Your newborn baby is in fresh clean pajamas with sleep sack on, all ready for bed but it’s chilli. There’s always that concern: how to keep baby’s hands warm at night?
Even when the weather is warm, those little hands can feel icey cold when asleep at night. This was a constant worry of mine with my first-born. He’s a November baby. November is not the balmiest month in the UK! Far from it. November is the first of many months of cold weather…
I constantly asked myself, is my baby warm enough or is he wearing enough layers? How can I keep my baby’s hands warm at night in winter?
When he was wrapped up in his swaddle his hands were tucked in and cozy warm. But once out of the swaddle, the nights were still cool. So how do you keep your baby’s hand warm at night without a swaddle?
This post will answer these questions and more. You’ll learn why your baby’s hands are cold at night, whether it’s a concern and learn how to keep them warm at night in those colder months.
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Is it OK for my baby’s hands to be cold at night?
It is important to address this straight away, and the answer is yes. Cold hands in babies are normal and normally nothing to worry about.
If your baby doesn’t seem worried or upset, isn’t uncomfortable and has no symptoms of illness, then cold hands are probably no concern.
Your baby’s sleep is also a good indicator. Babies are light sleepers, with short sleep cycles and lots of active sleep. If their hands are too cold and causing discomfort, your baby will likely not settle to sleep at night or for naps or wake up earlier or more frequently than normal.
Why Does My Baby Have Cold Hands at Night?
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.
It’s confusing because a baby’s core temperature is actually slightly higher than an adult’s body temperature. Because they can’t regulate their temperature as quickly the warmth tends to stay in the core. This results in arms, hands, legs, and feet, staying cooler.
Of course, their hands are often more exposed and not covered like their limbs and feet are, meaning they’re colder still.
Do babies lose heat through their hands?
Babies will lose a little heat through their hands if they’re uncovered. But this is not the reason that their hands tend to be cold. Babies have poor blood circulation so the main reason their hands are cold is that the heat doesn’t get to their hands in the first place.
The main reason for their poor circulation is their rather sedate lifestyle. Babies, particularly newborns, spend most of their days lying pretty still with low activity levels. And although this is totally normal and healthy it results in less blood flow to the limbs.
As babies get older, they start exploring and moving around more. This helps the blood to circulate, which in turn leads to warmer little hands and feet.
Should baby’s hands be warm at night?
Of course, we would love our babies to have lovely warm hands at night, but there shouldn’t be any concerns if they aren’t, particularly in the winter months.
The important thing is your baby’s core temperature. As long as their body feels nice and warm then it isn’t a problem if their hands aren’t.
You also need to be careful not to overheat your baby, and warm hands could be a sign that they are too hot
Is baby too cold if hands are cold?
In most instances, your baby having cold hands will be totally normal and nothing to worry about. If you are concerned however, there is a way to check your baby’s body temperature.
How do I know if my baby is cold at night?
The first thing to do is check other parts of your baby’s body, particularly the tummy and neck. If either of these feels cold, then your baby could probably do with an extra layer of clothes.
More often than not, however, you’ll find that your baby’s tummy is nice and warm meaning a perfectly happy and comfortable baby.
If your baby’s skin feels at all clammy or sweaty, that is a sign that they’re too hot.
When your baby’s cold hands could be a concern
As explained above, more often than not, cold hands are totally normal. Yet on occasion, this could be a symptom of illness so it is important to keep an eye out for other concerns.
A fever can cause cold hands
Always be on the lookout for signs of a fever, which can be a cause of cold hands. Your little one’s body will be busy fighting off the fever taking heat away from other parts of the body.
Something more serious
If your baby’s cold hands are also accompanied by bluish lips, bluish skin and/or mottling on the skin, this could be a sign of something more serious and you should seek medical advice.
Do you need to cover your baby’s hands at night?
Your baby’s hands do not need to be covered at night. As long as their core body temperature is fine, cold hands shouldn’t bother them.
If you think the cold extremities are affecting your baby and feel that covering their hands will make them more comfortable or reduce night wakings, that’s ok. But it does need to be done safely.
Is it safe to use a swaddle blanket to keep baby’s hands warm?
I’m a big fan of swaddling. The reasons for swaddling go far beyond preventing your baby getting cold hands.
- Swaddling prevents the startle or Moro reflex from disturbing and waking baby when asleep
- Swaddling provides deep pressure touch, mimicking the environment of the womb
As such, swaddling is an excellent way to calm and settle baby ready for sleep and help them stay asleep for long periods. It’s one of 10 crucial baby sleep strategies that’ll help baby sleep through the night as soon as developmentally appropriate.
For the remaining 9, check out this post: Baby sleep strategies: How to help your baby sleep through the night in 10 steps (NO CIO)
Swaddling is deemed safe for newborns as long as they haven’t started attempting to roll over. This happens between 8 and 16 weeks.
So before this, swaddling is a safe way to keep your baby warm. Because their hands will be tucked inside the swaddle, swaddling is an effective way to keep baby’s hands warm at night too.
Is it OK to put mittens on babies at night?
If you’re thinking of putting a pair of mittens on your baby at night there are a few safety aspects to be wary of. Namely overheating and loose objects in their sleep space, both of which increase the risk of SIDS. Mittens may also restrict your baby’s natural movement.
Putting your baby in mittens will increase the chance of them overheating, so make sure you keep a close eye on your baby’s core body temperature.
If your baby is looking flushed, or their skin feels clammy or sweaty, then remove the mittens immediately.
Choosing baby mittens in a breathable cotton fabric will go some way to help avoid overheating.
Please be mindful of the safe sleep guidelines set out by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Guidelines state that the sleep surface should be clutter-free, with no loose bedding, no blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, stuffed animals, or other objects.
If your baby is able to pull the mittens off or they are likely to come off with a bit of wriggling, then they could become a choking or suffocation hazard.
If you want to use mittens to keep baby cozy and warm, use ones with elasticated bands at the wrists which will be difficult for your baby to remove. Alternatively use sleepsuits with foldover mittens build into the sleeve.
Restricting your baby’s movement
Babies explore with their hands and it’s vital to ensure that the use of mittens does not prevent this.
Many babies also find comfort in their hands, so if your baby is trying to find their thumb or suck on their fist, let them do this without a barrier in the way.
Related post: Rooting to suck: is baby really hungry? And why you need to know (Hint: beware the comfort feed)
It is also interesting to note that most soft cotton mittens on the market are described as ‘scratch mittens’. This suggests that their purpose is to protect babies from sharp fingernails, rather than to keep them warm.
How to keep baby hands warm at night without a swaddle
The best way to keep your baby’s hands warm at night without a swaddle is to ensure their core body temperature is warm enough. This comes down to their sleep environment and what they are wearing.
1. Use a baby sleep sack
Sleep sacks are like wearable blankets that are designed to keep babies at a comfortable temperature at night. Instead of lying a blanket over your baby, which is a potential risk factor, use a sleep sack.
(This also means weighted blankets, a brilliant sleep aid for older kids and adults, are off the cards too.)
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, meaning that it is double-layered for extra warmth, retaining a high amount of body heat.
You can always put two sleep sacks on your baby. Don’t add an extra blanket that’s loose in the crib.
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?
2. Dress your baby appropriately
The number of layers you need to dress babies in depends on the room temperature. Use this handy chart as a guide to see what your baby should be wearing.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to dressing babies is one more layer than you.
If your house gets cold in winter, it is likely you will need to be dressing your baby in a vest, a sleepsuit, and a 2.5, or possibly even a 3.5 tog sleep sack.
Read here for more on what a newborn should be wearing to sleep in a night.
3. Prewarm the baby’s bed
I don’t know about you but I find that the coldest time at night is when you first get into bed and the sheets feel unbearably cold! Well, in the cold 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. Just make sure you remove the heat source before putting your baby into the crib.
4. Consider crib placement within the room
When laying out the nursery dresser and other furniture in your baby’s nursery, think about the airflow in the room before you decide where to place the crib. Keep the crib away from drafty windows or air vents as well as fans and heaters.
In a cold house or a chilly nursery avoid putting the crib alongside a cooler external wall and place it against an internal wall to help keep your baby warm.
5. Keep the baby’s room warm
The ideal room temperature for babies is 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 so make sure the central heating is at the right level to maintain the recommended safe room temperature.
6. 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 material 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.
7. Use a thicker crib sheet
You can buy thicker crib sheets for the winter. These will provide some warmth in the crib at night without the risk of having any loose blankets or sheets in the cot.
I would recommend always going for 100% cotton sheets which are breathable and help regulate your baby’s body temperature.
8. Change your baby’s diaper regularly
Wet diapers can quite quickly become cold diapers, and if they are particularly full there is also the risk that pajamas get a bit soggy too. Changing your baby’s diaper at least once a night, will help the core body temperature and keep your baby more comfortable.
How to specifically help keep your baby’s hands warm at night
The above suggestions are all ways to ensure that your baby is in a comfortable and warm environment. This should, in turn, lead to their hands being warm enough.
If you still feel your baby’s hands are too cold and you want to specifically focus on getting them warm, consider the following:
9. Use sleepsuits with hand covers
If you want to cover your baby’s hands at night, I’d recommend using a sleepsuit with foldover hand covers attached. The material will be breathable, and the covers can easily be popped over your baby’s hands and just as easily removed when needed.
As opposed to mittens, if your baby pulls them off in the night there is no loose clothing in their crib, reducing the suffocation risk.
How can I keep my baby’s hands and arms warm at night?
10. Use a sleep sack with padded arms
To keep your baby’s arms warmer at night, and in turn, their hands, consider a sleep sack with long sleeves. The sleeves are padded like the rest of the sleep sack, although many have slightly less padding so as not to restrict your baby’s movement.
These are great if you live in a particularly cold house or are heading somewhere colder for the holidays.
Try not to worry if your baby’s hands feel cold at night!
The most important thing is to ensure that their core body is at the correct temperature. Do this by dressing your baby in layers appropriately and keeping a warm environment around them.
Baby’s hands are naturally cooler than the rest of their body. If you are concerned, test your baby’s temperature by checking their tummy or neck, and if these feel warm, your baby should be fine. Add an additional layer if they feel a bit cool.
If you do want to cover your baby’s hands at night and are confident that you can do so whilst keeping your baby safe in their sleeping environment, then go for it. The biggest risk will be from overheating so be vigilant and always err on the side of caution.
And finally, 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, and to keep the baby’s sleep space free of blankets, bumpers, toys or other objects.
Good luck and enjoy your sweet baby!
Need more tips to help you with your newborn?
- 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?
Here are plenty of baby sleep tips:
- 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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- 13 Best non-toxic safe paints for your baby’s crib in 2022