Cold Weather Tips for New Moms: How Cold Is Too Cold for Baby?

Baby, it's cold outside! Here's how to keep your little one safe from the elements this winter.

Baby Winter Safety
Winter is coming, but who wants to stay all cooped up in the house? For new moms, you'll probably get a bit stir crazy with your little one, especially during the cold weather months. Although you might be tempted to get the baby (and yourself) some fresh air, it's important to keep your little one safe outside.

Once the temperature gets below freezing, you shouldn't take your baby out, except for quick trips back and forth to the car. Even when it's above freezing, wind chill can make it dangerous. "Newborns and infants do not yet have the ability to self regulate their core temperature," Janice Montague, MD, director of pediatrics at Good Samaritan Hospital, a member of the Westchester Health Network in Suffern, NY, tells Fit Pregnancy. "Limit the exposure to the cold elements to a few minutes at a time, and save the cold weather and play in the snow for when they are older."

To keep your baby warm and safe this winter, follow these tips:

Dress your baby in one extra layer than you'd wear.

"If you are comfortable with a jacket on top of your clothes, you should have your baby in a jacket or snowsuit and a blanket," says Molly Broder, MD, a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York. Dressing your infant in layers allows you to adjust to her needs. "The bottom layer can be snug, like leggings and a bodysuit. On top of that, you can put another layer of pants and a long sleeve shirt. Finish up with a jacket, hat, mittens and warm booties to keep hands and feet warm!"

Wear your baby for warmth.

Carriers are a great way to use your body warmth to provide extra coziness for baby in the cold weather—but then he probably doesn't need that extra sweater. Even so, "always keep their head and feet covered as that is how they lose heat," Dr. Montague says. As always when you're wearing your baby, make sure his face is not pressed against your chest or clothing (especially when you're wearing a winter jacket) to keep his airway free. "And be careful of ice and slipping and falling yourself!" she says.

Be careful when covering your baby's stroller.

In an abundance of caution you might want to throw a blanket over your baby's stroller, or protect it with those old-fashioned plastic covers. But Dr. Montague warns that this could compromise the air flow to your baby inside. "Many strollers have covers especially fitted to that brand to allow appropriate air circulation," Dr. Broder suggests. "Otherwise, put your baby in a jacket, hat, mittens, and booties, and then tuck her under a blanket to chest level to keep her warm and snuggly in the stroller." If you can, try to walk against the wind.

Take the puffy jacket off for the car seat.

It may not seem to make sense—you should take your baby's coat off in the winter to keep them safe? The problem with that cute puffy coat is if there's too much material between the baby and the car seat's straps, the material could compress during an accident, leaving space for your baby to become unsecured. Instead, click your baby into the car seat first, and then layer. "If you're using a car seat cover, you should buy one that doesn't come between the baby and the car seat—it should be over the lower part of the baby, like a blanket," Dr. Broder says. "Alternatively, you can use a blanket or coat [placed on top], and then remove it once the car warms up so the baby doesn't get overheated." You can also pre-warm the car to keep your baby cozy.

Avoid too much bath time to help baby's dry winter skin.

Ironically, water can dry out skin, and most babies don't really need to be washed daily in the winter anyway. Use warm water (not hot) and don't let your baby soak too long. "When you dry baby off, apply a good moisturizer without a laundry list of chemicals," Dr. Montague says. "Reapply moisturizer as many times daily as you like." Dr. Broder says the goopier the better, so consider using ointments, which lock in moisture better than creams. If your baby's skin turns red or irritated, call the pediatrician.

Don't keep your house too hot.

You may be worried about the baby being too cold, but too much indoor heat can also be a problem. "Don't keep the house too hot as that is a risk factor for SIDS," Dr. Montague says. So don't feel you have to jack up the heat—your baby should be cozy enough at a comfortable room temperature for you.

Watch out for warning signs.

If your baby starts shivering, or his extremities—hands, feet and face—are cold and red, or have turned pale and hard, bring him inside right away. "You shouldn't rub the cold area to rewarm it, as this could further damage the cold skin," Dr. Broder says. Instead, use warm washcloths to gently reheat the skin, then put on warm and dry clothes. If he doesn't improve in a few minutes, call your doctor. Other signs that your infant has gotten too cold and needs medical attention are lethargy, non-responsiveness, and blue lips or face.