Pediatricians, and probably your mother, will tell you that if you need a coat, the baby does too. If you’re hot, the baby’s also probably hot. That makes perfect sense. They are just tiny little people who are supposed to have the same 98.6-degree core temperature as us bigger versions. But there’s a little more to it than that.
If your house is poorly insulated and you don’t have an efficient heater, it could get too cold for your baby because the things that work to keep us warm don’t also work for the young ones.
Babies can’t regulate their body temperature
Adults shiver and hug themselves or move around to warm up when they’re cold. Babies can’t do any of those things. Fortunately, they do have a built-in defense against the cold that will keep them from suffering hypothermia in 50- to 60-degree temperatures. Brown adipose tissue is a special fat their little bodies can metabolize to stay warm. It’s similar to the fat found in hibernating mammals.
Prolonged cold can be bad for a baby’s development
If a baby regularly has to use those fat stores to stay warm, it can stress the baby and cause other health issues. It can also suppress the baby’s appetite and keep the child from eating and growing.
How warm should the house be for a baby?
Pediatricians recommend keeping room temperatures between 65 and 74 degrees for babies.
Don’t use blankets
If your house is always colder than the recommended minimum temperature, a blanket seems like an obvious solution. However, pediatricians urge parents not to use blankets or any soft bedding in cribs until children are at least a year old. New babies can be tightly swaddled in receiving blankets anytime. But loose blankets have been blamed in cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Can I use a space heater?
If you’re home is too cold and there’s no way to keep it warm enough otherwise, a radiant space heater that uses an electric element and an oil or fluid that retains and radiates heat is a decent short-term solution. Put one in the baby’s room and close the door so the heat stays in the room. Crack the door if it’s getting too hot or consider buying a heater with a thermostat.
Space heaters will likely result in higher electric bills, but sometimes they’re the only option in the short term.
Fix the heat problem for good
If your house is too cold for your baby, contact the Energy Resource Center. We perform home energy audits and make permanent home energy efficiency repairs free for income-qualified families. We frequently add insulation to homes and sometimes help homeowners replace broken or dangerous furnaces. The ERC helps dozens of families every year in the Denver Metro area, the Pikes Peak Region and the San Luis Valley.