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Finally the summer heat is here! What we’ve all been waiting for! But if it’s your first time caring for a sweaty baby, you’re probably asking – how am I going to deal with this? I’ve only just gotten used to changing my babies diapers all. the. time. How am I meant to keep up? What’s the baby going to wear? Should I give my baby water?
There’s actually a little extra thinking involved when it comes to babies in the heat. Let’s start with the basic facts.
Babies are bad at regulating their body temperature
Newborns are not very good at regulating their body temperature. They easily get too cold or too hot if they are not dressed properly enough for the season. The older the child, the better their heating and cooling system works. A 5 year old is better at regulating their body temperature than a newborn.
Babies cool down by sweating
When babies get too hot and need to cool down, they sweat. Often on the head. But also feet, hands, back and neck are common places that get sweaty. And not at the least, during their sleep. When the skin gets wet, the body cools down slightly.
A sweaty baby is probably a hot baby
Or it might have been too hot before the baby started sweating anyway. Some children sweat every time they sleep. They sweat to the point where their pillowcase gets soaked, even if they’re only wearing diapers in a 20 degree room. It is very common to overdress babies in the summer. Sometimes I see parents with shorts, linen shirt and sunglasses, who have dressed their baby in a diaper, pants, socks, cardigan and covered them in a blanket inside the bunting/ sleeping bag of the stroller.
It’s great that the child is in the stroller. The stroller shades the baby from the sun. But if the stroller is black, it can get very hot inside. Feel the stroller with your hand! If it feels hot, think about covering the canopy with a light baby blanket or a sheet (black attracts heat while white repels it). Looking to buy a stroller for the upcoming summer-baby? Buy a lighter color!
If it’s 20-25 degrees outside and you’re dressed in short sleeves, then your baby doesn’t need to wear more than one layer of cotton clothes. Make sure that the stroller is not in the scorching sun for a long time. It will get super hot (feel with your hand again!). If it is 25-30 degrees in the shade, then the baby just needs a short-sleeved body, or just a diaper under thin sheets.
If the child is well and does not sweat copiously, then they are well dressed.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough fluid in the heat?
If the baby is as alert as usual, eats and pees as usual, they are drinking enough fluid. If the baby starts to get dull or very whiny and can’t eat, it could be a sign that it’s too hot or is drinking too little liquid. Think about what might be right for your child. If the baby sweats a lot, and it’s a very hot day, then maybe the baby is too hot. Go into the shade and take off the baby’s clothes. Try to breastfeed the baby or give formula. Feel free to have skin-to-skin with your baby. Your body will help the baby set the right temperature. Feel free to use a table fan if it is unbearably hot, even indoors.
If the baby is urinating much less than usual and is tired and lethargic, they may be lacking fluid. Then go to a shady place or indoors in a cool room. Breastfeeding or formula also applies here. If the baby is so lethargic, it can’t really suck, you’re going to have to coax it. Feel free to put the baby skin-to-skin on your chest. It can usually make lethargic babies suckle more, and allows them to save energy. If the baby falls asleep after a few suckles, pinch the baby a little on the hand or foot and see if they wake up and suckle again.
If the baby does not start eating and doesn’t perk up after an hour of trying, it is time to go to the children’s emergency room. They may need IV fluids. It may also be that the lethargy and the lack of sucking is due to an infection that needs to be treated in hospital.
Should babies drink water in the heat?
Babies under three months, should not be given water. They need their nutrition when they are drinking. Babies between 3 and 6 months old also do not need to be given water if they mainly live on breast milk or formula. It is perfectly possible to breastfeed or provide formula which meets their water needs even when it is hot. If they want to taste the water that you’re drinking, or the juice or ice cream for that matter, then let them have a taste. If you don’t want to give it to them, then breastfeed them or give them formula. Children who have started eating larger amounts of solid food also have a greater need to drink water. Thirsty children should drink!
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