Babies are unable to regulate their body temperature in the same way that adults can.
They lack the ability to shiver to stay warm because they have a higher amount of brown adipose tissue (brown fat). The amount of brown fat that a baby has on their body decreases with age, enabling them to shiver more effectively as they grow into young children.
While your baby is still a newborn, their body surface area is high (around three times higher than yours as an adult), meaning he or she loses heat from their skin much more quickly than you do. Alongside the inability to shiver, this high surface area means your baby can easily get too hot or cold.
Babies who are born prematurely (before 37 weeks) or are born with a low birth weight are more prone to the effects of poor temperature regulation because they tend to have less brown fat on their bodies than full-term babies.
However, whether your baby was born early or at term, you still need to pay special attention to their body temperature. It’s important that you know how hot or cold your baby should be, how to check their body temperature and the steps you can take to cool them down or warm them up if needed.
Luckily, you don’t need to look any further to find these answers because we’re going to cover all of this important information below so you can have a healthy baby after pregnancy.
What Should a Newborn’s Temperature Be?
When taken under the armpit, newborns should have a temperature reading between 97.5 to 99.3 degrees Fahrenheit (36.5 to 37.4 degrees Celsius). A baby’s average and optimal rectal temperature is 100.2 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius.
When measuring your baby’s temperature, it’s important to use the right type of thermometer. The best thermometer to use is a basic digital one that reads to 0.1 of a degree. Avoid taking your baby’s temperature as soon as they’re out of the bath, as this won’t give an accurate reading.
Note that you don’t need to take your newborn’s temperature every day! This is unnecessary and may cause distress to your baby. Take their temperature only when you suspect they have a fever, are overheating, or are showing signs of hypothermia.
The Importance of Temperature Regulation in Babies
Proper temperature regulation is essential for the health and safety of newborns. Since they can’t shiver, have immature sweat glands, and have a high surface area-to-body ratio, they are more prone to hypothermia or hyperthermia than adults.
A baby’s body temperature influences their sleep-wake cycle, metabolism, and immune function, so it’s clear to see why proper thermoregulation is so vital for their well-being. Plus, being too hot or cold can cause your baby to feel uncomfortable and cry.
How to Keep Your Baby at the Optimal Temperature
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to keep your little one at the perfect temperature. As scary of a task as this might sound, there are lots of helpful things you can do if your baby is too hot or cold.
Keep reading because we’ve covered some of the best ways to keep your baby warm if they’re cool to touch or cool them down if they’re overheating.
Keeping Your Baby Warm
Here are some great things you can do to warm your newborn up if their temperature drops below the optimal range:
- Add layers – dress your baby with more layers, including fluffy cardigans, thick jumpers, or warm baby wraps. If this isn’t enough, add a onesie or bodysuit underneath.
- Dress them in a hat – babies lose a lot of heat from their heads, so something as simple as dressing them in a hat can warm them up quickly.
- Swaddle your baby – use a soft blanket to snuggle your baby and wrap them up warm, ensuring it’s not too tight, and they can still breathe properly.
- Adjust the room temperature – ideally, the room should be between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 22.2 degrees Celsius). Use a room thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust as necessary.
- Use warm bedding – cover your baby with a warm, soft cotton blanket when they’re asleep, making sure it doesn’t cover their face. Before you go to sleep, check that they aren’t too hot. If they are, remove the blanket or switch it to a lighter one.
Cooling Your Baby Down
If your baby is hot to touch, has very red cheeks, or is showing signs of fever, try these strategies to cool them down:
- Remove layers – if your little one is dressed in multiple layers, remove a couple. If they’re dressed in a single onesie, try and find an alternative that is made from cooler materials or undo the top button.
- Keep their head cool – again, your baby’s head is an important place to turn your attention if your little one is too hot. Remove their hat and ensure their face is covered from direct sunlight if you’re outside.
- Cool the room down – use a fan or open a window to reduce the room temperature to the ideal range.
- Run a cooling bath for your baby – a bath filled with lukewarm water is the perfect way to cool your baby down during hot summers.
- Keep your baby hydrated – dehydration can cause your little one to overheat, so make a conscious effort to increase their fluid intake.
- Check your baby’s diaper – a filled diaper can cause your baby to feel hot, uncomfortable, and irritated. Make sure to check your little one’s diaper regularly and change it as soon as it’s wet or soiled.
Paying close attention to your baby’s temperature is essential, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. If you enter a new room or go outside with your baby, remember to check their temperature by gently touching their skin so you can take action to warm them up or cool them down if needed.