Top UK maternity nurse, baby care consultant and author of the brilliant new parenting book ‘The Baby Detective’ Sarah Norris shares her top ten tips on how to put baby to sleep safely in the hot weather.
The first thing I want to say to you is don’t panic! Remember that babies live perfectly happily in hot countries around the world, and are tougher than they look.
I know hot weather can come as a shock, especially to new parents but there is a lot you can do to deal with it safely.
- If baby sleeps inside, try and keep the room they sleep in cool by leaving the curtains closed, blinds down when the sun is shining on their windows, and the windows closed, but as soon as the air outside is cooler than inside, open the window wide, and get a fan circulating the air.
- Move baby’s bed to the coolest room in the house, even if that is a bathroom, or utility room or an older child’s room.
- Use a fan. Use it to keep air circulating and remember it doesn’t just blow cool air, it can suck it in as well so if there is cooler air outside, have the fan on the windowsill pointing in to the room as it will bring the cooler outside air in.
- The general wisdom is to have a fan blowing near the baby but not directly on it so as not to cool it too much but if temperatures are soaring and you have no other option then you can have the fan blowing directly on your baby, but either have it on low, or far away from baby, and also aimed at baby’s body from chest down towards toes, rather than upwards or at their head. If you do this it is a good idea to either stay in the room with the baby or check more frequently than normal.
- If using a fan you can place a wet cloth (muslins are great for this) somewhere between the fan and your baby, at a slight angle so the air hits the cloth but is not blocked by it, and carries the moisture towards your baby. This raises the humidity and makes it a little cooler.
- If your baby is used to being swaddled and cant sleep without it don’t worry, you can improvise a less heated version of a swaddle. The aim of a swaddle is to restrain the arms so they don’t jerk themselves awake, and the most vulnerable part of the baby’s for overheating is the organs in the chest so you need to restrain the arms without covering the chest. You can do this by wrapping baby’s arms from just above the elbow down to cover the hands, and wrap around the waist, using the thinnest single layer of cloth you can find e.g a cut off muslin or strip of t-shirt material
- Avoid using slings that bring your baby close to your own body because your body heat will be too much for them and air cannot circulate. If your baby will only sleep in a sling for whatever reason then use the thinnest sling with the most breathable material and have baby facing outwards so there is lots of air circulating around baby’s face. (if they are very small you may have to support their heads whilst they sleep). If you can try and have them leaning slightly forwards so there is a gap between your body and theirs this will help keep them cool.
- If your baby is outside in a pram with the hood up do not use a blanket or cloth over the pram hood to keep the sun off the baby because the temperature inside the hood will rise to dangerous levels very quickly. If you need to block the sun and don’t have a sun shade you can use a muslin or very thin cloth that covers about a third of the hood opening or just have it covering either the left side or the right side of the opening so there is plenty of air circulating.
- Feeding – breastfed and formula fed babies up to about 4 months will be getting all the liquid they need as long as they are feeding normally. If they are too hot and sleepy to feed well you can try offering them either a little extra milk or water half way between feeds this ensures they get liquid, but that it doesn’t interfere with their feeds meaning they get less nutrition (although if they are healthy and a good weight this wont do any harm over a couple of days).
If your baby is very young and small you may need to abandon any routine for a few days and feed little and often, waking them up to make sure they feed. I have resorted to giving a very small baby a slightly cooler than normal bath before every feed to make sure they are awake enough to feed properly.
- I know that sometimes parents can feel a bit uncomfortable winding or handling a baby in just a nappy so don’t worry about putting some clothes on them when you need to, just make sure it is as thin as possible, natural material if you can, and as baggy as you can make it so air can circulate.
By Sarah Norris, The Baby Detective