(The Answer May Surprise You)
“She’s chilly,” your mother says. She takes your daughter from your arms and begins to button up the tiny sweater.
As you protest, your mother insists, “Better safe than sorry. You don’t want the baby to catch a chill.”
That’s age-old advice. But is it true?
Actually, more and more scientific data points to a cooler ambient temperature being ideal for your baby’s health –– especially during sleep. But what exactly does “cooler” mean? Is there an ideal ambient temperature so your baby stays healthy?
The latest research says there is. In fact, data shows that too chilly or too warm a room could negatively affect your baby’s health. She needs just the right ambient temperature while she rests.
Here are the cold hard facts about the ideal temperature for your baby’s sleep, plus ways to make sure she’s in the healthy zone every night.
Turn Up the Thermostat? Not So Fast, Scientists Say
While you may worry that your baby is too chilly at times, mounting research suggests that there are more risks to keeping a baby too hot at night than too cool.
In fact, overheating –– which can be caused by heavy clothing, blankets, or the ambient (room) temperature being too high –– is fourth on the Mayo Clinic’s list of environmental SIDS factors.
Scientists note that this is because your baby’s internal “thermostat” isn’t mature yet. While your adult body will struggle to maintain its ideal internal temperature, your baby’s body may simply not yet be up to the task. That could translate to a serious health risk, doctors say.
Chill Out…But Not Too Much
On the other hand, a room that’s far too cold could mean trouble too.
Once again, it’s your baby’s biological thermostat that’s the issue. Older children and adults shiver when they’re cold, which raises the temperature of the body to a safer level. But newborn babies don’t shiver from being cold.
The fascinating reason? Babies have a particular type of fat that’s there to keep their body temperature from plunging dangerously low…at least most of the time. But if the ambient room temperature of your baby’s nursery is too low, or if she’s on the smaller side and doesn’t have much fat overall, she could be in danger, experts warn.
For these reasons, you should never allow the ambient temperature of the nursery to go under a certain level.
The Wrong Temp Means Disrupted Sleep
There’s another factor here: like adults, babies who are either too hot or too cold will be wakeful at night.
This reaction is your child’s only defense against her body becoming dangerously hot or cold. But frequent waking is bad for her and for you. You’ll be tired and possibly less healthy, and she’ll be fussy.
Plus, frequent waking’s could mean baby is missing out on sleep that’s critical to her body development and even her brain growth.
Your Baby’s “Sweet Spot” for Sleep
Previous methods for checking whether babies were warm or cool enough included feeling the hands or nose. Another generations-old method was to feel the baby’s scalp for sweat.
We know you’d like a little more assurance than that. So here’s the bottom line: most pediatricians recommend an ambient (room) sleep temperature of 68-72°F (20-22°C).
Worried you’re not getting an accurate reading using the nursery thermostat? Try an ambient body temperature monitor like the MonBaby Essential Baby Monitor.
The obvious go-to answer if your child’s room is too hot or too cold is to adjust the thermostat. However, there are other things you can do to ensure your child is safe. Here are our best suggestions:
- Invest in an ACCURATE ambient temperature gauge.
- A temperature gauge that includes an alarm if things become too hot or too cold is ideal.
- Dress your baby in a diaper and sleep sack at night rather than putting more blankets into her crib. Heavy blankets aren’t just a suffocation hazard, they’re also associated with SIDS.
- Check all windows, doors and the line where the walls meet the ceiling for cracks where drafts could come in.
- Make sure your baby wears a reliable monitor so that if her respiration or heart rate change due to room temperature swings, you’ll be alerted.
- Are you waking up very hot or very cold? Chances are your baby is, too. Get your air conditioning and heating systems checked out by a professional.
- Your child’s temperature goes down at night, just as yours does. Take this into account when adjusting the ambient temperature of her room.
Once you’ve taken the steps to ensure the right ambient sleep temperature for your baby, we promise the whole family will rest easier. Remember: the safer you make your baby, the better you’ll feel too. That means you can relax…and perhaps get a bit of much-needed shuteye yourself.