Whether it’s a sweltering-hot summer’s night or a chilly, blustery winter’s evening, ensuring your baby or toddler is a comfortable temperature can make all the difference to how soundly they (and you!) sleep.
“One of the major reasons babies wake up at night, if you’ve done everything you’re supposed to do like changing and feeding them, is from being too hot or cold,” says baby sleep consultant Natalie Herman.
Keeping infants at a comfortable temperature is also important from a safety perspective, particularly for babies. According to research and advocacy organisation Red Nose, thermal stress (overheating) is implicated in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) so it is an important preventive strategy.
Try these tips to keep your little one slumbering at the right temperature.
Keep your baby’s head uncovered
Babies regulate their temperature mainly through their face and head, so the best way to stop them overheating is to ensure they sleep on their back, with their head and face uncovered. This means no hats, bonnets, beanies, hooded clothing, pillows or doonas. Red Nose recommends positioning your bub with their feet at the bottom of the cot and using lightweight blankets that only reach as far as the chest, tucked in firmly so they can't come loose.
Dress your baby for the climate
When working out how many layers to dress your baby in at bedtime, use layers as you’d dress yourself. “If babies are in the swaddling phase and it’s a hot night, I’d put them in a singlet and swaddle over that,” says Herman. On a cooler night, you could go with a singlet or sleeveless bodysuit, with a long-sleeved growsuit over the top, then a swaddle.
Mothercraft nurse and author of The Gift of Sleep, Elizabeth Sloane, says: “Babies lose heat through their feet, so if it’s a cold night, you might put socks underneath or over a growsuit to lock the heat in, or double sock them if it’s really cold.”
Check ratings on sleeping bags
Babies should typically be swaddled with their arms in until they’re about three months old, or until they begin to roll. At this point you can wrap your baby keeping their arms free, or start using sleeping bags that are designed to keep babies and toddlers at a comfortable temperature for the conditions, and remove the need for bedding or heating appliances.
Most sleeping bags use the thermal overall grade or TOG rating system: the higher the TOG value, the greater the thermal insulation. “When it’s particularly cold, you might use a 2.5 TOG bag; when it gets a little warmer you’d drop down to about 1.5 and if it’s a 30 degree night, you’d be using a 0.5 bag,” Sloane explains.
Prep the sleeping environment
The late afternoon is a good time to prepare a child’s bedroom for restful slumber. “In summer, about 4.30pm, start pulling the blinds and maybe put on an oscillating fan facing away from the cot or toddler’s bed and towards the wall, so when they’ve had their bath or dinner they’re moving into a room temperature that is set for the conditions,” says Sloane.
In the cooler months, you might want to switch on a heater in the late afternoon so the nursery is cosy in time for bedtime. “I recommend stand-alone radiator heaters that aren’t dehydrating like central heating and turn themselves down if it gets too hot,” says Herman. Position heater away from bedding or any flammables, and turn it off at bedtime.
There’s no perfect solution to keeping your baby sleeping through the night, but with a little preparation and some simple strategies, you’ll be able to give both you and your bub the best chance of catching serious shuteye.
Correction: an earlier version of this article stated that babies should be swaddled until six months of age, when it should only be until they have started, or are attempting to start, rolling over.
Always check that you’re following the latest safety information for your baby.
For more information, go to www.rednose.com.au