We all remember the lyrics to the popular nursery rhyme:
Bye, baby Bunting,
Daddy’s gone a-hunting,
Gone to get a rabbit skin
To wrap the baby Bunting in
Since it’s initial publication in the U.K. in the late 1700s, parents have wondered if their baby was bundled up enough. But do babies need to be bundled up all the time? And how do you know if a crying baby is too bundled up or if they are actually crying because they are too cold? Here are a few things to look into:
Are you cold? or hot?
Temperatures can change quickly, especially as we move between indoors and outdoors. A doctor’s office may be overly drafty, but the park down the street may be sweetly warm. Some climates start out chilly in the early morning only to be blazing hot in the afternoons. You may have dressed your baby based on the temperature in your home or the weather at the start of the day, but things may have changed since then. Always keep a lighter set of clothes, sweater or a swaddling blanket in your diaper bag.
What are you wearing?
If you’re comfortable with what you have on, compare it to what your baby is wearing. The general rule of thumb is your baby should be wearing, at most, one more layer of clothing than what you have on. So, if you’re wearing a t-shirt and jeans and feel comfortable, your baby is probably fine in a light, longsleeved onesie and soft pants.
Is your baby crying when swaddled?
Swaddling is a great way to calm a newborn crying baby, but in humid weather or hot climates you may want to take extra care. Use a thin, breatheable cotton blanket so the baby stays comfortable and doesn’t overheat. You can also pull out a hand and not let it be captured by the swaddle — this helps keep the baby from getting too hot. (Note: Some babies actually prefer this anyway, for their own comfort.)
In colder weather you can use a heavier swaddle blanket, but don’t pick anything that’s too puffy and make sure you aren’t blocking or covering their nose and mouth as you swaddle. Some parents prefer to always swaddle with the same thin cotton blanket and just adjust for warmth with the clothes the baby is wearing. In really hot weather, that may be nothing at all other than their diaper.
Are their extremities cold to the touch? Are their chest and back cold?
In general, your baby should be rosy and warm to the touch in both their extremities (hands, feet) and their chest and trunk. If you discover your crying baby has very cold hands or feet, but their chest and back are warm and toasty, first try mittens or a footie. Check again in fifteen to twenty minutes to see if things are better. A cold chest or trunk is not good — in these cases, bundle the baby up or add on layers of clothing so that they can stay warmer. Babies lose a lot of heat through their heads, so put on a hat. If your baby still feels cold to the touch after taking these precautions, contact your pediatrician for further guidance.
Is the baby fussy or sleepy and disengaged?
Your baby is much more likely to cry if they are cold then if they are hot — cold makes babies uncomfortable and fussy, but heat makes them lethargic and sweaty. If you have a crying baby, it’s much more likely they are cold than that they are hot. If your baby is nodding off more than usual during the day, they may be too hot and you can pull off a few layers of clothing to make them more comfortable.
Don’t forget, there are many reasons for a baby to cry. So, make sure you consider hunger, comfort, dirty diaper, or illness as well as temperature.
Featured photo credit: Aurimas Mikalauskas via flickr.com