It’s that time of year again!
Christmas is over, and it is COLD. So, how cold is too cold? When is it OK to take small children out and how do you handle it?
If you’re like me there is only so much time you can handle being cooped up in the house. Add in an infant and a toddler or two and it can be even more challenging! Then, when you do go out, everyone and their grandma is giving you the stink-eye for exposing your baby to chilly temps and unknown pathogens.
Well, basically you have two options:
Stay home until spring.
So, how do you go about prepping baby for a trip in the great outside world?
Newborns and infants don’t really “play outside” when its cold. Weather with a wind chill below freezing isn’t really “newborn weather.” If you can, arrange to take older children out into the snow when baby is napping. If you’re not in a place where you can do that, or you need to walk to get somewhere, see tips on bundling baby up for trips.
Toddlers love the snow! Well, sometimes. Here are some solid instructions on taking your toddler outside in the cold:
Check to make sure it isn’t too cold. They can be out in the snow for short periods, but if the wind chill is below 15 or so degrees keep them in. If it’s between 15 and 32 degrees limit playtime to 20-30 minutes.
Check diapers and pants, encourage them to “go potty.”
Dress them warmly in pants, long sleeved shirts, and warm socks.
Over their clothes put snow pants, gloves or mittens, a coat, and boots.
Put on a warm hat and pull their hood up.
Plan to spend about 20-30 minutes outside playing. Children often get cold quickly and frustrated because they’re in snow clothes. Don’t get upset if it takes longer to prepare your child than they spend outside!
Once they're inside, bundle them up in warm blankets with a warm (not hot) drink. Snuggles are the best!
If you have to walk anywhere your child will probably get enough fresh air and cold and not be interested in playing outside and that’s ok! If you have to walk and it’s below 15 degrees, try to get someone else to watch baby so you can do errands. Or, see if someone can run your errands for you until it warms up a bit. Sometimes though, you do what you have to do!
Taking trips with a newborn / infant:
If you can, baby wear to keep baby close to you and warm (only when walking, when in a vehicle babies should ALWAYS be strapped into a car seat).
Dress baby in one more layer than you feel comfortable in.
If you take your coat off, take your baby’s off too. When you go inside they will overheat and not be able to tell you. Adjust their clothing as the temperature around them changes.
Don’t strap baby into a car seat with a heavy snowsuit or coat on. Instead, dress baby warmly, add a hat and warm hoodie overtop (fleece is great for this) and then buckle them in. Finally, cover baby in a blanket. Baby will be warm AND safe!
If you choose to cover the stroller with a blanket, make sure baby is getting plenty of fresh air.
If you can leave your car running to warm up before putting baby in that’s great – but if that’s not an option, keeping baby covered with a warm blanket will do the trick! If there has been snow, check the exhaust pipe to make sure it hasn't been covered up so exhaust won't back up into the car.
Above all, use common sense. If your baby is flushed and sweaty, he is too warm. If baby is shivering, he is too cold. Make sure he is not bundled so tightly that breathing is a problem. Safety first, and always make sure you’re using any baby equipment you have according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Trips with toddlers:
Don’t buckle toddlers in with puffy coats. You can use the coat to get her to the car, but then take it off, buckle her in, and put it on “backwards” to keep her warm (i.e. use it like a blanket with arms).
Layer! They get hot in the car, cold in the parking lot, hot in the store. You might feel like you’re spending a lot of time adjusting coverings, but that’s OK!
Be careful again with covering the stroller, make sure they can breathe properly.
Avoid scarves until they’re a bit older. Bundle up instead with an extra sweater or turtleneck to keep them warm.
Again, use common sense. Keep an eye on your child’s well-being and adjust their clothing as needed. Never leave a child in a car (whether or not its running) unattended. Make sure all children can breathe easily when they’re bundled up and always use a car seat / stroller / baby carrier in the way they’re intended.
What about for older kids and adults? Regardless of age, make sure you have extra blankets, hats, gloves, etc. in your car in case of a breakdown or accident. Every passenger should have a coat in the vehicle even if they don’t want to wear it. Even a short time in low temperatures without adequate protection could have long term consequences for children and adults.
Taking little ones out can be a chore, but it can also be very fun and very special. Remember, snow is new and magical to them – and there is no one they would rather enjoy it with than you!
Do you need help getting winter gear or blankets for your children? Do you have more questions about caring for your child in the cold? Contact New Beginnings at 724-658-6329. We can help!
Changing Lives Together,
Sarah M. Bowen
Note: This blog post is not intended to replace medical advice or common sense. Alpha Omega Center is not responsible for any choices you make regarding your child’s dress or travel arrangements.