What’s not to like about winter when you’re a kid? As a first grader growing up in Ohio, my family looked forward to sledding, snowball fights – and a cup of hot chocolate after my brother and I pummeled each other with snowballs.
Today, as a mom, I now realize that my parents had more practical matters on their minds: How thick is the ice on that pond? Those kids aren’t sledding toward the street, are they? How much should we bundle them up? (And did they all go to the bathroom before they put on their long johns?)
But what should moms of newborns and little ones consider when the winter winds whip? Instead of just keeping babies and toddlers cooped up all winter, consider these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
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1. Think layers. The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
2. Keep your baby warm – and safe – at night. Blankets, quilts, pillows, sheepskins and other loose bedding may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and should be kept out of an infant’s bed. A one-piece sleeper is preferred. If a blanket must be used to keep a sleeping infant warm, it should be tucked in around the crib mattress, reaching only as far as the baby’s chest – so her face is less likely to become covered by bedding.
3. Avoid hypothermia. This condition develops when a child’s temperature falls below normal due to exposure to cold. It often happens when a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing. As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. His speech may become slurred and his body temperature will decline. If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes.
4. Prevent frostbite. Frostbite develops when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. Fingers, toes, ears and nose are most at risk, and they may become pale, gray and blistered. Be sure these delicate areas of baby are fully covered in cold temps. Many moms lightly drape a blanket over babies while their outdoors. In very cold temperatures, that’s probably a good idea.
If your baby or toddler does get some exposure to cold and you’re concerned about frostbite, place the baby in warm (not hot) water. Warm washcloths may be applied to frostbitten areas. Do not rub the frozen areas. After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give her something warm to drink. Call your doctor.
5. Don’t forget the sunscreen and lip balm. The sun’s rays can still cause sunburn in the winter – especially when they reflect off snow. Make sure to cover your child’s exposed skin with sunscreen.
6. Don’t bathe baby too often. Many pediatricians feel that bathing two or three times a week is enough for an infant’s first year. More frequent baths may dry out the skin, especially during the winter.
7. Wash up to fight winter colds and flu. Cold weather does not cause colds or flu. But both tend to be more common in the winter, when children are in school and are in closer contact with each other and when our nasal passages are dry and more apt to pick up cold germs. Frequent hand washing for you and anyone who handles your baby may help reduce the risk of catching and spreading colds and flu. Encourage toddlers to wash their hands often, so they minimize their risk of getting sick.
This post was originally published in 2010 and has been updated for 2017.