How to Tell If Baby Is Too Cold When Sleeping: Signs and Solutions

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Knowing how to tell if your baby is too cold while sleeping, and ensuring they’re at a comfortable temperature during sleep, is crucial for their safety and well-being.

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As a new parent, understanding and responding to your baby’s needs can feel like it comes with a giant learning curve. Those first few weeks and months are full of so many moments of wondering why, what and how. One of the things every single new parent wonders about is how to tell if their baby is too cold when sleeping.

Unlike adults, infants cannot effectively regulate their body temperature and rely on their environment and clothing to maintain warmth. Overheating or being too cold can both be risks for your child, with the former being a known risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

By being aware of the environment and using appropriate sleepwear and bedding, you can help reduce the risk of your baby experiencing discomfort from being too cold, as well as keep them safe.

Before we get started, it’s important to note that you should always discuss any concerns about your baby with your pediatrician. If you notice severe symptoms such as unresponsiveness or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention from your pediatrician or local emergency services. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and requires prompt treatment.

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Understanding Baby’s Temperature Regulation

Your infant’s ability to regulate their body temperature is less developed than an adult’s. Ensuring your baby is neither too hot nor too cold during sleep can feel challenging at first, but gets easier as you learn the signs of both.

Importance of Body Temperature for Infants

Babies have a limited capacity to self-regulate their body temperature. Thermoregulation is still developing in young infants, making them dependent on external factors to stay warm. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “even full-term and healthy newborns may not be able to maintain their body temperature if the environment is too cold. When babies are cold-stressed, they use energy and oxygen to generate warmth.”

Ideal Nursery Conditions

To promote optimal thermoregulation for your baby, maintain the nursery at an ideal temperature of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermostat to monitor room temperature and adjust as needed. Conditions should be moderately warm, with good ventilation, to ensure a comfortable temperature for sleeping babies without the risk of overheating.

Monitoring baby’s nursery temperature is one of the reasons I love the Nanit Pro Baby Monitor. I am able to not only easily see my children using the app, but I also was able to set my desired temperature range with an alarm notification if the nursery became too warm or too cold! Below is a still image from my own camera, where you can see the room temperature at the top.

It really gave me peace of mind as a new parent. You can save 15% on your order from Nanit here by using code MIMOSAS too!

Signs of Proper Temperature

You can look for several cues to gauge if your baby is at a comfortable temperature:

  • Skin Touch: Gently feel your baby’s chest, back, or tummy. Their skin should feel warm, not hot or cold.
  • Appearance: A baby who is too cold may have cool extremities, and a baby that’s too warm may look flushed or exhibit sweat on the forehead or neck.
  • Behavior: A comfortably warm baby typically appears relaxed during sleep, while discomfort from being too cold or hot can lead to restlessness or fussiness.

Careful monitoring of these signs can help you ensure your baby’s safety and comfort while they sleep.

Identifying When a Baby Is Too Cold

When your baby is sleeping, ensuring they are not too cold is critical for their comfort and safety. Keep an eye out for physical changes and behavioral cues that indicate they may need warming up.

Physical Indicators

  • Chest Temperature: Gently touch your baby’s chest or back to feel their core temperature. If the skin feels cooler than usual, this may be a sign they are too cold.
  • Pale Skin: Notice if there is a noticeable paleness to your baby’s skin, especially if it is accompanied by a bluish tinge.
  • Hands and Feet: While it is common for a baby’s hands and feet to feel cool to the touch, extreme coldness or a mottled appearance can indicate that your baby is too cold.

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Lethargic: A baby who is less active than usual or seems lethargic may be too cold.
  • Crying: Excessive crying can be a sign of discomfort, and if there are no other obvious reasons, it may be because they are cold.
  • Irritability: Look for signs of irritability which may include fussiness or difficulty settling down.
  • Less Active: A marked decrease in activity or lack of interest in play could indicate that your baby is feeling too chilly.

What to Do If You Suspect Hypothermia

  • Warm Clothing: Add a layer of warm clothing that adheres to safe sleep standards. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest layer for an infant is a swaddle or unweighted baby sleep sack.
  • Room Temperature: Adjust the room temperature or use a space heater with proper safety precautions to ensure a warm sleeping environment.
  • Seek Medical Attention: If your baby’s temperature does not improve or you notice severe symptoms such as unresponsiveness or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention from your pediatrician or local emergency services. Hypothermia is a medical emergency and requires prompt treatment.
  • Communication: Regularly check on your baby and communicate any concerns with your pediatrician, particularly if you notice persistent symptoms such as lethargy, pale skin, or continuous crying.
Newborn safely swaddled using the Ollie Swaddle in the Halo Bassinet.

Safe Sleep Practices to Maintain Temperature

Ensuring your baby maintains a comfortable body temperature during sleep is crucial in preventing issues such as overheating, which can lead to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Proper swaddling and layering can help manage their warmth, while understanding when to consult a pediatrician is important for your baby’s health.

Swaddling and Layering Techniques

When you swaddle your baby, use a lightweight blanket designed for swaddling to avoid overheating. The swaddle should be snug but allow for hip movement. Here’s how to dress your baby for sleep based on the room temperature:

  • 68–72°F (20–22.2°C): A short-sleeved onesie and a sleep sack or swaddle.
  • Below 68°F (20°C): Add a long-sleeved onesie or sleep n play and swaddle or sleep sack.

A swaddle is only safe until your baby can roll over. I personally used The Ollie Swaddle with all three of my children, and recommend it to new parents I work with (and yes, that’s one of my own children in the photo above!). It fits newborns of all sizes, and you are able to transition it to an arms-out sack for safety once your baby is beginning to roll over.

There are a wide variety of safe sleep sacks and wearable blankets on the market today. Ones used for infants under 1 year old should be lightweight and not have any kind of weighted material. My children all used the Burt’s Bees Baby Wearable Blanket, as well as the HALO Micro-fleece Sleep Sack in colder months/winter months.

Remember, your baby’s head and face should ALWAYS remain uncovered to ensure proper breathing.

Avoiding Overheating and SIDS

It’s important to prevent overheating because it is a risk factor for SIDS. Signs your baby may be too warm include sweating or their chest feeling hot to the touch. To avoid overheating:

  • Use a room thermometer to keep the nursery at a recommended ideal room temperature of 68–72°F (20–22.2°C). This one you can monitor on your phone, and set it to alert you if baby’s room temperature is outside your desired range! The Nanit Pro Baby Monitor also has this capability.
  • Choose breathable materials such as cotton for your baby’s sleepwear.
  • Ensure there is good air circulation in the room. A great way to help with this is by using a fan on low.

Regularly check on your baby to monitor their temperature by feeling their neck or back.

When to Seek Medical Advice

Seek medical attention if you notice signs of a fever or if your baby is excessively fussy, has difficulty breathing, or shows signs of illness like vomiting or lethargy. Contact your pediatrician if:

  • Your baby’s temperature exceeds 100.4°F (38°C).
  • You observe changes in your baby’s eating or sleeping patterns.
  • You notice any difficulty with breathing, rapid breathing or your baby is unresponsive.
baby sleeping in white onesie

Final Thoughts of Baby’s Sleep Temperature

When assessing your baby’s comfort level, there are several indicators to consider. Their skin should be warm to the touch, not hot or cold. You should also pay attention to their behavior; if they are fussing or seem restless, it may be a sign that they are not at an optimal temperature.

Additionally, checking for physical signs like cold hands or feet can help you determine their comfort level, although it’s important to remember that baby extremities can often be cooler than the rest of the body.

Ensuring the right room temperature and avoiding excessive layers while ensuring the baby’s head and face remain uncovered during sleep will promote a safe, cozy and comfortable sleep environment. Always keep safe sleep guidelines at the top of mind to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. The best way to put baby to sleep is on their back, on a flat, firm surface with no additional items like loose blankets or stuffed animals in baby’s sleep space.

Finally, you should always discuss any concerns about your baby with your pediatrician. If you notice severe symptoms such as unresponsiveness or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention from your pediatrician or local emergency services.

Frequently Asked Questions

When monitoring your baby’s comfort during sleep, it’s crucial to recognize signs of discomfort due to temperature. The following questions address common concerns about keeping your baby warm and safe.

What are the signs that my baby might be too cold while sleeping?

If your baby feels cold to the touch, particularly on their chest or at the back of their neck, they might be too cold. Other indicators include restlessness, unusually quiet behavior, and cold extremities like hands and feet.

How can I ensure my baby stays adequately warm throughout the night?

Using appropriate sleepwear, such as a wearable blanket or sleep sack, can keep your baby warm. The room temperature should be comfortable for a lightly clothed adult, around 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 degrees Celsius).

What is considered too cold for a baby’s sleeping environment?

A room temperature below 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) is generally considered too cold for a baby’s sleeping environment. It’s important to maintain a comfortable and consistent temperature in the room where your baby sleeps.

Will a baby typically wake up if they are feeling cold?

Not always. While some babies may wake and cry if they’re too cold, others might not show any obvious signs of discomfort, which is why it’s important to regularly check their well-being.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition and is only meant for general information. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents of this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, yourself or your child. Reliance on any information provided by these articles is solely at your own risk.

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