(Handy tips for keeping your baby safe and comfortable in the heat)
The sun is finally shining in Northern Ireland (anybody else feel like it has been raining for the last 365 days running?) I’m sitting with a cold drink and the back door open to let some fresh air in as I write this. I still feel pretty warm. Babies are no different, they feel the heat too and they need extra help from us so they don’t overheat or get deydrated.
If you’re breastfeeding, there is no need to give babies any additional water. Breastmilk is 88% water.1 Your breasts adjust to the increase in temperature and your baby’s feeding pattern, and will actually provide more watery and thirst quenching milk for your baby (clever boobs, right?).2 Don’t forget to drink enough to keep yourself well hydrated too. Drinking extra fluid won’t produce extra milk, you just need to drink enough to quench your thirst and look after yourself.
If you’re formula feeding, continue to feed formula as you have been, but you may want to give baby some extra cool boiled water to drink too, especially if your baby seems to be wanting more bottles than he normally would on these warm days.3 The NHS website doesn’t specify how much extra water exactly, but with a newborn it is unlikely to be more than 1-2 oz cooled boiled water in 24 hours.
Babies generally only need one more layer than what you have on, so if you are really warm in a tshirt and shorts, its unlikely baby is going to need a vest, babygrow and 3 blankets! Rule of thumb is to check your baby’s temperature by placing your hand on his chest or back. If he feels cool, add a layer, if he feels warm, remove a layer and reassess his temperature again later. Remember that small babies should have no direct exposure to sunlight, so keep them in the shade if at all possible, and apply suncream or cover exposed skin if baby is out of the shade.
OUT AND ABOUT
If you are using a sling, remember that a sling counts as (at least) one layer of clothing. There are lots of different slings and carriers which will keep your baby cool on warm days (or on holiday). If you want to know more, consider visiting your local sling library. Information on Northern Ireland libraries can be accessed here. Protect your baby’s skin by using suncream, making sure exposed extremities are covered with thin breathable fabric (such as cotton), and that baby wears a hat, which ideally covers his neck too. Wear thin breathable fabric yourself, and make sure your baby isn’t lying on your bare skin – this will just make you both hot and sweaty! Check your baby’s temperature regularly, and if necessary give baby some time out of the sling to cool down.
If you are using a pram, make sure baby is protected from sunlight. I often see parents using a muslin or blanket to cover a pram or car seat in sunny weather. It is much safer to use a parasol or sunshade specifically designed for it. Think about how warm you get if you sit in car on a sunny day with all the windows closed. If you use a muslin or blanket to cover the pram, yes, you may block out the sunlight, but you also keep the hot air in as it can’t circulate. A properly designed parasol or sunshade will allow air to still circulate around your baby and actually keep your baby much cooler, while still blocking the sunlight.
I always found Summer to be tricky in terms of choosing appropriate clothing at bedtime, as it is often very warm when baby goes to bed, but gets a lot cooler during the night. Don’t forget that the ideal temperature for your baby’s room should be between 16 and 20 degrees centigrade. This may be hard to achieve some evenings! Leaving windows open, closing blinds early on in the day and running a fan may all help. If you are using a sleeping bag (note that there is no evidence as of yet to say that these are safe to use with babies4), please read the instructions and ensure that the TOG of the sleeping bag and the clothing on the baby are appropriate for the temperature of the room. If you don’t use a sleeping bag, try the hand on the chest method of checking temperature (explained above), but you may have to reduce the layers of clothing and bedding significantly. I found on the few hot Summer days we had every year, a nappy and vest were all that were necessary at bedtime at then at some point during the night when it got cooler, I’d have to add a thin blanket and make sure it was well tucked in below shoulder height, so she couldn’t get tangled up in it.
Hopefully, your baby will stay cool and safe in the heat. If, however, you become concerned about your baby and suspect dehydration, heat stroke or sunburn, please contact your GP or midwife. If you are very concerned, don’t hesitate to take your baby to A&E.
1. Guidelines for offering water to breastfed babies, http://kellymom.com/nutrition/starting-solids/baby-water/ Accessed 9th May, 2016
2. Tuesday tip: Breastfeeding in hot weather, http://www.lllc.ca/tuesday-tip-breastfeeding-hot-weather Accessed 9th May, 2016
3. How can I keep my baby safe during hot weather? http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1955.aspx?CategoryID=62 Accessed 9th May, 2016
4. Baby Sleep Bags, https://www.isisonline.org.uk/sleep_health/sleep_aids/sleep_bags/, Accessed 9th May, 2016