First published in Coles Baby Magazine, Spring 2007, as just ‘Climate Control’
We often forget that Australia can be a country of variable climate conditions. Yet from the tropics, down to the southern regions, all over there is one similarilty: we want to ensure our babies are kept safe. With a bit of care, this is easily achievable.
Babies born in warmer areas usually adjust quickly to their environment. Many parents worry their child might need extra fluids. Offer them if you want, but if the baby refuses and is otherwise well, it’s a pretty good sign he just doesn’t need them.
Naturally, it would be wise to avoid exposure to direct sunlight during the peak hours of the day, and take appropriate measures when going outside (hat, sunscreen etc.). Natural fibres are best for dressing, because synthetics do not breathe. Sweating babies often break out in heat rashes. These are clusters of red dots, like pimples, which appear on the moister areas of the body, like the armpits, groin, and skin folds. Heat rashes tend to heal within a few days, but if your baby has a rash you are concerned about, please refer to your doctor.
For sleeping, dress your baby lightly, and use a fan if needs be, but ensure you do not face it directly towards the cot. For extra cooling effect, a wet towel draped over the cot edge is generally effective.
As parents are educated about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), one of the risk factors they learn of is a baby’s overheating, particularly at bedtimes. A UK survey in 2003 showed that 56% of parents did not know the best room temperature at which to put their babies to sleep. This is generally agreed to be between 16-20 degrees Celsius.
Dr Miriam Stoppard uses this chart as a guideline when making up a cot with linens:
Sheet and 4 blankets
Sheet and 3 blankets
Sheet and 2 blankets
Sheet and 1 blanket
Room thermometers are available in baby supply stores and selected chemists to take the guesswork out of gauging whether a room is ideally suitable for a sleeping baby.
No baby can be completely protected against SIDS; however, if they are laid down to sleep on their backs and being kept away from cigarette smoke, the risks are already greatly reduced.
During the day, if you are concerned about a baby’s temperature, it is usually best to feel their chest or stomach for warmth (legs and arms are not a reliable indicator). If they are warm, not too hot, then that is a good sign.
Then it’s time for other important things – like playing!