Protecting your baby from the elements is mostly about preparation. Even though knowing how to safely take the newest member of your family out in extreme temperatures can be a little confusing at first, remember that if you’re cold, chances are your baby is cold, and if you’re hot, well, you get the drill.
Whether the temperature dips to freezing or it’s in the triple digits, it’s all about layers that you can add or remove as needed. Here’s everything you need to know to be prepared for any weather scenario with your new baby.
How to Dress a Newborn for the Cold
No matter the reason you have to brave the cold with your baby, just make sure your little one is bundled up well. These tips can help:
- Think layers. It’s always best to layer baby’s clothing, which traps heat between the layers. Thin cotton clothes work well, starting with a thin sleeper onesie and then adding as needed — maybe a long sleeved shirt and pants or even a snowsuit if your little one is going to be in very cold temps.
- Cover up. Make sure that your baby is completely covered from head-to-toe. If you need mittens, gloves, a hat, thick socks and snow boots, make sure your baby is wearing them too.
- Don’t forget blankets outside. If you’re headed out in the stroller, you can use a blanket and/or his stroller’s rain cover as a plus-one layer; they can keep out the elements and keep in some heat.
- Abide by car seat safety. Once you get to the car, remove baby’s bulky coat because it can compress below the harness and be too loose in the event of an accident. He can still wear multiple thin layers as well as a hat and mittens in the car seat.
- Beware of overheating. Babies dressed in too many layers of blankets or clothing are at greater risk for overheating and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). If you’ve been out, remove your baby’s winter clothes as soon as you come inside (yes, even if he is asleep!).
- Keep the room temperature cool. Putting your sweetie to bed or down for a nap? In the winter or summer, try to keep the room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. To make sure your baby is comfortable, check his neck to see if he’s too sweaty. A little dampness goes with the baby territory, but pools of perspiration definitely do not.
- Skip the blankets at nap and bedtime. Dress him in a warm sleeper or sleep sack, but skip the blankets. Loose bedding is also a risk factor for SIDS.
How to Dress a Newborn for Hot Weather
Overheating isn’t just a cold-weather condition — hot and humid days can also be dangerous for newborns, who can’t yet regulate their own body temperature. Here’s how to keep your little one safe:
- Take away layers. When the temperature is over 75 degrees F, a single layer should be enough for baby.
- Cover baby's head with a lightweight hat. Cold or hot, hats are important to protect baby from too much sunlight.
- Think thinner. When it’s really warm outside, use lighter fabrics, especially at night. Baby will likely still require one more layer, which can include a light sleeper onesie and a thin sleep sack. Once babies roll over, they no longer require a sleep sack. If you’re wearing your newborn in a sling or carrier, be sure the material is breathable so your little passenger doesn’t get too hot.
- Keep baby shielded from the sun. Most doctors support using sunscreen on babies of all ages, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't endorse the use of sunscreen on babies under 6 months old. For newborns, it’s really best to avoid sun exposure completely in hot or cold weather. Make sure shade is available if you’re headed to the beach, and limit your time in the heat to a few minutes at a time, especially at midday when the sun is strongest.
- Protect those peepers. Make sure that baby’s eyes are protected from the sun with 100 percent UV protection sunglasses.
How to Dress a Newborn for Warm or Cool Weather
When the temperature is mild, it’s still best to use the layer rule. Dress baby in as many layers as you require and then add one more. Also, make sure that your little one is always dry, because wet or damp clothing can cause hypothermia even when the weather is just cool (over 40 degrees F).
And check his diaper frequently when you’re outside. Additionally, no matter the temperature, make sure that your baby is shielded from the sun by his car seat or stroller canopy, a hat, sunglasses or just shelter.
More on How to Dress Your Baby
What's the Right Temperature for Baby?
Whatever the weather is like outside, your baby’s temperature should always be between 98 and 100 degrees F; a rectal reading is always the most accurate. When it’s out of the normal range, that may be a sign of illness.
What’s more, whether it’s summer or winter, baby’s nursery should be between 68 and 72 degrees F. If your baby is preterm, keep the thermostat a bit higher at 72 degrees F.
If it’s too hot, it can increase a baby’s risk of SIDS. If it’s too cold, it can cause a risk of hypothermia, when your little one’s temperature drops to a dangerously low level. When your baby is sick and has a fever, dress him in lighter, acrylic fabrics.
Signs It's Too Hot or Cold for Baby
When babies are too warm, they may looked flushed and sweaty or they may breathe rapidly if they’re overheated. This can cause them to be cranky and irritable and, in more extreme cases, lead to heat stroke.
If your baby seems overheated, start to remove layers, head inside and then call your pediatrician or 911 if he does not cool down immediately.
When your baby is too cold, he may develop frostbite or hypothermia. Check for signs of lethargy or unresponsiveness. If baby has frostbite, the affected area may appear blistered and white or pale gray. In both cases, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.Whether it’s frosty cold or scorching out, it’s all about keeping your baby comfortable from the elements. Think layers and follow your gut. If you’re nervous that your baby is too hot or too cold, make a wardrobe adjustment ASAP or head inside to enjoy some temperature-controlled comfort.
- What to Expect the First Year, 3rd edition, Heidi Murkoff.
- Protecting Young Children From Extreme Heat, July 2019.,
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Tips for Dressing Your Baby, June 2016.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Tips to Keep Kids Warm All Winter, November 2019.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually, July 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hypothermia, February 2019.