Making sure your baby doesn’t overheat is important to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and even more so during the summer months. It could even lead to your little one becoming dehydrated, getting a heat rash or heat stroke.
“We know that overheating is a risk factor for SIDS, so keeping babies from getting too hot is important,” says Jenny Ward, Chief Executive of The Lullaby Trust.
Whether you’re trying to keep your baby’s room at a comfortable temperature or you’re out and about in the summer sunshine, here’s how you can keep your baby safe and cool.
How can I check if my baby is overheating?
Firstly, never use your baby’s hands or feet as a guide to their overall temperature, as these will always be cooler than the rest of their body. The best way to check if your baby is overheating is to put your hand on their chest or the back of their neck. If your baby is overheating their skin will feel hot, sweaty or slightly clammy. If this is the case, remove a couple of layers.
Related: How to take your baby’s temperature
How to stop your baby from overheating in their bedroom
The ideal room temperature for your baby is 16-20°C, but as the weather warms up we know this can become harder to control. It’s therefore a good idea to keep a room thermometer in your baby’s bedroom and to regularly check their temperature (if your baby has a temperature of 38°C or more, call your GP). Here’s some ways in which you can keep your baby’s room cooler in the summer:
• Close the blinds or curtains during the day to stop the room from becoming too hot.
• Put a fan in the bedroom to help circulate the air, but make sure it is out of reach and not pointed directly at your baby.
• Reduce layers; just a nappy with no bedding is fine in hot weather.
• Monitor the temperature with a room thermometer.
• Move your baby to a cooler room.
How to stop your baby from overheating outdoors
As the weather gets warmer you’ll no doubt want to spend more time outside, but it's important to make sure your baby doesn't overheat and depending on their age, will determine whether they should even be out in the sun at all. Here's what you can do:
• Ensure prams are covered with a clip-on sunshade to keep baby out of direct sunlight and their temperature monitored to avoid overheating.
• Do not cover prams with blankets, cloths or any cover that prevents the air from circulating. Covering a pram with a blanket could lead to overheating, which increases the chance of SIDS.
• The NHS says babies under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight and older babies should be kept out of the sun as much as possible, particularly between 11AM and 3PM during the summer.
• If possible, avoid taking your baby on public transport during peak hours and try to find a shop or café with air-conditioning so that they can cool down.
• Make sure your baby is wearing a sun hat with a long flap at the back, so their neck and head are being protected from the sun, or a wide brim hat.
• Give your baby plenty of fluids (babies that are fully breastfed won’t need this until they’re on solids, but may require more feeds).
About sudden infant death syndrome
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant where no cause is found after detailed post mortem.
We do not know what causes SIDS. For many babies, it is likely that a combination of factors affects them at a vulnerable stage of their development, which leads them to die suddenly and unexpectedly.
However, we do know you can significantly reduce the chance of SIDS occurring by following safer sleep advice.
While SIDS cannot be completely prevented, you can reduce the risks of it occurring considerably by following our safer sleep advice.
• Sleep your baby on their back for all sleep – day and night – as this can reduce the risk of SIDS by six times compared to sleeping them on their front.
• Share a room with your baby for the first six months – this can halve the risk of SIDS.
• Keep your baby smoke-free during pregnancy and after birth – this is one of the most protective things you can do for your baby. Around 60% of sudden infant deaths could be avoided if no baby was exposed to smoke during pregnancy or around the home.
• Never sleep on a sofa or armchair with your baby as this can increase the risk of SIDS by 50 times.
• Do not co-sleep with your baby if you or your partner has been drinking, is a smoker or has been taking drugs; these factors can put babies at an extremely high risk of SIDS when co-sleeping. One study found that the risk of SIDS when co-sleeping is six times higher in smokers than in non-smokers.
• The above is especially important for babies who were born premature or of low birth weight, as these babies are at a higher risk of SIDS.