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Baby, It's Cold Outside

We’ve been incredibly spoiled this winter up here in the Northeast; with temperatures unseasonably warm, Maddie’s been able to indulge her passion for the outdoors pretty much unabated. We have yet to have our first snowfall, and in fact this past December was the first December without snow in 120 years. And just a couple weeks ago we had an entire Saturday at 70 balmy degrees!

But I know that this weather won’t last – we’re descending into the 20s and 30s this week, much more typical for this time of year. So I’ve been reading up on how to keep Maddie warm and safe (since telling my toddler “no” to the outdoors is definitely not my favorite option) and I thought I’d pass on what I’ve learned.

First up is that whole “How much should baby be wearing?” thing. Believe me, in the first few months with Maddie I could walk down the street and have five people stop me – two thinking she was dressed too warm, two thinking she wasn’t wearing enough, and one berating me for having her outside at all. Everyone’s got an opinion, but everyone’s also heard the old adage, “Dress baby in the same amount you’re wearing, plus one more layer.”

This is true if you’re dealing with a newborn; newborns don’t generally have good temperature regulators and can lose heat very quickly. However, they soon learn to self-regulate, so after the first month or two you want to dress your child in the same amount of clothing you yourself are wearing. As you do that, take into consideration the amount of activity both of you will be doing. By this I mean, if you’re pushing a six-month-old around in a stroller while you run errands on foot, you’re going to heat up a lot faster than the Empress riding in style. Last winter I’d quickly start shedding layers, clocking a couple miles a day while pushing a stroller. As for Maddie, I had to remember that 1) she wasn’t exerting herself at all (unless you count trying to take her mittens off as exertion); and 2) she was in front of me, cutting the wind.

So I dressed Maddie warmly and resisted the urge to undress her as I warmed up, unless I was sure it was the weather and not my body’s rising temperature. In addition, I used this amazing stroller blanket from Mobile Moms, and I highly recommend it. It’s windproof, water-resistant, very cosy and warm, lightweight, and machine washable. You can install the sleeping bag-like thing in most strollers, threading the straps through easily. And if the day seems a bit warmer you can remove the top blanket portion quickly, leaving the base underneath. It’s also a generous length, and works well with babies through 2- or 3-year-olds. Definitely a fantastic invention, and the best of the stroller blankets I’ve test-driven. Plus, with this in your stroller you never have to wrestle your child into a snow suit; simply put on a coat and hat and mittens and pop her in the cozy blanket. This company also makes a nice cuddler that goes over a soft carrier like the Bjorn, or an infant car seat/stroller.

If you’re working with a stroller-bound infant and are going in and out of stores, try to do layers that are easy to alter without a fight. For me, this meant unzipping the stroller blanket, unzipping Maddie’s coat, and removing her hat while inside. The mittens were nonnegotiable; it was too much of an argument to get them back on.

When dealing with windburn, you may find a lot of fancy baby products on the market – sticks of balms or butters for baby’s sensitive skin. Trust me – save yourself the money and buy a tub of Vaseline. It’s completely harmless if eaten, and putting a dab of it on baby’s cheeks and nose will keep them from turning that permanent, drinking-too-much-brandy red from the cold wind.

When you get to active baby or toddler stage, it gets a bit more complicated. Now you’re having to think in reverse – baby’s probably going to be more active than you are, and so will need to be dressed accordingly. The best bet here is plenty of layers. I’ll bundle Maddie in a long-sleeved onesie, a fleece hoodie, and her down coat; if she begins to get too hot I can take off the hoodie inside. Madeleine’s also a big fan of tights, so I layer them under her jeans for a little extra leg warmth if need be. Just go easy on all that clothing, because you don’t want your child overheating. If she’s getting red-faced and sweaty, she may need a little cooling down.

Now for the biggest piece of clothing advice: make your kids wear their accessories. No exceptions. I see moms on the playground running ineffectively after their 2-year-old, saying, “Don’t you want to wear your hat? Everyone else is wearing a hat! It’s awfully cold outside! Ok, put your hat on or we’re going home! I mean it! Please? Please?”

To me, the time for hats and mittens is before you leave the house, not after. Maddie understands that if she wants to go out she has to wear them. Period. It was a long struggle, but now she’ll try to help put the mittens on just to get out of the house faster. Mittens at the park makes it a bit harder for her to pick things up, but she understands that’s life. I have to remove my gloves to help her with her snack, but otherwise wear a hat and gloves too so I’m modeling good behavior for her. I know it’s hard when you’re desperate to get out of the house and let your kid let off some steam, but stick to your guns and he’ll quickly understand. Accessories are a must.

If you head outside when it’s really cold, make sure you bring water. You dehydrate surprisingly quickly in cold weather: in an effort to protect your lungs from the cold air you take shallower breaths, which means you take more breaths, which means you breathe out more water molecules. So keep urging water on your child and they’ll last longer.

And finally, the runny nose thing. There’s a protective mechanism that kicks in during cold weather; something gets triggered when you breathe cold air through your nose in an effort to warm that air before it hits your lungs. Unfortunately, a side effect is that your nose begins running. So seeing a child in the park with a runny nose doesn’t necessarily mean he’s sick.

But it does mean you’re happy you made your kid wear mittens, and thus is less likely to catch something if it is a cold.

For the moms that are already cold-weather pros, do you have any helpful hints?


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