to have the heating come on early in the morning. Those last few hours of sleep when babies can naturally be a bit more restless are key. You do not want your baby waking at 5am because they are cold!
How to keep baby warm at night in winter without a swaddle
So with the outside temperature dropping, how do we keep our babies warm at night without a swaddle? Well firstly, you need to make sure your baby is dressed suiably.
How to dress your baby at night without swaddling
The number of layers you need to dress your baby in depends on the room temperature. Use this handy chart below as a guide on how to dress your baby for sleep.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to dressing babies is one more layer than you.
If your house gets particularly cold in winter, like ours does, you will need to dress your baby in a vest, a sleepsuit, and a 2.5, or possibly even a 3.5 tog sleep sack at night.
Read here for more on what a newborn should wear to sleep at night.
What is a sleep sack?
Sleep sacks, or baby sleep bags, are wearable blankets designed to keep babies at a comfortable temperature at night. Instead of lying a blanket over your baby, which is a potential suffocation risk, use a sleep sack to keep baby cozy and warm.
There are different types of sleep sacks and they come in different tog ratings. In the winter season, you should be using at least a 2.5 tog. This means it is double-layered for extra warmth, retaining a high amount of body heat.
Most sleep sacks are sleeveless because their aim is to keep your baby’s core warm. For particularly cold nights or if your house is especially cold, you can get ones with long sleeves too.
If you are undecided on whether to dress your baby in a sleep sack or a swaddle, take a look at our comprehensive overview tackling the question What is better: a swaddle or sleep sack for a newborn?
What is a TOG rating?
A TOG rating is a measure widely used to indicate how effectively a product insulates heat. So the higher the tog rating the warmer it will be.
In baby sleep sacks they tend to range from 0.5, which is extremely lightweight and designed for hot summer days, to 3.5 which is perfect for a cold winter.
How can I keep my baby’s head warm at night?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding hats as a way to keep your baby warm at night. In fact, they state that once you are home from the hospital, you should avoid putting a hat on your baby at all whilst indoors.
Wearing a hat at night can easily cause your baby to overheat, which is a bigger concern for baby safety than your baby being cold. Overheating increases the risk of SIDS.
Despite being told that we lose most of our body heat through our heads, focus on keeping your baby’s core body temperature warm. Layer them appropriately and check they’re warm enough by touching the back of the neck or tummy.
How to keep your baby’s hand warm at night without a swaddle
You may notice that those little baby hands get really cold at night now they’re not swaddled. This is totally normal and usually nothing to worry about.
The reason for cold hands in babies is their inability to regulate their body temperature as quickly as adults. The same goes for their feet. Because they can’t regulate their temperature as fast the warmth tends to stay in the core. And of course, their hands being uncovered doesn’t help either.
But as long as the core is warm, you needn’t worry too much about their hands and shouldn’t need to cover them either.
For more on this take a look at our post on how to keep baby’s hands warm at night.
Other ways to keep your baby warm at night without a swaddle in a cold house
As well as ensuring that your baby is dressed appropriately, you should also consider your baby’s environment. Look at whether there are any changes you could make to help keep them warmer.
Consider the position of your baby’s crib
This is one you hopefully considered when organizing the nursery dresser and other furniture in the room. But if not, take a look now. Think about the airflow in the room and keep the crib away from drafty windows, air vents, fans and heaters.
In a cold house or a chilly nursery avoid putting the crib alongside a cooler external wall. Place it against a warmer internal wall to help keep your baby warm.
Use a firm mattress
Using a firm mattress is not only recommended to reduce the risk of SIDS but also to keep your baby’s temperature regulated.
In contrast to a mattress made from soft material, a firm mattress ensures that no cold air can enter from the base of the crib. Consider a wool, hemp, or organic cotton crib mattress.
Use cotton fitted sheet for a crib mattress
I would recommend always going for 100% cotton sheets which are breathable and help regulate your baby’s body temperature.
You can also buy thicker crib sheets for the winter. These will provide some warmth in the crib at night without the risk of loose blankets or sheets in the cot.
Adjust the room temperature
It may be that that thermostat needs to be adjusted to keep the ideal room temperature of 16-21 degrees celsius or 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
You may also consider having the heating come on for a period in the middle of the night to keep the temperature up. Or could try using a space heater to pre-heat the room before bedtime.
Just remember that space heaters should never be left unattended or on whilst your baby is sleeping.
Prewarm your baby’s crib
I don’t know about you but I find that the coldest time at night is when you first get into bed. The sheets feel unbearably cold! Well, in the colder months this will be the same for your baby.
Preheating your baby’s cold sheets with an electric blanket, hot water bottle or heating pad will make it much more comfortable for them to drift into a restful sleep. Make sure you remove the heat source before putting your baby into the crib.
Change baby’s diaper
Wet diapers can quite quickly become cold diapers, and if they are particularly full there is also the risk that your baby’s pjs could get a bit soggy too. Change your baby’s diaper at least once a night to help them maintain their core body temperature, as well as keep them comfortable.
Baby sleep safety
Please always be mindful of the safe sleep guidelines set out by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The guidelines state that the sleep surface should be clutter-free, with no loose bedding, blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, stuffed animals, or other loose objects.
How can I cover my baby at night in winter?
Using a blanket to cover your baby at night is not recommended and can pose a potential risk factor for accidental suffocation. Sleep sacks are a wonderful alternative to keep your baby safe, as well as warm and cozy.
This also means weighted blankets for babies, a brilliant sleep aid for older kids and adults, are off the cards too.
When can you safely give your baby a blanket for sleep?
There is no exact age that has been deemed safe to give your baby a blanket for sleep. Medical professionals tend to agree, however, that by around 12-18 months there is little risk in adding a blanket as an extra layer.
Is it safe to use a space heater in a baby’s nursery?
Space heaters are not recommended for use in a baby’s nursery for two reasons. Firstly they increase the risk of your baby overheating, which can contribute to the risk of SIDS. And secondly, a space heater left unattended is a fire hazard.
How to keep your baby from overheating during sleep
Overheating is just as possible in the winter as in the warmer months. We worry about our baby’s being cold so we crank up the heating, add an extra layer, and before we know it we have a baby who is too hot.
You’ll notice quite quickly if they are overheating as they will likely look flushed and be sweaty or clammy to the touch.
Here are some pointers to keep your baby from overheating during sleep:
1. Set the thermostat to the ideal sleeping temperature
Setting the thermostat to the perfect temperature for sleeping will prevent you leave the heating on for too long, and risk overheating your baby’s nursery.
2. Dress your baby in layers
Layers are always best for a baby as they can easily be removed or added if need be.
3. Do not dress your baby in a hat
Dressing your baby in a hat at night is not recommended as it can lead to overheating. We all lose heat from our heads when we are hot and putting a hat on restricts this.
4. Do not use an electric blanket, heating pads or a space heater
Heaters, heat pads, and electric blankets can get really hot really quickly and should never be left on overnight. They pose a major risk of overheating your baby.
So how do you keep baby warm at night without a swaddle?
Firstly, when we talk about keeping our babies warm at night, we are talking about their core body temperature. So do not panic if your baby has cold hands or their cheeks are a bit cold to touch.
We test our baby’s core body temperature by feeling their core, so their tummy or neck is the best spot. If these are feeling nice and warm, you have a happy comfortable baby. If they are feeling a little cool to touch, then add an additional layer.
The best way to ensure your baby’s core temperature is correct is to dress them in the appropriate layers. In addition, keep a warm environment around them.
Use the handy chart above which recommends the number of layers required depending on the room temperature. And use a sleep sack as a safe option to keep your baby warm once their out of the swadde.
And finally, when considering how to keep your baby warm at night, always make sure that you are following the safe sleeping guidelines.
These recommend that all babies sleep on their back, on a flat, firm, separate sleep surface such as a bassinet, play yard, or crib. Guidelines also include keeping baby’s sleep space free of blankets, bumpers, toys or other objects.
More newborn tips to help you:
- How to tub bathe a newborn step-by-step & plus baby bath tips for fun, stress-free bathing
- How to help a newborn poop instantly! 11 tried & tested ways to relieve poopy struggles
- Newborns first bath: how to sponge bathe a newborn baby girl or boy with umbilical cord still attached
- When is it safe to travel with a newborn by plane or car?
- How To Keep Your Baby’s Hands Warm At Night (10 Practical Tips) Without A Swaddle & In Winter
Need baby sleep tips? Check these out:
- How To Get Newborn Baby To Sleep In A Bassinet (15 Practical Tips) Instead Of Your Arms
- Baffled by how much sleep baby needs? Baby sleep chart to the rescue!
- 10 tips for the 10-month sleep regression to help you navigate it with minimal sleep lost
- (Gentle) Sleep Training: What To Do When Your Baby Wakes Up Too Early In The Morning
- How to get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet instead of your arms with 12 different tactics
- Fed-up with short naps? 9 tactics to take 2 hour naps from dream to reality
- Starting A Newborn Sleep & Feeding Schedule That You And Your Baby Will Love
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