Updated: Jul 29, 2019
8 easy tips to beat the heat and keep your baby sleeping safe
1. The ABCs
Regardless of the season or location, a baby ALWAYS sleep safest, alone on their back and in a crib or other firm flat surface, like a pack-n-play. This is the safest way for a baby to sleep, including naps.
2. Know the signs of overheating
Babies can overheat quickly.
Baby feels warm to the touch - check their neck, back and chest to make sure they are a comfortable temperature.
Baby's skin is sweaty, overly red or overly pale, clammy skin.
Some babies might vomit.
Baby's heart rate or breathing is rapid - this is a late sign of overheating.
Baby has a fever but isn't sweating, they may be overheating.
Baby is lethargic or isn't responding to your touch or tickles or seems less animated than usual.
A baby who is overheating will seem disoriented and may faint.
If baby falls asleep, he or she might be difficult to rouse.
Take baby indoors or into the shade and remove all clothing. Use a cool, wet cloth to try to bring the baby's temperature down and if the baby is conscious try to help him or her ingest liquids while you wait for help to arrive (you should call for medical help if you believe your baby has overheated). For more information about temperature related illnesses, visit Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters website.
If it is a really hot day, sometimes a diaper and sunscreen is the best outfit your baby can wear. Keep your baby cool by exposing their skin to fresh air. When choosing an outfit light, cotton material is the best when it comes to clothing. Pick hats that have ventilation so that heat has a way to escape. If the clothing has UPF, even better!
At night or during naps, your baby should not sweat during sleep. Keep a baby's room between 68-72 degrees. Pajamas should be made of soft, breathable material like cotton, jersey or muslin/linen. Be sure that if your baby is swaddled or in a sleep sack that the material is also breathable. And hey, only a diaper is totally acceptable too!
4. The hottest part of the day
Heat continues building up after noon, when the sun is highest in the sky. By 3 p.m. the day has reached peak heat. Best bet, plan for indoor activities from 11am-4pm.
Babies need to stay extra hydrated in the warmer months. Young babies should be able to nurse or drink on demand if you are spending a lot of time outside or if your home is warmer in the summer. Older, more mobile babies and toddlers can have a hard time stopping to drink, so it's up to their caregivers to pay close attention to how much they've had to drink.
In the summer, not only do babies dehydrate faster, but so do nursing moms. Their own dehydration stacks on top of being the source of hydration for an extra thirsty baby. Always carry a bottle of water with you and try to get an extra one or two in during the day. Drink a big glass of water when you first get up for the day. Dads/partners, bring mom a glass of water if you see her nursing the baby to show some extra care and attention to a body that is working double time.
6. Naps in the stroller
We always recommend moving baby to a firm, flat surface as soon as possible.
In the summer, families are out and about more often. Often, I see caregivers try to create a nice dark space by putting a blanket over the top of the stroller --say if the baby falls asleep at the park when the older siblings are playing. While this is done with the best of intentions, there are several reasons that this is dangerous, especially in the summer months.
Placing a blanket over the top of a stroller can quickly cause your baby to overheat. Doing this can create a sauna and moving air isn't able to cool your baby's sweaty skin. Your best bet, if your baby is going to nap in the stroller while outside, is to find a shady spot to park the stroller where baby has plenty of fresh air, skip the blanket. Be sure to lower the stroller seat so that it is as flat as possible, so your baby's breathing isn't compromised.
7. Naps in the car seat
Again, we always recommend moving baby to a firm, flat surface as soon as possible. A car seat is not intended for safe infant sleep.
Similar to naps in the stroller, you should always avoid placing any kind of cover over a car seat in the heat. While you might be blocking out light, you are also blocking out the fresh air that can help cool skin. Plus, we never recommend leaving a baby to sleep in a car seat. You can learn more here about the risks of sleeping in a car seat outside of the car.
Never, never, never leave a sleeping baby (or an awake one for that matter!) in a car, especially during a hot day (and while we are on the subject, don't leave your pets either)! Even a car parked in the shade can be much hotter than the temperature outside.
It's worth it to risk waking the baby up to take them with you.
It's tempting to forego packing a bunch of gear when you travel with a little one, but I always recommend that a baby not co-sleep with parents in a hotel bed while traveling. If bringing a portable bed with you is not an option, you can usually find one to rent either from the hotel or from a local shop. It isn't worth the risk to bring baby into your adult bed, even if its just for a night or two. And, like we mentioned earlier, car seats are never a suitable option.
Sleeptight Hampton Roads is working with hotels across the region to promote safe sleep and encourage offering free or inexpensive rentals that have been sanitized with the appropriate fitting sheets.