Mother and son in winter park

With winter weather approaching, you may be wondering if it’s safe to take your baby outside. The short answer is yes.

Fresh air and a change of scenery is stimulating and healthy for babies.

You can go for a brief walk around your neighborhood or a local park, visit the zoo, or even take your baby for some gentle sledding on a flat trail — just remember to take some precautions.

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Winter Car Seat Safety

You know the basics of car seat safety: Always keep your baby buckled in the back seat, facing backwards until age 2. But in cold weather, some extra rules apply for winter car seat safety.

  • Don’t dress your baby in a bulky snowsuit or heavy winter coat. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that padding could flatten in a crash, allowing baby to slip through the car seat straps. Your baby can also become overheated under heavy clothing.
  • Fit the straps of the car seat snugly over your baby’s chest. If you can fit more than two fingers underneath the straps of the harness, it’s not tight enough.
  • Add a blanket for warmth only after you buckle baby up. Use a car seat cover only if it can fit over the baby once they’re buckled in. Make sure it doesn’t cover their face.

Dressing Your Baby for the Great Outdoors

You don’t have to forgo family fun outside because it’s cold. But do keep these tips in mind:

  • Dress your baby in layers. Start with a snug, thin layer (like tights, leggings, and bodysuits) under pants and shirt. Then add a fleece jacket or snowsuit over their clothing.
  • Remember that a good rule of thumb is that babies should wear one more layer of clothing than adults.
  • Cover as much of your baby’s skin as possible with mittens, socks, and boots. You may put a hat on your baby if you are outdoors in cold weather but take it off once you are inside.
  • Change clothing that becomes wet, especially mittens, hats, and socks.

When you check the weather report, play special attention to the wind chill. A wind speed of 10 or 15 miles per hour can significantly lower how cold the air feels. Because they’re smaller than adults, babies lose heat more quickly, which puts them at greater risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend time outside this winter – along with dressing your baby appropriately, take frequent breaks and go inside to warm up during cold weather.

Protecting your baby’s skin

No matter the season, you need to keep an eye on baby’s delicate skin. Your baby’s skin can be irritated by the weather changes, so here are some suggestions:

  • Make sure your baby stays hydrated by nursing more often or offering an extra bottle.
  • Use a hypoallergenic moisturizer after baby’s bath. You can also smooth a little petroleum jelly on your baby’s face before heading outside.
  • Use a sunscreen for babies older than 6 months, especially if you’re in high altitudes.

Indoor Winter Safety

Winter safety precautions aren’t just for outside. There are some you should follow inside as well.

  • Use a sleep sack instead of piling the crib with blankets, which are a Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) hazard.
  • Watch for signs of overheating, another SUID risk. Your baby shouldn’t sweat at night and her chest shouldn’t feel hot when she’s sleeping.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month.
  • Have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your house.
  • Prevent your baby from getting too close to any fireplaces (gas or wood-burning), radiators, and space heaters.

Following these tips will help you have a safe, healthy winter season. And if you have any questions, feel free to discuss with your pediatrician.

Sources

American Academy of Pediatrics, Tips to Keep Kids Warm All Winter, Link

American Academy of Pediatrics, Buckle, don't bundle children in car seats this winter, Link

American Academy of Pediatrics, Cold Weather Safety, Link

American Academy of Pediatrics, Winter Car Seat Safety Tips from the AAP, Link

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Cold Weather Safety, Link

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Stay Safe During & After a Winter Storm, Link

Canadian Paediatric Society, Frostbite, Link

Pediatrics, SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths, Link

About Pediatrics

From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a national leader in pediatric care, ranking consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. We provide expert treatment for pediatric diseases, along well-child visits, urgent care, and more. With locations across Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia, you can find world-class care close to home. We also work closely with UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, a national leader in care for newborns and their mothers. Our goal is to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond. Visit our website to find a doctor near you.