Phew! It’s hot! Keeping little ones cool during a heatwave can be a worry and a bit of a battle. And your worry is justified – the heat alone can make children and babies agitated, uncomfortable and even quite poorly, so knowing how to cope with the hot weather is key.
But how, what and where? We see many questions about keeping babies and small children cool during a heatwave on The Motherload® Facebook Group, and so to help, we’ve compiled a list of our best tips for you to use as a checklist during the day and night!
Let’s Strip, Baby!
As the heat ramps up, clothing should get lighter and looser; even stripping baby down to their nappy. But make sure that if baby is outside that you keep them under the shade and your eye out for pesky bugs. Using a sunshade on the pram, or sheltered spot in the garden under a gazebo or big garden umbrella is perfect. If possible, avoid being out in the sun between 12 and 3pm, and babies under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight at all times.
Slap On The Sunscreen
There is a huge range of suncreams out there for little ones; but the key thing is to ensure that you have a minimum of Factor 30 – preferably Factor 50, and 4 star UVA rating – and you apply it regularly. Avoid the lotions that promise only once a day applications as studies have shown that they are insufficient. If your little one is playing in the paddling pool, or swimming to cool down then ensure that, after each swim, you reapply sunscreen after towelling.
Up The Feeds
Your baby may be thirstier than normal during a heatwave, and you may find that they fancy a couple of extra feeds during hot days. Don’t worry about schedules and feeding times; this is totally normal and helps to refresh your little one. Current guidelines also say that if you are breastfeeding, you don’t need to offer additional water – just keep the feeds coming and baby should be fine. If you are formula feeding, you can offer a small amount of cool, boiled water but this should only be in addition to their milk, not instead of, and only in small amounts so that it doesn’t put them off their normal feed. As ever, if you are unsure, contact your Health Visitor.
Keep Your Eye On Their Soft Spot
Your baby should have regular, wet nappies throughout the day, even during a heatwave. Their skin should be plump, and return to normal immediately if you (gently!) pinch it, and their soft spot normal and not depressed. Eyes should be alert and their general activity in line with their usual behaviour (although of course, they may be a bit grouchy!). Many babies do feel a bit lethargic in the heat, as we all do; but feeds should be regular, and you might find that demand is higher as their thirst increases. If any of these things change, seek advice immediately from your pharmacist or GP.
Yes! Many little ones will love a breastmilk lollipop. For under six months ensure you sterilise equipment before use, but otherwise pump as normal, pop into lollipop moulds (these NUK ones are fab and easy for little hands to hold) and leave to freeze. Voila! Breastmilk lollipops! (Do note that formula milk shouldn’t be frozen.)
Stock Up On Ice
Ice is a fun way to cool down in a heatwave! For babies over six months, pop a few ice cubes in a pot, or on their highchair tray and let them chase them around, and splash in the cold water afterwards. Again, grab a few for your Pimms in advance; even ice cubes can be a choking hazard before they melt so if you are using the usual ice-cube trays to make them up , keep a close eye on their play. You could consider freezing larger pots of water; weaning pots are great for this!
Whack The Paddling Pool Out
A British summer staple for every family garden during a heatwave! Remember though that very cold water can be startling for a little baby, so add a couple of kettles of boiling water to a small pool for tiny ones to take the edge off. And don’t leave splashing babies unattended, even if you are just whizzing inside for a quick G&T. Which, funnily enough, is also a British summer staple.
Don’t Cover The Pram/ Car seat
As tempting as it is, don’t cover the pram or car seat with any blanket or muslin, even to keep the sun out of your baby’s eyes. It can cause the inside of the hood and pram to heat up rapidly, and be potentially dangerous for your little one’s body temperature – especially during a heatwave. Keeping the sun off them when out and about can be a challenge, especially if they need to nap, but please use appropriate sun or snooze shades that are tested and designed for this purpose. The Snoozeshade is a great little investment – it’s made of breathable mesh, so that the temperature is regulated but your little one can sleep in peace.
Muslins Are Your Best Friend
Usually reserved for mopping up the posset, the humble muslin really comes into it’s own during the summer months. Grab a couple of oversized ‘Swaddle’ ones (check out Aden & Anais, or even your local TK Maxx for these) and use as a cooling surface to lie on, or as a cover in bed (for older babies and toddlers). You can also try running a muslin under a cool, tepid tap and keep to hand for a quick cool down for tiny babies. Just strip your little one in a shaded spot and lay the muslin over their back for a couple of minutes for a soothing cool down on warm skin. Pro-tip – keep in the cool bag on picnic days out, so that it’s ready for when you need it!
Keep The House Cool
There are a few easy ways to keep the house cool during the heatwave without ordering in the air-con units! Keep curtains, blinds and shutters closed – this is the reason many of those pretty houses we see on holiday have those lovely shutters! If you have a fan, get it going and you can add a small bowl of water in front of it – or a wet tea towel over it if it’s bladeless – to help cool the air further. Finally, keep unnecessary appliances and lights turned off, as these give off small amounts of heat whenever used.
Hot Heatwave Nights
Forget the Pyjamas
Ditch the babygro and keep to either just a vest, or even stripping down to their nappy to keep your baby cool at night. For tiny babies, leave off bedclothes or sleepsuits; for slightly older ones who might like the feeling of being covered at night (like mine!) you can get enormous muslins (often called Swaddle muslins) that are great for a very lightweight cover. Remember safe sleeping at all times, and remove any canopies or toys from the cot as these can keep the cot warmer.
Open the Window
A light breeze is fine for your little one while sleeping in the heat, so either open the window slightly (you can buy plastic catches for windows to open just slightly and ensure that animals etc can’t get through) or use an electric fan on a low setting to keep them cool as they snooze. I personally love our Dyson Cool fan as it’s quieter, and bladeless for the safety of little fingers, but any fan that regulates the temperature in the room is okay. On really hot nights, you could also try freezing water in bottles and placing around the room – as the fan breezes by them it will disperse a cooler air.
Keep Their Bedroom Dark During the Day
Open windows but close curtains throughout the day to keep their room cool, and if possible, turn a fan on for an hour before bedtime.
A bath can really help your baby relax before bed, but during a heatwave they may find a tepid bath more comforting. Not too hot, not too cold, just right to keep them nice and cool for settling to sleep. Don’t keep them just for night time either – tepid baths throughout the day will help keep your little one chilled out.
Use a Hot Water Bottle
No, don’t worry, not to heat! Fill up with cold water and freeze – then wrap in a towel and leave in their bed for an hour before putting your baby down. Remove first obviously!
Get Yourself Ready
It’s likely that your little one will wake more during the night during a heatwave, and may need more feeds than normal. So look after yourself in advance, and stock up! Books, magazines, kindles etc – snacks and importantly drinks. A cool box can be a lifesaver; add cool drinks and damp muslins to cool you both down during the night (gah, sweaty boobs be banished!). It’s easy to feel irritated in the heat, so planning ahead might alleviate some of the heat induced stress.
For further information, check out the NHS website here.
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About Kate Dyson
Founder of The Motherload®. Wife, mum to two girls, two cats and shit loads of washing in baskets that sit around the house waiting to be ironed. It never happens.
Hater of exercise, denier of weight gain, lover of wine. Feminist.
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Image credit: Dave Herholz, Flickr