When my sister had her first child, I was so excited to help care for her, especially since my husband and I weren’t quite to the kid stage yet. I found it very difficult though, when my niece cried. After feeding, sleeping, and being changed, she sometimes still seemed to need something. It frustrated me to no end that I couldn’t figure out what, but my sister was patient and eventually, she taught me a few tricks. She discovered that a baby’s body temperature is one thing to stay aware of, because a small body is much harder to keep warm than a fully-grown one. This is why being held is even more important than for simply bonding (it’s also how my brother-in-law was convinced to take his crying baby more often than he might of otherwise – to keep her warm with his manly heat). It seemed to work in practice, so I decided to look into the science behind it.

The general rule is that you should keep your baby at a comfortable body temperature by dressing him or her in one more body layer than you are wearing. For example, if you have a T-shirt and long pants on, consider dressing your baby in the same but adding a sweater or light jacket to the outfit to make sure body heat is contained. Many parents feel the urge to dress their babies in many layers for warmth and comfort, but overheating your baby can be dangerous and can even cause a fever. In these important stages of development, a fever can be serious, but too much clothing can also be dangerous.

Another obvious way to make sure your baby isn’t too hot or cold is to keep your home at a reasonable temperature. Experts recommend making sure the house is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit for baby’s homecoming. A less obvious way to keep your bundle of joy comfortable on a cold evening is to provide much skin-to-skin contact, especially with his or her mother or father. One study in particular shows that a parent’s body heat is actually just as effective as a newborn incubator used to help babies develop more quickly. This is even more effective with fathers than mothers.

If you’re not sure how your baby’s body temperature is compared to the standard infant temperature, take his or her temperature. Otherwise, keep the house at a reasonable temperature and layer baby clothing wisely. Even if you and your partner are comfortable in the cool weather with multiple layers of clothing, your baby might need a little bit of extra handling from dad to stay warm and cozy through the colder months. If this still doesn’t seem to work, just let your baby use his or her father to get warm. That’s what you do, right?

Source: K Christenson: Fathers Can Effectively Achieve Heat Conservation In Healthy Newborn Infants. Acta Pediatrica Volume 85 Issue 11 pp. 1354-1360 November 2008

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