Determining baby's needs
Parents have learned many different ways of gauging their babies' comfort in various temperatures. Pamela Kock looks for cold hands and feet and mottled skin to see if her 16-month-old son is too chilly. Diana Smith is sensitive to her children being too hot if they are fussy or feel warm and sweaty to the touch.
All babies are slightly different, but there is a general guideline for determining children's clothing needs up to 18 months of age -- it's as simple as "plus one and minus one." Says nurse Carma Haley, "In hot weather, put one less layer of clothing on your baby than what you would wear, and in cold weather, give them one more layer of clothing than what feels good to you." According to Haley, this added or deleted clothing item helps to compensate for infants' thinner skin which leads them to get hotter or colder than adults.
What to wear
The most popular piece of clothing for all seasons is the one-piece undershirt. "Onesies," manufactured by Gerber, and the Carter's bodysuit are both one-piece undergarments with short-sleeves and snaps at the bottom. They are very versatile and can be used in both cold and warm weather. Says Smith, "I love Onesies. In the summer, that is all my babies sleep in. Putting them on under clothing in the winter helps to assure that no skin will be exposed if other clothing rides up, and since my daughter always throws her covers off at night, I put a Onesie on under her fuzzy sleeper to help keep her warm."
In colder weather, layering is the best way to keep baby comfortable. By using several different pieces of clothing on your child, you will be able to take one off or add another as needed.
Shelley Franco shares her experience with keeping her young son warm in their frigid Wisconsin winters, "I always wear a Onesie on him underneath a warm jumper. When we go out, I add a hat, warm booties and -- once he is in the car seat -- a few blankets. I then use a Nojo car seat cover on the seat, which zips up exposing only his head. This is very convenient for when the car gets warmer. All I have to do is unzip the car seat cover and remove a blanket or two without having to take the baby out of the straps."
In extremely hot weather, babies are best left to wear nothing but their birthday suit. Due to the incident of accidents though, adding a diaper is recommended. Whether you choose disposable or cotton -- there are arguments for and against both -- is a personal choice, but wearing only minimal clothing will help keep your baby cool. Remember to re-gauge comfort levels when moving from the hot outdoors to the inside where it may be cooler, particularly if you have air conditioning.
Consider sun protection
During hot weather, you must also keep in mind infants' need for protection from the sun. Since sunscreens are not meant for babies under the age of 6 months, infants need to be completely covered whenever they will be exposed to the sun in any amount. Loose-fitting outfits made of lightweight, breathable fabrics are best, and don't forget baby's head - hats are a must.
Garments of special fabrics, such as Solarveil items, also exist to help keep baby cool as well as to protect them from dangerous UVA and UVB rays. Solarveil garments, made by Milliken & Company, have an open-weave design and are treated with a patented system that wicks moisture away from the body, keeping baby cool. The garments are said to block up to 95% of the sun's dangerous rays and come in sizes for the entire family. Included in their line of children's clothing are jackets, pants, hats and t-shirts.
Knowing these essential general guidelines for dressing your baby is helpful not only in temperature extremes, but also for those in-between times such as spring and autumn, when the temperatures are less predictable.
It won't take long for you to learn your child's level of comfort in any weather, but when in doubt, keep the plus one/minus one rule in mind.