Baby Winter Clothes: What Should My Child Wear to Fight the Chill?

These baby winter clothes guidelines will keep your little one warm, safe, and comfortable throughout the chilly season. 

Worried about keeping your little one warm this winter? Whether you're playing outside, driving in the car, or staying indoors, these guidelines for baby girl and boy winter clothes can help you pick the perfect outfit.

Buckle Me baby coats
Buckle Me Baby Coats

Clothes for the Car

Experts advise against bulky coats, bunting, and sleeping bags (or "cozies") that attach to car seats because they can compress in a crash, increasing a baby's risk of injury. The American Academy of Pediatrics considers these products to be unnecessary anyway.

What should you do instead? Dress your baby in thin layers, then use a blanket after she's buckled in. You can also buy a fitted aftermarket cover as long as it's approved by your car-seat manufacturer; no covers should go between the baby and the harness straps. On very cold days, try a long-sleeved one-piece under a one-piece footed fleece outfit, suggests Carole Kramer-Arsenault, R.N., founder of Boston Baby Nurse and author of The Baby Nurse Bible. Depending on the weather, you can also add a cotton sweater.

Use thick or multiple blankets when transporting her to the car in her seat and have to walk a few blocks. You can also use an older baby's coat instead of a blanket, but put her arms into it backwards, after she's buckled in. Once the car heats up, remove the blanket or coat if your baby seems warm.

Clothes for Talking a Walk

Fresh air is important for your baby, even when the weather is chilly. As long as he was born full term, is at least 3 weeks old, and weighs 12 pounds, taking a 15- to 30-minute walk when it's 25°F or higher can do wonders for you both, says Kramer-Arsenault. (If your baby was preterm or has a medical condition, consult your pediatrician first.)

Since babies lose heat more rapidly than adults do, experts agree that a good rule of thumb is dressing your child in one more layer than you would wear in the same conditions. So if you're going out in a long-sleeved T-shirt and a winter jacket, add a sweater to your baby's long-sleeved outfit, plus a bunting or a coat. Top it off with mittens, a snug-fitting hat, and warm boots if the bunting doesn't cover his feet. An attachable sleeping bag is fine for a walk in a stroller (but, again, do not use it during a car ride). Adding a stroller windscreen will help protect your baby's delicate skin from windburn, but avoid walks if the wind is biting.

You'll know your baby has had enough winter weather if his eyes tear up, he becomes fussy, or he starts crying. Also watch for signs of hypothermia—such as blue lips, shivering, or an unusually pale appearance to the nose or ears—and cut your outing short so that you can get somewhere warm quickly, suggests David Hill, M.D., a pediatrician in Wilmington, North Carolina, and author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro.

Clothes for Playing in the Snow

Outfitting a kid of any age for snow play can be a hassle, but don't let that prevent your little explorer from experiencing one of winter's greatest pleasures. By 6 months, even before she can walk, she will probably be excited by snow's novel texture, says Dr. Hill. The rules for newborn baby winter clothes for snow play have a large emphasis on staying dry.

A waterproof snowsuit with attached feet—or a snow jacket and waterproof pants and boots—are a must, says Dr. Hill. Don't forget a hat and waterproof mittens, though you can take them off momentarily to allow your baby to feel the snow with her bare hands. Of course, you'll need to be ready to dry and warm them quickly afterwards. Also add sunscreen and sunglasses, since the sun's rays reflect off of snow.

There is no set limit on the amount of time she can play, says Dr. Hill, so use your best judgment and take her inside at the first sign of discomfort.

Clothes for Staying Indoors

You may be tempted to bundle your baby up even when you're inside, but don't go overboard. "The ideal temperature is between 68° and 72°F, and the one-more-layer rule of thumb applies indoors too," says Kramer-Arsenault. "So if you're comfortable in two layers, your baby needs three." A good way to check to see if he's too hot or cold is to put a hand on his tummy or back, which should be warm but not sweaty.

Keeping your baby from becoming too warm is especially important when he's sleeping, since overheating can contribute to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). At bedtime, zip him into a sleep sack (or a receiving blanket that is carefully swaddled and stays below his armpits) instead of using a blanket, which also increases the risk of SIDS.

Sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, and rapid breathing are all signs of overheating, so if you observe them, remove a layer of clothing. But there's no need to go crazy checking on him every five minutes: If he's sleeping soundly, his crib is clear of loose bedding, and the temperature is set to the appropriate range, he's probably just right.

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