When our youngest child was born, weighing just over three and a half pounds with a congenital heart defect, we knew we would be challenged as parents. Besides making sure she consumed enough calories throughout each day, took her medications on time and stayed away from germs, we also had to keep her warm without putting her at extra risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
Swaddling a baby too tightly or piling blankets in their crib can put them in danger of dying suddenly and unexpectedly, perhaps by suffocating or overheating. But our baby was also in serious danger if she became too cold, because she was very underweight and couldn’t afford to expend those precious calories to warm herself and because she was a preemie and was less able to regulate her temperature than full-term infants. Also, getting too cold could stress her heart.
So we learned quickly that keeping her warm in a safe way was of utmost importance. Here are a few ways you can keep your baby warm safely even on the coldest nights.
Turn up the thermostat
Almost everyone loves to save money, but turning down your thermostat might not be the best idea right after your bring home a new baby. Instead of turning down the thermostat at night to save on your heating bill, remember that your baby was used to a nice, warm constant temperature in the womb. Keep the heat running at a comfortable room temperature to help your little one keep from getting chilled.
Get an infrared heater
My parents bought an infrared heater made by EdenPure for their living room. Unlike conventional space heaters which can start fires or cause severe burns, the heater uses infrared technology to heat the air without presenting a danger to pets or children. I wish we’d had one when our youngest was born, but I’d never heard of them at that time. A heater like this is an economical way to significantly warm a small or large room while allowing you to turn down the heat in the rest of your house.
Avoid drafty spaces
Even with the thermostat set to a comfortable temperature, many houses have drafty spaces that can get chilly in the winter. Weatherproof your doors and windows by adding weather stripping and draperies. Also consider moving furniture around so your baby’s crib is away from any windows or other drafts.
Use sleep sacks for safety
By the time you bring your newborn home, your doctor is likely to recommend that you stop swaddling. But covering your baby with loose blankets is not a safe option. One way to keep your baby warm, but not overheated, is to use a sleep sack. The Halo Sleep Sack, invented by an engineer whose daughter was a victim of SIDS in the 1990’s, helps keep babies warm without allowing them to get uncovered in the night or to get tangled up and suffocate.
Sometimes there is no substitute for body heat. Although experts disagree on whether it is safe to co-sleep with your baby, no one seems to object to the idea of an alert parent cuddling their sleeping child. If your house is particularly cold, perhaps due to a power outage or other problem, take turns with another caregiver and cuddle your little one until the heat comes back on. I had to do this during an ice storm when my youngest was just a few months old, and it quite possibly saved her life.
More by Tavia:
Letting Go of Preemie Guilt
Early Pregnancy Complications: I Miscarried One But Gave Birth to Two
Discuss Important Issues Before Your Baby Arrives