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Safe sleeping temperatures for babies

When seasons become unexpectedly warmer or cooler, your habits can be caught out. But what is safe for sleeptime?


Posted: 10 November 2010
by Laura Lee Davies

Whether your are dressing your baby in winter or caring for your baby in hot weather, a safe room temperature for your baby's bedtime remains pretty much the same: 18°C. (NHS Direct recommend keeping the room between 16 and 20°C.)

It might be cooler in the night than it is at bedtime (for example, in winter if the heating is timed to go off when it's adult bedtime not baby's, or in the autumn and spring it might stay warmer from late sun coming through the window but get chilly once darkness descends). This can be affected by various factors: a number of exterior walls around the room will make it colder, a smaller room without a large window may retain more of its heat. During very warm weather, retained daytime heat proves just as much of a problem as cool night air does in winter.

Keeping your baby's room the right temperature

Running heating or air cooling devices during the night, to maintain an even heat, is not very practical as well as being environmentally irresponsible. It can also cause the air in your baby's room to become too dry and cause coughing or dry skin.

In extremely cold weather, you might think about leaving the heating on, but turn it down lower than normal as, when we are tucked up in bed, we get too hot if the heating is on too high.

If you are worried about your child kicking off bed clothes at night, buy a 'sleeping bag', which fits over your child's shoulders so she can't sink down under its cover, but which means the covering moves with your child.

During warm weather, don't worry if your child wants to sleep just in a nappy or vest rather than a sleepsuit or pyjamas. However, if the night times cool down, either put simple pjs on your child when you go to bed (a very sleepy child is unlikely to wake or stir very long), add an extra sheet or blanket if you feel it is neccessary.

Gauging your baby's temperature

After a few weeks living with your newborn, you will begin to feel instinctive about your child's habits and way of communicating, If you are lucky, you will have the kind of child your grizzles or even cries when she is too hot or cold, but don't take those baby signs for granted. Babies can't regulate their body heat like we can, so you need to know how to read your child's temperature. Usually the best option is to gently feel the chest or back of the neck with the back of your hand. Don't go by how cold your baby's hands or feet are, because these can often be much colder than the rest of her body. If you are concerned you can then use a thermometer - an ear thermometer is often the easiest reliable options with babies and young children.

Many baby safety monitors have temperature gauges on them. However, you can simply keep a thermometer in your child's room. There are many lovely nursery thermometers on the market and most won't cost very much.

Be heat aware

If you are someone who feels the cold more or is forever opening windows even in winter, don't let your own experience be your guide. Keep tabs on your baby's temperature and soon this will become more instinctive for you.

Before you go to bed or put you baby or toddler to nap, think about the room, bedding, potential draughts and how the room might change as the night (or day) progresses. This will soon become second nature to you.


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