If you’ve just had your first baby, it won’t be long before you’re wishing he or she could talk. Babies are adorable when they’re silently taking in the world, but it can be overwhelming to try and decipher what they’re feeling at all times. Especially when they are suddenly in the throes of a crying fit, you’ll try anything to see a sign of what might be bothering them. Sometimes it’s as simple as a button on their onesie digging into them the wrong way, while others it’s because they are hungry and going through a growth spurt. Learning to read your baby’s silent cues and body language will take time. One thing that might baffle you for a while is whether or not your baby is at the right temperature.

A recent study shows that a newborn’s thermoregulation is extremely touchy. While an infant might be able to remain comfortable in an environment that is slightly too cold or hot, any sudden changes will make it harder for him or her to remain pleased. For that reason, you should always consider your baby’s temperature when he or she is throwing a fit. Better yet, you should check before it gets to that point to avoid the stress and frustration. A widely accepted rule of thumb is that your baby should be wearing one more layer of clothing than the adults in the room. As I research this, I am wearing pants and a long-sleeved shirt. If there were a baby here, the rule suggests that he should have that same outfit plus a sweater or jacket to feel comfortable. Of course, a baby’s bald head might get a little colder than an adult’s with a full head of hair, so a hat should be calculated into the equation for those extra cold days.

To find out if your baby is the proper temperature before he starts fussing, put your hand to the back of his neck. This will give you an accurate feeling of how warm or cold the rest of his body is, because it is near the core. The extremities have little relation to internal temperature, and they are more likely a reflection of the external air’s temperature.

As with most baby problems, it’s always better to solve the issue before your baby brings it up. Until he or she can talk, you’ll have to play detective.

Source: K Lunze et al: Thermal Protection of the Newborn in Resource Limited Environments. Journal of Perinatology Volume 32 pp. 317-324 2012

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