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How to keep your baby cool in the summer

Child paddling pool

Babies cannot regulate their body temperature in the same way older children can, so keeping them cool in the heat is particularly important. Dehydration, sunburn, sunstroke and heat exhaustion can be very serious for newborn and young babies, but there are simple things you can do to make sure they're comfortable – even on the hottest days (and nights) of summer

How to keep your baby cool in hot weather

You should keep babies under six months out of direct sunlight entirely because they don't have the pigment that provides some protection from the sun that grown-ups have. Babies older than six months should also be kept out of the sun as much as possible, particularly between 11am and 3pm.

If you're out, put a parasol or umbrella over your baby's pram to create shade, but it's not the best idea to cover it with a sheet, as this'll just trap the air inside and make it even hotter. Air circulation and shade are best for keeping cool, whatever your age.

Paddling pools are a great way to keep cool, but keep them in the shade and remember that were this is might change through the day – leaving you with a heavy paddling pool in full sun. If she's playing outside, make sure your baby drinks plenty, and do keep topping up her sun cream frequently, especially if she's in and out of the water.

What should my baby wear in hot weather?

Light and breathable cotton clothes will help your baby stay cool as natural fibres let the skin breathe and have the added advantage of being quick-drying. Steer clear of synthetic fibres though as they can be a recipe for a sweat-fest which can really irritate young skin.

If your baby is still in nappies and it’s particularly hot, then let her enjoy the freedom of not wearing any clothes at all. So long as they’re out of the sun, you needn’t worry too much about keeping babies covered up.

If she is outside, a hat which covers your baby's neck and the top of her ears is recommended – but be prepared to go into battle over it. Babies and toddlers seem to have a natural aversion to wearing headgear, and no matter how much you try to distract them, it's likely that they'll try and pull their hats off with noise and force. You might lose count of how many times a hat gets thrown out of the buggy, but do persevere. Until you get inside – hats should be worn outdoors only, in order to keep little heads cool.

How can I get my baby to sleep in hot weather?

Getting babies to sleep can be tricky at the best of times, let alone when they're hot and grissly. These tips will help to ease everyone's nighttime discontent.

  • Your baby will sleep most comfortably when their room is between 16-20 degrees celsius, so you should keep their room as cool as you can. A nursery thermometer might be helpful here.
  • They'll be fine to sleep with just a sheet and wearing a nappy. Make sure the sheet is well-secured and won't come loose or cover their face in the night. This applies to the nappy too, if we're honest.
  • Babies will cry if they're not warm enough, so she'll certainly let you know if something is amiss. And if she gets a bit chilly, then a light blanket is fine to use, or dress her in a cotton vest or babygro which will still be comfortable in the heat.
  • A lukewarm bath before they go down for the night can help regulate body temperature. Don't go too cold, as it’ll be too much of a shock to the system – but the cool end of hand-hot will be just the ticket. You can also cool her skin with a sponge and water or a light water spray.
  • If it's really hot (a rare occurrence in the UK, we know) you could put ice packs wrapped in a tea towel or a hot water bottle filled with cold water into the cot before bedtime, to cool everything down.

Is it safe to use a fan in my baby's room?

You can use fans – so long as you don't point them directly at your baby (you don't want them to grab it) and you should also make sure there is no cord hanging down anywhere due to the risk of strangulation. The white noise fans make is an excellent added bonus if your baby's generally not keen on the whole sleeping through the night.

How can I keep the rest of the house cool in hot weather?

Keep blinds and curtains drawn during the day to keep the heat out. If you can, and it's safe to do so, open the windows on the side of your house that the sun hits first in the morning (the east side) after it has moved round, to create a corridor of cooler air that'll fill your home. Naturally this depends on how your house is laid out and you shouldn't leave ground floor windows open if you're sleeping on a different floor. Common sense prevails on this one.

How to prevent your baby from getting dehydrated

If you're breastfeeding, your baby won't need water as well, but they might want to be fed more often, so you should feed on demand. Make sure that you are also drinking more water too, this will help you to keep up your milk supply and avoid getting dehydrated.

If you're bottle feeding, you should give your baby cooled boiled water throughout the day, on top of their regular feeds. Bottle-fed babies who wake in the night during hot weather will most likely want milk – but if they've had their usual milk feeds, then give them a little boiled water as well.

If they're over six months and they get bored with water all day, then you can try ice cubes, or fruit and salad (if they'll eat it) as other sources of water.

Signs of dehydration to look out for in babies

If your baby is dehydrated, they will show some or all of the following dehydration symptoms:

  • feeling thirsty
  • dark yellow urine
  • dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • peeing little and less than four times a day
  • drowsiness
  • fast breathing
  • having few or no tears when they cry
  • a sunken soft-spot (fontanelle)
  • cold and blotchy hands and feet

If they show signs of severe dehydration, then you'll need to seek help from your GP or A&E.

How do I know if my baby is too hot?

If you're not sure if your baby is too hot, feel her tummy. If she's sweaty or hot, take a layer off and check her again after a few minutes. You can also check her temperature with a thermometer if you have one – it should be 37 degrees.

It can be hard to know what's up when your baby can only communicate with cries or grimaces. Remember, though, that babies are born in hotter countries than Blighty every day and do just fine – so just do the best you can to keep them cool and don't worry too much.

It should really go without saying, but never leave your baby sleeping in the car (whatever the temperature, but particularly when it's hot). Keep an eye if they fall asleep in the pram, as prams can be quite hot places for a kip. If you're out and about and they don't stir when you get home, you might want to transfer them to their cot or Moses basket.

Older children will be able to communicate with you better if they're feeling the heat. (You likely won't hear the end of it.) And although it's rare in the UK, you should be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke just to be sure.

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?

The symptoms are the same in children and adults, but babies can't tell you if they're dizzy or have a headache, so it's important to look out for the following signs:

  • loss of appetite
  • excessive sweating and pale clammy skin
  • fast breathing or pulse
  • temperature of 37C or above
  • intense thirst
  • becoming floppy and excessively sleepy

What is the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?

Heat exhaustion:

  • Temperature above 37 and up to just below 40 degrees
  • Pale cool, clammy skin
  • Excessive sweating

Heat stroke:

  • Temperature 40 degrees and above
  • Dry, hot skin
  • Not sweating

What should I do if I think my baby has heat exhaustion?

They need to be cooled down, first and foremost.

  • Move them to a cool place
  • Remove any unnecessary clothing
  • Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly
  • Get them to drink plenty of water or feed them milk
  • Cool their skin with water using a sponge or spray. You can also put ice packs wrapped in a tea towel under their armpits or around their neck.

Check their pulse regularly, and stay with them until they're better. They should feel better after half an hour.

You should call 999 (or 112 if you're on holiday abroad) if your child is showing signs and symptoms of heatstroke. These are:

  • they're no better after 30 minutes
  • they're hot and dry
  • their temperature is 40 degrees or above
  • they're short of breath or are breathing rapidly
  • they're confused
  • they have a fit or seizure
  • they lose consciousness
  • they become unresponsive

All of these are worst case scenario symptoms, so don't panic. Heatstroke is rare in the UK – but it's always good to know about just in case.