Ice skating. Long walks in the crisp air. Evenings curled up by the crackling fire. Winter can be a lot of fun. But no matter how much you may love the coldest season, there’s no denying it can be tough to handle when you have a baby.
If you’re chilly, you can easily slip on a sweater, choose your thickest socks, or dig out your favorite stocking cap. But dressing babies for the weather is a bit of a guessing game—are they too cold, warm enough, or on the verge of overheating? It’s not like they can tell you! You also have the added challenge of keeping little ones warm in the car seat (no puffy coats allowed!) and ensuring the dry winter air won’t chap that soft and sensitive skin.
Below, we’ve gathered our best tips for keeping your littlest family member warm, comfortable, and safe during winter.
MAINTAIN A COMFORTABLE BODY TEMPERATURE FOR THE BABY
When you’re dressing a baby for winter, layers are your friend. One popular rule of thumb you may have heard from seasoned moms and grandmas: Dress your baby as you dress yourself, but add one extra layer. For instance, if you’re wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, slip a long-sleeved onesie on your little one before you layer on pants and a sweatshirt.
If you’ll be spending time outside on a cold day, you’ll want to add even more layers. And don’t skimp on accessories. Warm socks, shoes, caps, and even mittens are a good idea if you’ll be out and about on cold days. But when you bundle up your baby, though you want to avoid cold necks and chins, remember to ensure she can still breathe easily.
Watch for clues that your baby is too warm or too cold. Do her fingers and toes feel cool to the touch? While it’s normal for extremities to be cooler than the rest of the body, they shouldn’t be icy. If her tummy or the nape of her neck is cold, you should definitely add layers and/or turn up the thermostat.
But remember it’s possible to be on the other end of the spectrum. If you bundle up for a cold day and then walk into a warm house, your baby can quickly become uncomfortably warm. Does your baby seem sweaty or flushed? Do you notice unusual fussing or irritability? Are his toes warm to the touch? Those factors can signal that your baby needs you to remove a layer or two of clothing.
KEEP BABY WARM (AND SAFE) ON THE GO
You probably know by now the dangers of bundling your baby in a puffy snowsuit or coat before you buckle him into the car seat. If an accident occurs, the coat can compress, leaving the car seat straps too loose to protect your child. But that doesn’t mean your baby needs to shiver all the way to Grandma’s house.
For starters, if your baby rides in an infant car seat, you should keep the portable carrier in the house. That way, it’s warm rather than icy cold when you’re buckling him in. And if your baby needs a little extra warmth, you have plenty of other options:
Blankets: A simple blanket can provide plenty of warmth on a car ride. Be sure to tuck the blanket around your baby after you buckle him rather than before.
Aftermarket Car Seat Covers: You can purchase specially designed car seat covers for cold weather. But be sure the one you choose doesn’t have a layer under your baby and does not cover her face, which can obstruct her breathing. Never buy homemade car seat covers, and always check to ensure the one you choose is approved by the manufacturer of the car seat.
Backward Coats: You may have seen this trick on social media: Simply buckle your little one in the car seat and then put his coat over him, slipping his arms through the armholes. It’s like a blanket with sleeves!
What about when you’re taking a walk? Tucking blankets around your baby (again, over the buckles rather than under) are a great way to keep her warm in the stroller. Many strollers work well with accessories:
Stroller Weather Shields: You can find weather shields designed to protect your baby from rain, wind, and snow. Some types are even designed to fit most strollers.
Stroller Bags: Specially designed bunting bags are a great way to keep smaller babies cozy on stroller rides.
Winter isn’t always easy when you have a baby. But with a little effort, you can keep the littlest member of your family warm and comfortable whether you’re snuggling on the couch or heading out on a road trip. Bonus—you won’t have to worry about sunburns!