It's important to shield your infant from the elements, but overcompensating for frigid air isn't the answer. "Babies aren't able to regulate their temperature as well as adults, so they can easily overheat," notes Michael Schoenwetter, M.D., cocreator of the Newborn Care 101 DVD. We'll help you dress your kiddo right.
Step 1: Go with layers.
Build a light base: a footed romper -- or socks, a one-piece, and stretchy pants. "Cotton is best against baby skin," says Parents advisor Jody Alpert Levine, M.D., a pediatric dermatologist in New York City. Then add a middle layer with slightly heavier material like microfleece, followed by a water and wind-resistant outer shell made of nylon or a similar type of fabric.
Step 2: Cover those piggies and paws.
Tiny hands and feet are particularly susceptible to frostnip. "Infants' skin is thin and their blood vessels are immature and sensitive to changes in temperature," says Dr. Levine. So protect extremities with soft mittens, plus socks inside shoes or boots or footed buntings or snowsuits.
Step 3: Top it off.
"An infant's head has a larger surface area than an adult's in proportion to his body, so babies lose a lot more heat that way," says Dr. Schoenwetter. Hoods and soft fleece or knit caps with brims are great for shielding noggins from the elements. Look for ones with side flaps to keep ears insulated and that fasten under the chin so they'll stay put.
Step 4: Make adjustments.
To gauge a baby's temp, don't check her hands and feet, which tend to be colder. "The nape of the neck is a better indicator," says Dr. Schoenwetter. "If it's hot and damp, remove a layer; if it's cool, add one." Also remember to take off bulky pieces, like your child's coat or bunting, before buckling her into a car seat. "In an accident, thick material can compress, creating space between your baby's body and the straps, setting her up for injuries," he adds. "Once you've fastened the harness tightly, tuck the coat over the straps like a blanket."
Step 5: Be prepared
If you're taking a walk on a cold day, you'll want a bunting that zips around your car seat or stroller and a waterproof (but well ventilated) weather shield.