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How to Protect Your Baby in the Cold Weather

Updated on September 29, 2009

Keeping Your Baby Warm During the Winter Months

The wind is so cold it feels as if my jeans are being freezing onto my legs. My breath hangs in clouds in front of me. If I breathe in too deeply, the air is so frigid it causes me to cough. Welcome to Wisconsin in January.

And if winter is this tough on me, how does it feel for my baby? How can I protect her from the bitter, winter cold without having to hide in our warm house for four months stocked with canned food and diapers?

Fortunately, growing up in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, and raising two daughters through cold Wisconsin winters has taught me a few tactics which I now gladly pass on to you.

Inside Your Igloo

Before we talk about going outside with baby, let’s address how to protect your child indoors during the winter months. Your first concern is how to dress your child inside when it’s cold. Babies are not as capable of regulating their bodies’ temperatures as adults are. Many mothers I know recommend dressing your child in one more layer than you yourself are wearing. So if you’re wearing jeans and a long sleeved shirt, dress your baby in a long sleeved shirt and pants along with a onesie underneath. However, many experts agree that you can feel safe dressing your child in the same manner as yourself. A great method is to dress your baby in layers, as you can add and remove clothes as needed throughout the day.

A great tip is to check your child’s comfort level by feeling the back of their neck. If he’s sweating, remove a layer. If she feels cold, add a warm shirt over her clothes or a onesie underneath.

Take special care of baby’s skin during the cold months, as well. Remember the cold air outside and dry, heated air inside dry out the whole family’s skin. Bathe your baby in lukewarm water, keep time in the bath to a minimum, and use a moisturizing lotion immediately after patting baby dry.


When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Children under one year of age should really only be spending time in the cold to go from one place to another. Their exposure to the elements should extend to the time it takes to walk from your car into the grocery store. Of course its fun to take your baby out in the snow, and it makes for some very adorable pictures, but babies don’t need to be in the snow much longer than it takes to capture that photo.

When strapping your baby into their car seat, be sure not to put a bulky coat on them before strapping them in. This will cause the straps not to fit as snugly, and thus the car seat not to protect your child as well. Instead, dress your child reasonably warm in layered clothes, strap them in their car seat, and then tuck them in with warm blankets to protect against the cold. And don’t forget a hat! Although the belief that most of your body’s heat is lost through your head is now being dismissed by experts as an old wives’ tale, most babies still don’t have very much hair to keep their head warm in the cold. So make sure you have a warm hat with a strap to prevent baby from removing it too easily. This should be obvious, but make sure her hands and feet are covered as well. These parts of the body are most vulnerable to cold.

Another great buy for parents of smaller babies is a car seat cover. This would be for an infant car seat with a handle that you carry and pops in and out of the car. I’ve used the same Eddie Bauer reversible cover for both my girls, but it definitely fits better (and makes them less angry) when they’re smaller.


In all your attempts to keep your baby warm, do be careful not to overheat him. Signs of overheating include: sweating on neck- check for damp hair at the neckline, heat rash or redness on the face, rapid breathing and/or restlessness. In this case, simply remove a layer of clothing or a hat, and let baby cool down gently.


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      mother 7 years ago

      great post. very intuitively written. Liked it