The winter months and cold temperatures are among us and it's during this time that we need to provide extra care to our families – especially newborns and toddlers. Colds are especially common for babies between the months of October and May, so paying special attention to little ones who are born in autumn and winter is important. Here are some helpful tips so you can tackle the winter months with confidence!
According to New York pediatrician Erika Landau, M.D., coauthor of The Essential Guide to Baby's First Year, "Babies and new parents need fresh air. Unless it's dangerously cold, being outdoors helps infants acclimate to the seasons and the day-and-night cycle, and it often calms fussiness." All this should of course be done with necessary precautions. If you are taking your child out for a walk in a stroller or a carrier, keep in mind that even though you may be warm because you are exercising, your baby might not be. It's important to pay attention to their non-verbal cues and make sure they have proper layers. Which leads us to our next tip; bundle up!
But how do we know whether they’re “bundled up enough”? Especially for first-time parents, who may not have a lot of experience in dressing up a newborn, winter can be a very frustrating time. A good rule of thumb is to dress your baby with the same amount of clothes you would dress yourself and then add one more layer. Even though adults don’t need to wear hats to fight cold, our little ones do in order to keep their heads warm. Their bodies are more sensitive and tend to lose heat more quickly than us. Temperatures between 16 and 20 °C provide an optimum environment for the newborns to sleep in. Covering them with a blanket over the clothes they wear indoors is enough. Babywearing in a wrap or carrier is the most effective because they can then absorb the heat from their parent’s body. This way, they won’t need a lot of clothes to keep them warm. Also, instead of over-bundling, try woolen clothes in less layers. Look for water-repellent fabrics and a layer of insulation. Lycra and silk are better insulators than cotton; in part because cotton will stay damp once it absorbs moisture.
Moisturizing our skin all year long is already important for adults and the tender and soft baby skin is no exception. In winter months this is even more important, since we are faced with cold air, wind, and heating, which are all working against the natural moisture of the skin. When your baby finishes a bath, pat them dry to preserve some of the moisture of their skin. Then, make sure you use a moisturizer on your baby after every bath. At the first sign of dry skin, bump up your baby’s moisturizer from a cream to a hydrating ointment. Ointments have at least 80% of oil in their composition and are the most effective at preventing water loss from the skin. A trick to making ointments feel less greasy is to apply them to damp skin.
What role does bathing have in all of this? "I recommend giving baby a bath only about every three days to avoid over drying and irritation," says Dr. Cohen. Keep the water to about 38 °C (stick your elbow in the water; it should feel comfortably warm, not hot) and limit the time in the tub to 10 minutes or less if you have a newborn. "If the water is too warm, or she stays in too long, it speeds up the process of dehydrating the skin barrier and it saps skin's protective oils," says Dr. Puttgen.
Another important part of keeping our babies healthy and safe during winter lies in their diet. Making some vital dietary changes for your baby is necessary with the change of season. For example, in the summer, people need more liquids because of excessive sweating, while the water intake in winter can be smaller. If your baby is younger than 6 months and is still breastfeeding, it is wise to continue with that, since it will keep your baby warm. Mothers who are nursing their baby should avoid foods that have a cooling effect on the body (curd, cucumber, melons) and instead eat foods that keep the body warm (apricots, guava, basil). Include more garlic in the diet as it is a natural antibiotic and the nutrients will be passed from the mother to the baby’s body while feeding. If your baby is older than 6 months, you can include more soups in their diet, given to them lukewarm.
By following the simple above-mentioned tips, you will make sure that your baby stays healthy, warm and snuggly through the entire winter season!