Proper temperature of the sleep environment is vital for the baby’s safety and health. The correlation between overheating and the increase of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in winter has been analyzed at length.
Overheating has several possible consequences. First, unlike us, adults, an infant is helpless and fully dependent on, not to say limited by, his parents’ intuition. He is incapable of turning off the air conditioner, removing extra clothing, or slightly opening the window. It is common practice, when a baby is moving on its own and manages to throw the blanket off, that the parents come rushing and … cover it right back! The second consequence is much more dangerous and grave. If the baby develops a simple viral disease accompanied by fever, an inappropriate sleep environment (several layers of clothing, a thick blanket, a heated room, and a standard sponge matters coated with oilcloth (nylon)) prevents proper ventilation and makes evaporation of excessive body heat impossible. As a result, the baby’s body temperature is rising and can cause seizures, and in extreme cases even be life-threatening.
Israel is a relatively warm country. However, as soon as fall begins and until spring sets in, all parents ask the same question: “Might he/she be cold?”
So how would we know if the baby is hot or cold?
- Judging by its behavior. A baby that is calm and soundly sleeping is most probably feeling comfortable, even if its hands and feet are cool.
- Touch and feel the baby’s skin on the neck, chest, or abdomen area. It is important to remember that the way it feels depends on the warmth of our own hands, which can be hot (if we sat near a heater or have been exercising, etc.) or cold (if just took the dog out …).
- Observation – just look at the baby’s face. Is it flushed with warmth or does it have its natural familiar color.
! It is highly important to remember that the way we feel – hot or cold – does not necessarily match the way the baby feels. It is known that feeling hot or cold is a personal perception that varies between different people (how many times did you stay in the same room with several people, and someone asked to open the window or turn the AC on, while another asked for the exact opposite?)
Here are some golden rules on keeping the right temperature in the baby sleep environment:
- The recommended temperature for the baby’s sleep environment in Israel is 22-24 degrees Centigrade (in both summer and winter). In fact, this is quite high in comparison with the accepted practice in the world. In England, for example, the recommended temperature is only 16-20 degrees Centigrade.
- The room temperature shall be measured using an intact thermometer placed near the baby’s bed. The height of thermometer is important, as it is likely that the lower part of the room is colder than its upper part (especially in ground level houses).
- When a radiator is used for heating the room, it shall not be placed near the baby’s head.
- When heating with an air conditioner, make sure that the released heat is not directed directly at the baby.
- Do not cover the baby’s head with a cap/hat during sleep. The head is a central organ in enabling the baby to get rid of excessive heat.
- Do not place the baby’s bed near an external wall or under a window.
- Make sure that the baby’s clothes are “breathing” (in any case do not use sealing thermal garments). Using a light and airy blanket is recommended.
- If the baby’s hands or feet are very cold, cover them or the ends of the shirt sleeves with socks.
- It is recommended to ventilate the room by slightly opening a window or by using a fan (not turned directly on the baby).
- It is recommended to use an airy mattress enabling air and fluids to pass through, thus making it possible for the baby’s body to optimally regulate its temperature.