There is nothing better than warm summer weather and the multitude of outdoor activities that you are able to do as a family. Summer not only brings many fun activities but it also brings a few things that need to be taken into consideration to keep your baby comfortable, safe and happy throughout the warmer months.
Keeping your little one cool: tips for beating the heat
Babies are more sensitive to heat than adults, meaning that they can overheat or become dehydrated much faster. This is because:
- • Babies aren’t able to regulate their own temperature. As adults, we are able to sweat when we are hot to cool down, and shiver when we are cold to warm up. However, babies do not have this ability yet.
- • If you look at a baby’s surface area, they have a larger surface area when compared to their body mass. This means that more of their skin is available to be exposed to the environment, thus causing them to feel these changes more readily.
- • Babies skin is thinner and has less subcutaneous fat than an adult’s skin. This makes their skin more susceptible to temperature changes.
- • Babies aren’t able to talk to us and tell us that they’re feeling hot. When babies are feeling hot or uncomfortable, they may cry or become fussy. It is important to pick up on these cues and cool your baby down.
- • Babies are not able to move away from an environment that they feel uncomfortable or too hot in.
It is therefore essential that as parents and caregivers we notice the signs of our baby becoming too hot, work to cool them down and make sure that they remain hydrated.
Let’s explore a variety of strategies to help you keep your baby cool during warm and hot seasons, ensuring they remain happy and healthy.
Understanding the importance of keeping your baby cool
Before we talk about the tips and strategies, it's essential to understand why keeping your baby cool during hot seasons is so crucial. As discussed, babies are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses due to their undeveloped sweat glands, limited mobility, and inability to regulate their body temperature effectively.
Therefore, high temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and, in severe cases, heatstroke. To protect our baby, we need to ensure that they are kept cool especially on the warmer days.
How to keep your baby cool
1. Dress your baby appropriately to the weather conditions. It is important to choose the right clothing for your baby to make sure that you are able to keep them cool during hot seasons. Dressing your baby in clothing that is light, breathable like cotton or linen, loose fitting clothes and in layers that you can take off as the day starts to warm up are all great ways to help the air circulate and reduce the risk of your baby overheating.
When out in the sun it is essential to use a hat with a wife brim to help shade their face and neck from the sun. Remember, it is important to protect your baby from the sun, however adding too many layers to try and protect them from the sun could potentially cause them to overheat.
2. If your baby is over the age of 6 months, you can start to use sunscreen and sun protection on their skin. Make sure to only use a baby-specific sunscreen that has been approved with a high SPF. Remember, babies’ skin is so delicate it is also more likely to burn in the sun’s UV rays so sunscreen after 6 months is a good option for protection.
In addition to sunscreen, consider using a sunshade or an umbrella to provide shade when you're outdoors. When using a pram or a carrier, choose those with built-in sunshades or attachable sun protection accessories. Never cover your baby’s pram or carrier with a blanket or muslin as this can dramatically increase the temperature inside the pram, potentially causing significant harm to your baby.
3. Make sure that you keep your baby well hydrated, especially on hot days. Babies under 6 months, should not be drinking water. If your baby is breastfeeding, offer them the breast more frequently to ensure they get enough fluids. Breastmilk is 70% water, therefore this is all that your baby needs to stay hydrated. If you are formula feeding, you can also give your baby extra formula feeds to help keep baby well hydrated throughout the day.
4. Try to stay in the shade when you are outside as much as possible. Whether you are at the park, in your backyard, at the beach or at a pool it is essential to try and stay in the shade with your baby as much as you can. You can use the shade from trees, an umbrella or sunshade to create a comfortable yet cool environment for your baby. Remember, even if you are swimming in a pool or beach your baby will still be in the direct sun so to make sure that this is done in moderation. Additionally, try to avoid being out in the direct sun during peak hours of the day.
5. Make sure to keep your inside environment cool too. Although you may not be outside in the heat of the day, it can become quite warm inside the house as well. Making sure that your house and the baby’s room is well ventilated to circulate the air around the room and keep your baby cool. It is especially important to ensure baby’s sleep environment has been adjusted to the temperature and that you are not overdressing your baby for sleep.
6. Make sure to consider the temperature when you’re planning your baby’s daily activities in summer. Make sure to be mindful of what times you may be outside in the heat of the day and try to plan your activities around cooler times of the day such as mornings or late afternoons. Avoid doing any strenuous activities with your baby during the hottest parts of the day where you or the baby may overheat. Always make sure to plan where you can go to find some shade or to cool down if you or your baby become uncomfortable in the heat.
7. Don’t forget vitamin D. While it is essential to limit the heat and harmful UV rays from the sun to protect their delicate skin and avoid overheating, it is still important that they receive some vitamin D throughout the day. This may mean that you aim for very short periods in the sun and gradually increase this as your baby grows.
Vitamin D is important for baby’s bone health by playing an important role in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which is essential for the development of strong and healthy bones. Further to the benefits of Vitamin D on bone health, Vitamin D is also important for your baby’s immune system, dental health, growth and development, respiratory health, prevention of rickets and behaviour.
Be aware of signs of overheating
It is important to be aware and understand the signs that your baby may be becoming too hot or overheating. Here are some common signs:
- • If your baby is becoming too hot they will start becoming fussy and irritable.
- • Your baby may feel hot to touch, have flushed cheeks or be sweating on the back of the neck, forehead or hairline.
- You may notice that your baby is breathing quite quickly. Becoming too hot and overheating may cause your baby to increase their breathing rate and heart rate.
- • Your baby may appear, sluggish, lethargic or not interested in eating.
- • The soft spot on your baby’s head, called the fontanelle, is sunken.
If your baby is having rapid, shallow breathing or signs of distress when they are breathing, if they seem lethargic or not interested in drinking it is essential to seek medical assistance immediately.
What to do if your baby appears too hot:
If you suspect your baby is becoming too hot, it is essential to take immediate steps to cool them down.
If you are concerned your baby is overheating or is showing any concerning signs, seek medical assistance immediately. If you think your baby is starting to become too hot, here’s what you can do to help cool your baby down:
1. Move to a cooler environment. Make sure to get your baby out of the sun and/or the heat into an area that is well ventilated.
2. Remove any excess clothing, this may mean stripping your baby down to their nappy if need be. Offer lots of fluids (breastmilk, formula or water if over 6 months) to keep your baby hydrated.
3. Give them a cool bath or use cool cloths to help cool your baby down. Run a lukewarm bath for your baby and let them splash around for a while. This can help reduce their body temperature and provide a fun and soothing experience.
4. Keep a close eye on your baby’s condition. If they don’t improve or if you notice any severe symptoms such as lethargy, rapid breathing, vomiting or you are concerned for your baby seek immediate medical advice.
Keeping your baby cool during warm and hot seasons needs to be a top priority for every parent. By following these tips and strategies, you can ensure your baby remains comfortable and safe while enjoying your time together as a family outdoors.
Remember to dress your baby appropriately, provide adequate shade, and prioritise keeping your baby well hydrated. Being vigilant about signs of overheating and planning outdoor activities wisely will help you and your baby make the most of the sunny days while staying cool and comfortable. Your baby's well-being is the ultimate goal, so stay informed, seek medical advice when necessary and enjoy the warmer months creating lifelong memories with your little one.
Written By Lauren Brenton
Endorsed Midwife and Founder of One Mama Midwife Pty Ltd
I’m Loz and I’m an Endorsed Midwife who runs Antenatal Classes in the Sutherland Shire. I have completed a Bachelor of Midwifery and a Master of Midwifery. My favourite area is in the labour ward, this is where you can find me most days. One Mama Midwife came about in the height of Covid in 2020, when so many women were missing out on the chance to have antenatal education. Aimed at empowering you with the tools you require to have the pregnancy, birth and postpartum journey that you want to have, with advice and recommendations you can trust.