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  • Writer's pictureLinda Woodard

Newborns and hot weather - don't panic!

Baby wrapped in teal fabric with arms stretched out

If you have had a newborn session with me, you may have seen me putting two fingers on their chest and back, now and then. Not only do I want to make sure a wrap isn't too tight, but I also want to check little one's temperature. Heat can be very dangerous for little bubbas. But we need to be be realistic. There have been millions of babies living through much hotter weather than we have - so don't panic!

Most parents try their utmost to keep their little one safe, and there are certain things we can do to make it safer for babies during hot weather which will also make them more comfortable. It's a good idea to check their back and chest at steady intervalls. Don't use their hands and feet as a test area, as they are often much cooler and won't get swetty the way their core body does. You will also get used to feeling your little one's 'normal temperature' and know when s/he is too hot. Newborn bubbas are much more sensitive to changes in temperature than children/adults.

Baby resting in nappy

Sometimes I see mums in a light summer dress but their little one is bundled up in layers in their pram. As we try to do our best for our little ones, we are given so much advice, especially with regards to keeping them warm, that we forget about common sense and what we feel is right.

If it's 27c+ a nappy is often all they need.

It is best to dress them in natural materials, such as cotton and linnen, as many synthetic materials keep heat in. That goes for bed sheets too.

Never cover a pram with a blanket

Another thing to bare in mind is to never put a blanket or muslin across the front of the buggy for shade. It reduces airflow and tests have shown that covering the opening with a blanket increases the heat dramatically. When starting off with a temperature of 35c inside the pram it increased to 50c within 15 minuts. Instead, try a parasol or shade cover, specially made to clip on to the pram. With my boys, I also used to open the back part of the pram cover to let air through, just baring in mind that the opening wouldn't let sun fall on their heads.

Keep them out of the sun

It's very important to keep them out of direct sunlight. Until they're about 6 months old they don't have enough melanin in their skin to give any protection at all. This applies to all skin colours.

I would always apply suncream with 50 SFP and make sure it has good protection against both UVA and UVB (my understanding is that 5 stars is good). I would always try my best to make sure they wore a hat with a wide brim. But honestly, I know that is so much easier said than done. I often found that distracting them whilst putting it on helped, such as jingling keys or singing... When they're a bit older, bribes work too...

Halfway through the summer with my first born, I realised that I had been so worried about taking him out in the sun that I hadn't enjoyed my garden much at all. It is so easy to focus all your energy on your little one and forget about your own mental health. So I bought a small beach shelter made of sunprotective material, placed it in the garden and put him inside on his playmat, with the front of the shelter completely open. This way he was completly in the shade whilst I could keep my eyes on him, sitting in the sun reading a book (maybe even enjoying a sneaky shandy...)

Extra feeds

Think about how much extra water you need when it's hot. Little ones may need extra top ups too, so I found that juring hot weather any kind of feeding routine I had would go out the window.

Black and white photo of mummy breast feeding baby

My boys were combi-fed (with no health issues) so I would also give them cooled boiled water as an extra top up from when they were about 5 months, but this isn't always necessary. Breasts are magical things (oh yes they are) and the milkproduction adapts to the heat. This is why you produce more milk when it's hot. So whether you formula feed, breastfeed or combi feed, just feed them a little extra.

Once babies have moved on to solids, you may start set feeding times. Although infant formula or breastmilk should be their main source of liquid until they are one, cooled boiled water at meal times, and a few sips between meals, is a good idea. If you're not sure, always speak to a health professional.

Paddling Pools

Always place a paddling pool in the shade. The water reflects the sun, so although it may feel cool it can burn little bubbas otherwise. When my boys were tiny I would place them in a seat support for their bath in a small paddling pool in the shade (such a simple idea but it took me a while to think of using it somewhere other than in their bath). I then had a flannel which I would soak with water and let it run down their bellies;an easy way to cool them off. Of course, you would never leave them unsupervised so why not get your swimming costume on and join them.

Keeping them cool at night

Once you have started giving them baths, a coolish bath before bedtime can really soothe them. Keep blinds and curtains closed in the day time to keep the room cool. I used to have a fan going in my boys' room before bedtime and if it was really hot, I would keep it on at night but pointed away from them. I have read that it's not advisable to keep a fan on in their room whilst they are sleeping, but I can't see why that would be a problem as long as it is safe (ie not old with lose wires etc), placed away from their cot so it can't fall on them etc, as long as it doesn't blow towards them.

Very often I would only keep them in a nappy and place a duvet cover over them (without the duvet), tucked under the matteress so it coudn't be pulled lose and cover their faces.

The recommended temperature in their sleeping area is 16c - 20c but during heatwaves it can often reach 25c+. As a new mum I panicked about this, but there is only so much you can do. I just checked on them more frequently and made sure nothing could cover their heads.

Oh, and my favourite tip when it was warm; I used to place a puppy pad (a large absorbent mat) on the floor, a washable blanket or towel on top and then let them be nude (indoors - you don't even need a puppy pad in the shade outdoors). Having boys, this left quite a large area in the risk zone but if you have a girl it's generally more safe.

I hope you enjoy your summer with your little one!

Linda is a photographer in Crawley, West sussex, who has photographed hundreds of newborn babies over the years. You will be able to see some of her work at the K2 in Crawley on Saturday 26th October 2024 at the Baby Fayre. She has written this as a mum and checked NHS and NCT websites for particular information. If you have any concerns always speak to a health professional.

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