A random grandmotherly woman told me this once when she passed me and my first child on the street. My daughter, who was born in early August of that year, was probably about 6 weeks old. It was heading toward October but it was still pretty warm out, as it can be in Chicago in the fall. This woman seemed to feel she knew whether my baby was warm or cold due to the fact that she had no socks on. She kept kicking them off and since it was not, in fact, cold out and she seemed fine, I put them in my bag, rather than lose them.
For some reason, a lot of people are utterly convinced that babies have a freezing point of about 65 degrees, but I’m here to tell you it’s just not true. (In fact, 61-68 degrees Farenheit is considered the ideal temperature range for sleeping.) Yes, babies are not as able to regulate their body temperatures as we are and we should pay attention to making sure they are at a safe and comfortable temperature. But some people only ever seem to be worried that they are freezing their little tushies off, which is rarely the case. Overheating is a serious concern.
I am writing this now because it’s now that time of year when I start seeing, on a daily basis, babies so bundled up that I wonder if I should say something or mind my own business. Just like I didn’t appreciate that woman telling me my baby was cold when she was not, I’m sure that strangers on the street don’t want me boldly informing them that *I* know better than them. But I often see babies who are dressed in snowsuits, hats, strapped into handheld infant car seats that then also have thick blankets or buntings tucked in around them, or even over their heads. A 2008 study found that the mean prevalence of head covering among SIDS victims was 24.6% vs. 3.6 in the control group. Researchers do not know if the risk associated with head covering has to do with overheating, hypoxia, or rebreathing, though. So, yes, bundle baby up when you go outside in frigid temperatures; but never cover the face or head and always remove layers when you go inside, even if doing so risks waking a sleeping baby.
Babies are indeed sedentary compared to older children and adults and so may need a little more clothing than we do. But only as much as any person would need if they were merely sitting and resting instead of walking around and doing normal activities. If you are comfortably walking around outside with jeans and a short sleeve shirt, your baby really doesn’t need a fleece jacket over a cotton footed sleeper plus a receiving blanket and fleece hat (personally witnessed this one while strolling around an outdoor mall recently); a light blanket over the cotton sleeper and maybe a lightweight hat (maybe!) will do just fine.
In both sleep situations and during babywearing, it is important to keep baby warm but not so bundled as to allow them to become overheated. Remember that with babywearing, your body generates heat that helps keep baby warm. If you will wear baby in a carrier and then use a coat over both of you or a carrier cover of some kind, skip the snowsuit and use a light jacket and hat or possibly no jacket and just a hat. Bring extra layers with you in case you need to add them but don’t think that just because it’s winter that means baby needs a snowsuit (and a blanket, and a bunting, etc). Babies hands and feet may feel a little cool to the touch sometimes and this does not necessarily indicate baby is too cold! Feel the stomach or chest and if it is warm, baby is at a good body temperature.
(Citation: Blair PS, Mitchell EA, Heckstall-Smith EM, Fleming PJ. Head covering: a major modifiable risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome—a systematic review. Arch Dis Child. 2008;93(9):778–783)