Safe Winter Swaddling Strategies

When the weather gets colder, some parents think that they need to run out and buy a thick fleecy swaddle blanket or swaddle garment right away. Being too warm is a risk factor for SIDS, so it is worth making a thoughtful plan to swaddle safely in the winter months.  Here are some ideas about swaddling for the winter season:

  1. Your home doesn’t have to be super warm for a newborn, but they don’t regulate their temperature as well as older babies or adults.  An open window creating a breeze will cool them off too much if they are sleeping nearby, so drop the thermostat before you crack that window.
  2. We layer for comfort, so they can layer as well. Swaddling creates “neutral warmth”, the retained warmth of the baby’s body.  If you are concerned that your child is too warm, use a cotton onesie and a cotton flannel blanket, both reasonably breathable options.  The space between the layers can hold some warmth, so even though the fabrics are light, your child could be warm enough with just two light layers.
  3. Think he’s too hot?  Touch the back of his neck and behind his ears.  If he is sweaty there, then he is indeed too warm.  Use a lighter fabric for swaddling, or take off the onesie and re-swaddle in just a diaper.  If you live in a warmer locale or in an apartment with lots of heat, your baby might do much better in the summer-weight fabrics like muslin.  If the heat is unregulated and very warm, you may not be able to swaddle at all.  I used to live in a top-floor NYC apartment that allowed me to wear at tee shirt to bed in January!
  4. Think he’s too cold?  If your child’s face is cold, then that might be true.  Before you pop him into a fleece blanket or garment, think for a moment.  The fleece swaddle garments look so comfortable that they are tempting, but newborns will usually not cry when they are overheated, they just stay asleep.  The brain will try to get rid of excess heat but newborns don;t have the most effective temperature regulation wired into their brains at this early age.  A fleece pajama is loose compared with a fleece swaddle garment, and has less heat-holding fabric folds.

Be creative and thoughtful when you swaddle your newborn this season!

By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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