How to Safely Beat the Summertime Heat with Baby

Summer - coconut-scented, sunshiney, sparkly Summer - is fast approaching.  Filled with fun and a sense of freedom, summer is one of my favorite times of the year.  But with it can come hot, sticky, relentless, punishing heat.  Getting cool may be hard even under the best of circumstances.  

While some like it hot, getting cool isn't just a matter of preference for Baby.  It is a necessity.  Babies often suffer heatstroke and dehydration much quicker than an older child or adult.  Moreover, overheating has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a fatal sleeping disorder.   In short, keeping Baby cool is of vital importance.  Here are some tips for doing so during the summer heat.

1.  Dress your baby appropriately for the heat.  As a general rule, infants should wear no more than one layer more than an adult would wear to be comfortable in the same environment.  This includes bedtime and naptime sleepwear.   If you have air-conditioning, you may not need to change much in your dressing routines.  If you do not, or if you are outside, consider light-weight cotton or linen fabrics that allow the body to breathe.

When dressing your baby for travel, stick to one lightweight layer and skip the socks and hat.  If you are using a proper-fitting, properly installed car seat, your baby will be fitted snugly in the car seat and rear-facing.  The snug fit of the car seat can generate heat and the back of the car seat will block any blasts of air-conditioning.  Moreover, the sun often shines in on little ones, generating even more heat.  Why no socks or hat in a car seat?  Babies can cool themselves to a small extent by transferring some heat through their feet and head.

If you "babywear," consider using a wrap or holder with light-weight, breathable fabric.

On hot sticky nights, consider dressing baby in a lightweight sleepsack such as Bumbershoots by Nana's lightweight collection or foregoing jammies and sleepsacks altogether.  Don't use blankets or crib bumpers.  Those present suffocation dangers to infants even when it is cool, but when it is hot, they also heat an infant and block cooling breezes.  

When outside, infants should be dressed to protect against the sun - lightweight, breathable long sleeves, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat.  When that's impractical, the American Academy of Pediatrics now says it's okay to apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to a baby's exposed skin, including the face.  (After Baby is six months, you can apply sunscreen more frequently.)

If Baby is sick, resist the urge to bundle up.  The body fights illness by elevating body temperature, making the child even hotter.

2.  Keep an eye out for overheating.  Experts recommend we keep room temperatures between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit/18-21 degrees Celsius. In the summer, that is often hard to do.  To check for overheating, put your hands on Baby's head or stomach to see if they feel warm.  Be on the lookout for sweating, flushed cheeks, rashes, damp hair and rapid breathing - all signs that an infant is too hot.  Another sign of overheating is if Baby seems extra fussy despite having eaten and having dry, clean diapers.  

NOTE: When overheating is more severe, Baby might be more sleepy, might vomit, and his or her skin might go from being moist to very dry.  Baby can also develop a fever.  If your baby shows any of those signs or signs of dehydration, immediately seek medical attention.   

3.  Cool your baby when needed.  When Baby is getting too warm, you can cool him or her with damp cloths or by spraying Baby's hands and feet with water.  You can also try cooling your little one with lukewarm baths or sponge baths.  Don’t use cold water or ice in the bath. 

To adjust the ambient air without air-conditioning, you can place wet towels or sheets around (NOT in) the crib to cool the air immediately near them.  If you use a fan, don't point it directly at the child, but positioned to circulate the air near the child.  Also, make sure it is safely situated to protect curious fingers and toes.

4.  Feed frequently.  Guard against dehydration by feeding your infant more frequently.  One way to check for dehydration is to make sure Baby is wetting his or her diapers normally.

Babies should drink at least 50 percent more than usual in the summer.  Normal fluid intake is at least two ounces per pound per day, but when it is hot should be three ounces.  What does that look like?  Well, a ten-pound baby that normally drinks 20 ounces of milk should get at least 30 ounces when it is hot.   

If you breastfeed and are having trouble producing enough milk, supplement with formula.  (And make sure you drink plenty of water as dehydration can affect your milk production.)  Remember, giving your infant water is a no-no until he or she is at least 6 months old.  Even then, water seldomly should be offered until the child is older. 

In really hot weather, skin contact can be uncomfortable for a baby. Try putting a lightweight fabric between yourself and the baby when feeding.  That may encourage feeding.

For children who drink beverages other than formula or breastmilk, offer water, not fruity or sugary drinks.

5.  Choose the coolest room in the house for sleeping.  Keep the heat out by closing the curtains and make sure fresh air can circulate around the crib.  Avoid leaving a child to sleep in a car seat or stroller, as that can also cause overheating.  

6.  Go somewhere cool.  If it is safe to do so (a Covid 19-specific qualification), visit libraries, malls, movie theaters, friends, family - anywhere there is air conditioning - during the hottest part of the day.  Unless there is one heck of a breeze and a whole lot of shade, taking little ones outside will only make them hotter. 

7.  NEVER leave a child - of any age - unattended in the car.  Vehicles can be 30-40 degrees hotter than the outside, and rolling down the windows an inch or two doesn't sufficiently cool it down.  

 

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