Getting a baby to sleep sometimes feels like it should be an Olympic sport. Parents battle the fussing, crying, and thrashing, hoping their little one will sleep for several consecutive hours, if not the whole night.
If they wake up in the early hours of the morning, parents must figure out what caused them to wake up and begin the process from the start again.
In some cases, a simple hot water bottle can do the trick. But other times, it becomes a more gruesome task full of trial and error.
However, one question parents might not ask is if they are keeping their baby warm at night.
4 Factors to Consider for Night Time Warmth
Typically the coldest part of a day is from 7 PM to 7 AM. Babies do most of their sleeping in this period, so they need to be warm and comfortable.
Part of that comfort includes a safe sleeping environment, but parents may question what safe looks like in the baby’s room. The temperature, how you dress your baby, the blankets used, and the bedding contribute to the warmth and safety of a sleeping baby.
1. Room Temperature
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that nearly 3,500 babies die yearly from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that the number increases in colder months because babies get overheated. Parents try to keep them warm at night but end up adding unnecessary extra layers.
As far as the thermostat goes, you can keep it simple. If it is a comfortable temperature for you, it is probably a comfortable temperature for your baby.
Discuss any concerns about what temperature will keep your baby warm with your pediatrician.
2. Dressing Your Baby
In some parts of the world, temperatures at night can dip to levels below freezing. Adults can add extra layers of clothing but remember that overheating your baby at night is a contributing factor to SIDS.
Because of this, cautiousness of how you dress them for bed is crucial. The AAP recommends dressing them how you would dress. If you are comfortable in a light layer of clothing, then your baby will probably be comfortable as well.
Swaddling involves securely wrapping a baby in a blanket in a specific manner that leaves only their head visible.
It’s a technique that may help the infant feel like they were still inside the womb since it provides warmth while sleeping. It is safe if you wrap your baby the correct way. Wrapping it too tightly or too loosely can create a dangerous situation.
If it is too tight on the legs and hips, it could cause developmental issues. A swaddled baby should be placed on the stomach to sleep and monitored regularly.
Around 2-4 months, or when the infant begins to roll over, parents should stop using a swaddle blanket when it is time to sleep.
How to Wrap a Swaddle Blanket
- You should place the blanket on a flat surface. Fold it in half to make a diamond shape.
- Place your baby on their back with their shoulders just below the top of the fold. The bottom of the diamond should be at the feet.
- Place their right arm on their chest and pull the right side of the blanket across the body. You should tuck the edges underneath the baby while the left arm remains free.
- Use the bottom of the blanket to fold upward and cover the feet. Tuck the edges in at the top.
- Repeat step three with the left side.
Swaddling is one way to know you have covered your baby to provide warmth but have also considered the safety of infants sleeping.
Will Likely Notice Improved Sleep!
When using a swaddle blanket, you might notice your baby is calmer and fussing less because of the tight feeling it has created. It can lead to better sleep as well.
Babies wrapped in swaddling wake up less often than those who are not.
However, it can also cause babies to get too much sleep! If they sleep longer, they could miss out on feedings and reduce milk supply if they are breastfed.
Another disadvantage is that parents might miss hunger cues. A baby pulling their fist close to their mouth is usually one of the first signs of hunger.
If their arms are tucked by their sides, their hands will not be free to suck on. This could lead to a fussy, crying baby, which defeats the purpose of the swaddling.
4. Sleep Sacks
The AAP recommends an additional option in place of blankets – the sleep sack. These are like baby sleeping bags!
A wearable blanket made of a warm, breathable material designed to keep the hands and arms free. The torso, legs, and feet are snugly zipped inside the sack.
A sleep sack is safe to use beyond four months which differentiates them from a swaddle blanket. They are also easier to take off for those midnight diaper changes.
Sleep sacks are safe for babies who can roll over as long as their arms a free. That way baby can move when necessary.
Disadvantage of Sleep Sacks
There is only one disadvantage to the sleep sack. It does not wrap tightly around the infant to recreate the feeling inside the womb.
While it might be a problem for some babies, most adjust to a sleep sack pretty quickly. Furthermore, when you rely on swaddling for warmth less often, the risk of SIDS is significantly reduced.
Blankets and Bedding
The AAP advises against placing blankets, pillows, and other types of bedding in a baby crib. These are considered safety hazards and should not be kept in the sleeping space.
Any quilt, comforter, sheepskin, stuffed toy, or crib bumper kept in this area could be putting your baby at risk. It is best to keep it simple with only a fitted sheet.
There are several materials on the market for bedding, but one that is traditionally warm is flannel. Flannel sheets are usually made from cotton, making them breathable and hypoallergenic.
They are machine washable, making it easier to manage messy situations. Flannel also can wick moisture away, which will help maintain the body temperature, and the fuzzy layer will feel good on their skin.
When Can My Baby Sleep With Pillows and Blankets?
The next question you might be asking yourself is, when is it safe to let my baby sleep with pillows and blankets?
According to the AAP, your baby should sleep in a clear space with only a fitted sheet for the first year of their life. (Of course, the sleep sacks and swaddle blankets are okay.)
At 12 months, it is safe to begin introducing pillows and blankets into the crib but still provide a safe environment for them.
Blankets should be breathable and small enough that they will not easily become tangled around the toddler. It’s important to avoid strings, buttons, or other decorations since they can be a choking hazard, or the toddler can become entangled in them.
An abundance of toys or pillows can create unnecessary danger and should slowly be introduced into the sleeping area.