Part of making sure that your baby’s sleeping environment is secure is to ensure that their room is at a safe and comfortable temperature and they are appropriately dressed. Just like with adults, a baby’s sleep is negatively affected if they are too hot or cold. Adding to this, babies are not able to regulate their own body temperature by putting a blanket over themselves or taking a layer of clothing off to keep themselves comfortable. So, what is the safest temperature for a baby to sleep in?
A room which is between 20℃ and 22℃ has been proven to be the safest temperature and assists with keeping your baby’s body temperature within the WHO recommended range of 36.5℃ to 37.5℃.
Babies regulate their body temperature through their heads which means that they are at a higher risk of overheating as well as losing body heat too fast and becoming too cold. This is because their heads are much larger in proportion to their body leaving a larger surface area exposed. By checking that your baby’s room temperature is comfortable, you reduce the risk of them overheating or becoming too cold.
Knowing the ideal temperature of your baby’s room is helpful, however, there are other essential things to consider in order to keep your baby content and comfortable whilst they sleep.
HOW DO YOU CHECK THE TEMPERATURE IN YOUR BABY’S ROOM?
The easiest and most accurate way to monitor the temperature of your baby’s room is by using an indoor thermometer. There are many products on the market that can assist you with this. It is also necessary to remember that the temperature of your infant’s room may not be the same as another space in your residence as each individual room may differ due to size, the number of windows in the room and how the room is insulated.
As much as a thermometer can provide you with an indication of what the temperature is, it is still advised that you check on your baby’s temperature as well as feeling for yourself how comfortable the temperature is in the room.
WHERE IN YOUR BABY’S ROOM SHOULD A THERMOMETER BE PLACED?
To be certain that the reading you are getting from the thermometer is accurate, the thermometer should ideally be placed in the centre of the room and no lower than 60cm from the floor.
WHAT TEMPERATURE IS TOO HOT FOR A BABY TO SLEEP in?
There are no guidelines specifying what temperature is too hot for your baby to sleep, thus it is best to keep their room cooler than 22℃ as this has been deemed safe. The AAP also suggests that if the room is comfortable for you then it is suitable for your baby.
Being able to identify signs of overheating is vital, as being too hot increases your baby’s risk of SIDS. This is because a baby that is overheated is likely to fall into a deeper sleep and be more difficult to wake up should there be a need.
The following may indicate that your baby is too hot:
- Flushed cheeks
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart beat
- Damp hair
- Fussier than usual despite all needs being met
If you pick up any of these indicators then it is best to remove one item of clothing and re-asses in a short while.
HOW COLD IS TOO COLD FOR A BABY TO SLEEP in?
Even though there is no specific temperature which indicates how cold is too cold for your baby to sleep, it is best to keep the room around 20°C so you can ensure that your little one won't get cold. Being able to correctly assess if your baby is too cold is as important as maintaining their room temperature at a comfortable level.
The obvious thought might be to check if their hands and feet are cold, but they may not give you a true indication. These parts are frequently exposed which means that they will naturally feel cooler. Hands and feet are only an indicator that your baby is too cold if they are slightly blue.
The best way to check if your baby is too cold is by feeling their torso as this provides the most accurate indication of their core temperature. Their tummy should feel warm to the touch if your baby’s body temperature is within the normal range. Should they be cold, it is advised to only add one item of clothing at a time and then recheck to make sure they are comfortable. It is generally taught that a baby only needs one additional layer of clothing than you to help maintain a normal temperature.
As a parent you may be tempted to place a hat on your baby to help keep them warm as this is their most exposed area, however, this is not recommended as it increases the potential of them overheating.
IS IT OK IF MY BABY'S HANDS ARE COLD AT NIGHT?
It is common for a baby who is under 3 months to have cold hands. This is because their circulatory system is still maturing and blood needs to flow to their vital organs first. It is best to feel their torso as this is the most accurate place to determine if they are genuinely cold. If it is warm and pink then your baby is comfortable and does not need additional clothing.
SHOULD YOU COVER YOUR BABY'S HANDS AT NIGHT?
The temperature of your baby’s hands does not provide a clear indication on whether they are cold or not. Therefore, that should not be the primary reason why you cover their hands at night.
Using mittens to cover their hands can become a potential choking or suffocation hazard should they come off during the night. Covering your baby’s hands also makes it more difficult for them to use their hands to explore their environment and self-soothe.
DO BABIES CRY AT NIGHT IF THEY ARE TOO HOT OR TOO COLD?
There are no clear-cut answers indicating if your baby will cry when they are too hot or too cold whilst sleeping. It has been suggested that a baby who is too hot may appear fussy and difficult to settle if all their other needs are met. Whereas a baby who is very cold may not necessarily cry as they are conserving their energy and trying to stay warm.
Best practice is to check how warm your infant is during the night. This is especially true for newborns and younger babies. It is also important to adjust your baby’s clothing or room temperature if there is a change. For example, if you were to wake up in the middle of the night and add an additional blanket to your bed, then it is likely that your baby may need an additional layer of clothing.
HOW SHOULD YOU DRESS YOUR BABY WHEN THEY SLEEP AT NIGHT?
The current temperature of the room should be used as the indicator for what to dress your baby in. If the temperature of the room changes, it is important that the amount of clothing your baby is wearing is adjusted. To help make this easier it is best to dress your baby in thin layers rather than a single thick item.
The World Health Organization recommends that your baby’s clothing should not be too tight. This may result in air becoming trapped between their body and clothes which works as an insulator and may make your baby too warm.
Swaddling your newborn baby helps imitate the warmth of the womb and assists in keeping them comfortable at night. When choosing a swaddle, it is encouraged that you use a lightweight cotton or muslin wrap as it allows air to move through and poses less of a sleeping hazard should it loosen. It is also important that the swaddle does not go above your baby’s shoulders and cover their head, eyes or chin. Not only does it pose a choking or suffocation hazard, it may also result in them becoming too hot as it is similar to wearing a hat.
As your baby begins to roll (around 2 months of age) and it is no longer safe to swaddle them, an infant sleeping sack becomes a great replacement. A sleep sack provides the necessary warmth for your infant while ensuring that they do not encounter the risks of sleeping with a blanket or other loose items in their cot.
When beginning your search for a sleep sack for your baby you will be introduced to the concept of Thermal Overall Grading or TOG. The TOG value of a sleep sack provides you with an indication of how many blankets the sleep sack would be comparable to. This will influence and guide you on what to dress your baby in. There are many combinations depending on the temperature of the room and the TOG of the sleep sack being used. Using a quick reference chart nearby such as the one below will provide you with confidence in knowing your baby is adequately dressed.
By providing your baby with a room which is a comfortable temperature and dressing them in relation to the temperature of the room, you can ensure that they will sleep safely with minimal risk of becoming cold or overheating.