Keeping Newborns Warm in Winter

Mother with newborn baby

Newborn babies need a little help maintain their body temperatures in any season. Winter can mean cold winds and warm houses that leave it difficult for a baby to adjust. Be aware of your baby’s needs to help maintain a consistent body temperature.

Normal body temperature for a newborn baby is 97.5-99.ºF (36.5-37.ºC), about the same as your normal body temperature. Babies, though do not yet have the ability adults do to regulate their body temperature. They don’t have the insulation through layers of fat, and their large body surface area in relation to low body weight means more heat loss. You don’t need to pull out the thermometer every hour, though. Just feel the back of your baby’s neck for a quick temperature check.

We give babies a little extra help through clothing and coverings, adjusting room temperature, and keeping them close to us.


Around the House

All newborn babies need some help maintaining the right body temperature, but, if your baby had low birth weight, was born early, or is sick, take special care to monitor body temperature and keep your baby warm.

You are your baby’s best warmer. You can warm your baby through skin-to-skin contact, also called kangaroo care. Put your naked or diapered baby against your bare chest, then cover you both with a blanket. This is perfect for breastfeed. Even without kangaroo care, breastfeeding gives your baby warm milk and warm skin. Babywearing, whether just around the house or when you go out, also keeps you and your baby close.

Clothing. Choose clothing that allows the baby’s skin to breathe, using one more layer than you need. If you are in a T-shirt, add a light jacket or a footed suit in addition to a T-shirt. If you are wearing a sweater, you baby will need at least a sweater, too. Do not, however, layer your baby in too much clothing, causing overheating. If you are wearing your baby, count the wrap or sling as a layer. Don’t forget cold legs when pants ride up in the baby carrier. Baby legs or handknit socks will help.

Hat. Especially during the winter, your newborn will probably need to wear a hat, since babies lose heat through the head. Have lightweight cotton hats for indoors and a warmer, woolen hat for trips out.


Bath Time

Make sure the air and water temperature are comfortably warm without being hot. After the bath, dry the baby immediately. If the room temperature in your house is cool in the winter, you might want to opt for warm sponge baths for your baby. The most important step in keeping a newborn warm during bath time is drying off quickly to avoid heat lose through evaporation.


Nighttime

Your baby doesn’t need a blanket, not in the traditional sense of a large rectangular covering. Babies obviously can’t adjust their covers, so a blanket not only doesn’t stay put but could become a hazard. Your baby is better off wearing the blanket in the form of a worn sleeping bag for newborns or a footed sleeper suit as babies get older. Wool is perfect, since it breathes naturally and helps sleepers regulate their body temperature.

If your baby takes well to swaddling, this will also help maintain body temperature. Not all babies like being wrapped up so snuggly, but do try swaddling.


Going Out

Keeping your baby just the right temperature when it’s biting cold outside is tricky. Have a great insulted suit with legs, if you are going in the car. Although you baby will stay warmer with legs together and those newborn legs naturally want to curl up, you need legs separated for a car seat. If you are on foot and wearing your baby, a vest that covers you, your baby, and the baby carrier, like our Peekaru fleece vest, lets you keep your baby warm with your own body heat.

Be careful not to overheat your baby outside, though. Avoid direct sunlight, especially in the car, and don’t leave an insulated suit on for long drives in the car. Choose light layers of clothing that are easy to remove one by one as you move through your day and the temperature changes.


You
are the perfect temperature to keep your baby warm but not too warm. Keep your newborn baby close this winter.


Resources

Image © Kati Molin | Dreamstime.com

Important Early Days of Breastfeeding

Baby breastfeeding

The first few weeks of breastfeeding are crucial in establishing the breastfeeding relationship. Your baby needs to learn to suck, and you need to build your milk supply. Those first important days give your baby immunity and you hormones that help your uterus contract and help you feel more nurturing toward your baby. Breastfeeding helps you both as you get to know one another.


Skin to Skin

Place your baby naked against your bare chest as soon as possible after birth. Be sure that you give your baby a chance to breastfeed before sleeping because those first few hours help you both do what your bodies are made to do. If the baby is just very sleepy, wake him within a couple of hours to initiate breastfeeding.


Colostrum

The first few days after your baby is born you will produce colostrum rather than milk. Colostrum is thicker, less fatty, and more nutrient dense than milk will be. The volume of colostrum is quite low, which gives your baby a chance to learn how to feed before the gush of breastmilk arrives. Colostrum also gives your baby antibodies and other immune factors.


Milk Coming In

You will notice a difference when your breasts become firmer and heavier after a few days. This is your milk coming in. It is important to feed your baby every 2-3 hours, or as often as your baby asks to be fed, to stimulate your supply.

How does your baby ask to be fed? You will see your baby rooting—turning toward your breast with mouth open. If you pet your baby’s cheek with your finger, you may notice that she turns toward your finger. Your baby might just be restless or pull hand to mouth. After a short time together, you will begin to recognize your baby’s own cues for hunger.


One Breast at a Time

Let your baby finish feeding at one breast before you offer the second. Don’t watch the clock. Your baby’s cues can tell you whether he is still hungry after finishing the first breast. Whichever side you started on this feeding, start on the other side next feeding.


Diapers

Don’t expect too many wet or dirty diapers at first. Until your milk is fully in, your baby may only have one dirty diaper and one wet diaper a day, increasing each day until you are changing a dozen wet diapers a day. Some babies have dirty diapers with every feeding, while others might go a day or even several days between dirty diapers. Don’t worry that something is wrong if your baby is not in distress. Just learn your baby’s rhythms.


Pacifiers

Babies suck not just to eat but to soothe. Some mothers use pacifiers or dummies to help satisfy that need, though a pacifier isn’t necessary if the mother is willing and able to nurse even when a baby seeks comfort.

One of the most common questions we get at bynature.ca about breastfeeding is about why pacifiers are trouble in the first few weeks. The problems come if a very young baby uses a pacifier before learning how to suck at the breast, causing nipple confusion; if a pacifier is used when the baby is hungry, leaving the baby hungry and not gaining weight when she should be; or if a baby sucking at a pacifier means less stimulation for the mother to establish milk supply, leaving the mother without enough milk to satisfy the baby’s hunger.

Of course, using a pacifier is always up to each family, but your breastfeeding relationship will be stronger if you wait 6-8 weeks to start.

In the first hours, days, and weeks after your baby is born, focusing on breastfeeding is the most important thing you can do for your baby and for yourself.

Image © Dmitry Panchenko | Dreamstime.com

What Is the Sucking Reflex?

newborn sucking breastfeeding

A newborn will suck on anything that touches the roof of his mouth. This infant sucking isn’t voluntary but a reflex that is replaced at about 4 months old by voluntary sucking, a conscious action.

The rooting reflex, when a baby turns toward a brush on the cheek, and the sucking reflex help infants survive since they have the ability to breastfeed before they learn how to do so.

For a mother, breastfeeding is neither instinct nor reflex. She must learn how to breastfeed, and her baby’s reflexes are important to that process since the newborn responds predictably to stimuli. If you brush your baby’s cheek with your nipple, she will turn toward the breast. If you touch your nipple to the roof of her mouth, she will suck.

We are continuing to answer breastfeeding questions asked by our customers. If you have a question, please comment or contact bynature.ca.

Image © Dmitry Panchenko | Dreamstime.com

Blog to Inspire: Loving My Breast-only Baby

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This following post was an entry in our Blog to Inspire contest. The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and not necessarily those of Eco Baby Steps or Parenting By Nature.

Baby Fingers profileBlog to Inspire entrant Baby Fingers is Jenny Harmon. She and her husband Jordan have two beautiful daughters, Suzi and Ivey. She’s been a mother for over two years, but she is just now learning to be a stay-at-home mom.

Even before I became pregnant with my first daughter, Suzi, I knew I would breastfeed. I thought everything would go beautifully. Then she was born. It started in the hospital with a nipple shield given with too little instruction. I had thought bottles and pacifiers were the only things that could cause nipple confusion, but they aren’t. Once we were finally rid of the nipple shield, which took great effort and many tears, the soreness was bad enough that I succumbed to temptation and gave Suzi a pacifier. We were in the middle of moving into our first house and my husband was unable to take time off from work, having just been hired. I had no business doing anything but lying on the couch nursing a baby, but instead I found myself cleaning and organizing the old house we rented at breakneck speed while my baby stayed with her grandparents. We didn’t think it would be safe to take her to the old house while we were cleaning, so during this time, she was bottlefed. It was milk I pumped for her, but I didn’t respond well even to a hospital-grade pump, and eventually I couldn’t keep up. When Suzi was six weeks old and I went back to work part-time, my supply suffered further because I was only able to pump once over a nearly seven hour separation. Suzi got a bottle of formula almost every day, which was exactly what I’d wanted to avoid. Still, our breastfeeding experience was beautiful in parts. She loved to comfort nurse, and I nursed her on cue whenever I was home. We kept going until she was 21 months old, at which time we mutually weaned partly because I was pregnant with her sister, Ivey.

Fresh out of the tub, Ivey nurses for the first time

Fresh out of the tub, Ivey nurses for the first time

I had learned my lesson and wanted things to be different this time. Instead of going back to the obstetrician who had delivered Suzi, I decided to go with a midwife. The one I chose had a deeper than usual respect for nature and the importance of allowing a woman to birth unobstructed. Ivey’s birth was a testament to the value of simplicity and trust in oneself. She was born in our bathtub on a rainy day in August. We climbed into bed and had our first blessedly uneventful nursing session—one of many. Her birth was the final deciding factor in exactly how I would breastfeed: Ivey has never used a pacifier or a bottle. This is a luxury to me, because I am now a stay-at-home mom. The difference it makes is astounding. My milk supply has been perfect—never too much or too little. I drank one cup of mother’s milk tea before I realized I didn’t need it.

We’ve found many benefits to going without the pacifier and bottle. We don’t have to worry, particularly during cold and flu season, whether or not the paci is clean. It’s less likely that we’ll contract thrush, which can be painful for moms. There are no bottles to sterilize either, and I am hoping to ward off ovulation for a few more months. We’ll never have to buy ten different bottles because she refused the first nine, nor will we have to go through the turmoil of taking the paci away when she is too old for it. I never have to wonder if Ivey is hungry or just wanting to suck; both scenarios end with her happily at my breast.

Of course, snubbing modern conveniences is always going to be met with a little resistance. We’ve heard from several relatives why it would be a good idea to give Ivey a paci. When she had her first portraits made, she cried a little and the photographer asked if she had a paci. “No,” my mother-in-law answered a little sadly. The pictures were adorable anyway; the photographer just had to get a little creative. Right now I am making a teensy sacrifice for her to remain a breast-only baby. My husband and I wanted to go to the midnight showing of New Moon, but we couldn’t. We have plans to take Ivey with us to a weekday matinee sometime soon. This way we can sit in the back and walk her or nurse her while we enjoy the movie.

The only drawback of our situation is that I must take Ivey everywhere I go. However, the greatest benefit is that I get to take Ivey everywhere I go! Everyone knows Ivey is coming too if they invite me somewhere. After my too-early separation from Suzi, every moment I spend with my girls is precious. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from birthing and nursing these two girls, it’s to not mess with perfection.

Read about the Blog to Inspire contest and read posts by the finalists and by the rest of the entrants. Forty-four bloggers reached out to inspire on the topics of cloth diapers, babywearing, breastfeeding, and natural parenting.