Helping your baby to sleep safely in hot weather

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“Can’t sleep, won’t sleep,” seems to be the mantra for babies and toddlers across the land thanks to the current heatwave here in the UK. Is your baby struggling to sleep in the heat? Do you know what temperature a baby’s room should be? Perhaps you’re worried about how you should be dressing baby for bed? Today on Bump, Baby and You we’re talking about keeping baby cool at night and we’ve drafted in the safety experts over at The Lullaby Trust to answer some important questions for you too!

Quick tips for how to keep baby cool at night

  • The ideal room temperature for an infant’s room is 16-20°C
  • Don’t guess the temperature, use a room thermometer
  • Keep curtains/blinds in room baby sleeps in closed during the day (you can leave a little gap for breeze)
  • Open windows and doors for through draught if it is safe to do so
  • Use a fan in the room but don’t aim it directly at baby
  • Give baby a slightly cool but quick bath before bedtime
  • Keep baby hydrated – remember, exclusively breastfed babies don’t need water
  • Remove waterproof covers from cot mattresses to help moisture wick away
  • Don’t worry about waking baby if you need to adjust what they are wearing or remove or add covers as temperatures rise and dip
  • Try opening the loft hatch in your home to allow hot air to rise upwards

How can you safely cool down baby’s bedroom?

When the temperature soars outside it can be a real struggle to cool things down indoors. Overheating is a known SIDs risk, so it’s best to take a sensible and safe approach to chilling things down. Babies are unable to regulate their own temperatures like adults can, which is why it’s important not to overwrap them and to make a regular check on the temperature and adjust clothing or bedding accordingly.

We asked the Lullaby Trust for their advice on keeping baby’s cool and safe at night and Kate Holmes, Support and Information Manager at The Lullaby Trust, said:

We appreciate how difficult it can be to maintain a comfortable room temperature of 16-20°C for your little one, especially when the temperature is rising. If it’s difficult to cool down the room, try using lighter bedding and sleep clothing for your baby – a nappy with no bedding may be all that’s needed in this hot weather. Another option could be to open the bedroom door and a window if it’s safe to do so. If your baby sleeps in a baby sleep bag, check the label or packaging for guidance on which tog to use in each season. If you do choose to use a fan, just make sure that it’s not aimed directly at your baby.”

Why you shouldn’t put an iced hot water bottle in a baby’s cot

You may have seen photos or videos on social media showing frozen hot water bottles or other bottles being popped into cots with infants in the hope it will keep them cool, this is not advised and could pose a serious risk to infant’s safety. We asked the Lullaby Trust their views on this ‘parenting hack’ and they strongly urged parents not to try it at home.

Ms Holmes explained: “We wouldn’t advise any parents place a frozen bottle of water in bed with their baby as there would be a real risk of ice burn on baby’s skin or it could potentially cause other health issues. At The Lullaby Trust we also advocate a clear cot or Moses basket, free of any toys, objects or unnecessary items as they can increase the risk of accidents occurring.

How to check if baby is too hot

You may find that your baby is harder to settle at night time when the weather is hot. Like us, little ones can become frustrated, over tired and irritable in the heat. They may let you know how they are feeling by crying or asking for extra feeds. Remember, it’s important to feed on demand to prevent dehydration. As per NHS guidelines, exclusively breastfed babies should not be given water to drink. If you’re formula feeding, it’s a good idea to offer baby additional water (boiled and cooled if they’re under six months).

When making checks on baby you should look out for signs of irregular breathing or changes in colour. You’ll find some excellent advice in this downloadable PDF from the Lullaby Trust including these guidelines for checking a baby’s temperature:

Feel your baby’s tummy or the back of their neck (your baby’s hands and feet will usually be cooler, which is normal). If your baby’s skin is hot or sweaty, remove one or more layers of bed clothes or bedding.

What should you dress a baby in for bed when it’s very hot?

When it gets very hot (over 25°C), you may find that baby doesn’t need to have covers on and is happy in a thin sleepsuit or simply a nappy and vest. Alternatively, if baby sleeps in a baby sleeping bag such as a gro bag, you may wish to place them in a very low tog bag of 0.5 wearing just their nappy or a short-sleeve vest plus nappy.

As advised by the Lullaby Trust, you should always check the labels of sleeping bags to ensure you are using the correct tog for the temperature. If you use gro bags, you’ll find a baby what to wear temperature guide that correlates with their product range on their website. For babies that usually sleep under blankets, remove these from the cot or moses basket and place them under a thin cotton sheet that’s well fitted under their arms. It’s also a good idea to remove any waterproof cot or bed covers. These can prevent moisture wicking away, which is an important cooling mechanism.

Unlike us, babies can’t easily remove a layer if they become too hot or grab a blanket when things cool down. It’s up to us to monitor the temperature for them and adjust their bed covers or clothes as required. Please don’t worry about waking baby to do this; it’s far more important that they stay at a more comfortable and safer temperature.

Bed sharing with babies during hot weather

For those mums who choose to co-sleep with baby in their own bed, it’s important to remember to follow safer bed sharing guidelines even in hot weather. You can find The Lullaby Trust Safe Sleep Guidelines here (bed sharing pg.7) and also remind yourself of La Leche League Safe Sleep Seven here. In warmer weather you may have social events such as barbecues or other activities where you would usually have an alcoholic drink, so do be mindful that bed sharing should not take place if you have consumed any alcohol.

We asked the Lullaby Trust about other issues bed sharers should be aware of in the warmer weather.  Reminding parents of the importance or keeping bedding away from babies, Ms Holmes said: “Babies who get too hot are at a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) so parents who choose to co-sleep with their baby need to be extra mindful during this very hot weather.

“The combination of a hot room, plus adult bedding along with the parents’ own body temperature could increase the risk of baby overheating.  Parents who do co-sleep should also make sure that any pillows, duvets or other adult bedding is kept well away from the baby to reduce the risk of any accident.”

Hopefully this post has given you some good tips on how to cope with warmer weather, do let us know if you have any other questions you’d like us to ask the experts about. How are you and your little ones coping with the heat?