How to cool a baby down in hot weather is at the forefront of most parents' minds when a heatwave is imminent. Here we ask experts for tips on keeping infants cool.
Sunshine and soaring temperatures are two factors that parents are extra-vigilant of in the summer months. The intense temperatures during a heatwave leave our little ones feeling irritable, uncomfortable, and in extreme circumstances, susceptible to baby dehydration (opens in new tab).
Whilst the latter may sound alarming, there are a number of simple tips that parents can try to alleviate a warm baby - from keeping the house cool (opens in new tab) to investing in the right sheets to help babies to sleep (opens in new tab). As paediatrician and clinical adviser Dr Sharryn Gardener (opens in new tab), explains: “Parents shouldn't immediately panic if their babies or children do get hot and bothered on warm days - it can often be easily remedied. However, what's most vital is knowing how to prevent things from becoming serious, how to spot the signs of dehydration or heatstroke, and taking quick action if they occur.”
How to cool a baby down in hot weather
1. Up their fluids
It’s essential for parents to monitor and increase their baby’s fluid intake during warm weather, says Dr Sharryn.
“On a very hot day, babies may need as much as 50% more breast milk - so ensure they have a lot of opportunities to drink,” she tells us. “If they have formula feeds, they can be offered small amounts of cooled boiled water on top of normal feeds.”
Mothers who are breastfeeding (opens in new tab) should also ensure they keep their fluid levels up to increase their own hydration and subsequent milk supply.
Babies who are weaning (opens in new tab) or older than 6 months, can take regular sips of water from a cup. Whilst those aged 1 or over can be offered regular water, very diluted fruit juice, or frozen lollies of water, which are “great ways of ensuring they take in fluids and avoid dehydration.”
Signs of dehydration in babies to look out for are fewer wet nappies (under 6 in a day), less tears when crying, a lack of energy or a dry mouth that’s tacky inside.
If you are worried that your little one is showing symptoms, it’s important not to worry and to promptly feed them or give them water. Keeping them away from direct sunlight and in the shade will also help maintain healthy hydration levels, says Dr Sharryn.
2. Apply a cold compress
A cold wet flannel or makeshift ice compress is a quick and readily available hack that will help to cool a baby down in hot weather.
“If your baby or toddler is overheating, try wrapping a few ice cubes in a muslin square and use this to cool down your baby in their crib or buggy,” says Phoebe Davenport (opens in new tab), Founder and Consultant at Oakleaf Private Childcare.
“Jojo Maman Bebe have extra large muslin squares which are great for this as they create an extra layer between your baby’s skin and the ice pack. You can then nestle this into your babies buggy and this is wonderful to use at home on a hot night in their crib.”
Try Jojo Maman Bebe’s Extra Large Duck Print Muslin, £10.99 (opens in new tab)
3. Give them a bath
Experts agree that a splash in the tub is perfect for cooling little ones down during the day or before bed.
“If you’re worried about your little one feeling uncomfortable and sticky, opt for a cool or lukewarm bath for baby just before bedtime,” says Steve Pickering, CEO of Sussex Beds.
Scientists found that a bath before bed helps to lower the body's core temperature (opens in new tab), which in turn aids better sleep.
The NHS also recommends a cool bath before bed and a dip in a shallow paddling pool for older infants - as long as there's no hosepipe ban (opens in new tab) in place, of course.
"Playing in a paddling pool is a good way of keeping babies and children cool," their website (opens in new tab) states. "Keep the pool in the shade during very hot weather and supervise the children carefully at all times."
4. Choose cool surfaces
According to Angela Spencer (opens in new tab), founder and author of Babyopathy, it’s good practice to check the temperature of surfaces where you are putting your child down to rest, play or change.
“Just as important as the materials on your baby’s skin is the surface that you lay them on, make sure it’s not sticky like a changing mat (put a muslin down first for example when changing in the middle of the night) and not too hot like a fleece just because it is softer,” she says.
It’s also worth investing in special cooling mats that feature hydrophilic cooling gel, which slot into a number of newborn prams and helps keep their temperature down on summer days. What’s more, these mats can be placed in the fridge or freezer for a few hours to improve their cooling effect.
Try LittleLife’s Buggy Cooling Pad, £12.49 (opens in new tab)
5. Dress them in suitable and minimal clothing
As with adults, what your baby wears on their body during sunny days can drastically affect their temperature.
Certain fabrics and items are better suited for warmer weather as Dr Sharryn notes, and making conscious clothing choices can help cool your baby down in the heat.
"Wearing the right clothing is key. Loose fitting clothes which cover their arms and legs are best," she tells us. "Breathable fabrics such as cotton are advised and you can also find SPF protective clothing in some shops. Wide brimmed baby sun hats (opens in new tab) (or those with neck flaps) with air vents are also really important, as are sunglasses."
If you've dressed them in appropriate clothing and are still concerned that they are overheated, then don't be afraid to strip off their layers.
"Remove clothes down to the nappy in a completely shaded area or put on fresh natural fibre loose-fitting clothes," adds Dr Sharryn. "You should also remove hats to allow heat loss from all of the head."
Try Jojo Maman Bebe's Broderie Anglaise White Cotton Baby Hat, £10 (opens in new tab)
6. Light layers at night
Loose, natural layers are also recommended on hot nights when trying to cool your baby down for sleep.
“The general rule of thumb for clothing at night is that your baby would need one extra layer of thin clothing to what you need," says expert Angela Spencer. "So if you don’t need anything due to the heat, a thin vest top over their nappy should be sufficient and breathable.”
Try John Lewis & Partners Baby White Organic Cotton Short Sleeve Bodysuits, £10 (opens in new tab) (pack of 5)
7. Invest in cotton baby sheets
"In the warmer weather, change baby's bottom sheets to cotton rather than nylon - the latter will absorb sweat." explains sleep expert Steve Pickering.
It's important to make sure the sheet is safely secured in your baby's cot bed (opens in new tab), so that there's a reduced risk of the sheet coming loose and covering your little one in the night.
Try John Lewis & Partners Baby's White Pram/Crib Flat Sheets, £12.60 (opens in new tab) (pack of 2)
8. Ventilate and shade their bedroom
While it's generally thought to be best to keep windows closed in hot weather (opens in new tab), Dr Sharryn says "Keep their bedroom curtains or blinds closed during the day (with windows and doors open) to stop the rooms heating up too much before bed."
Another tip is to invest in a fan for their room which you can turn on ahead of their bedtime.
“If the room is very hot a fan generally just moves hot air about, so a good trick is to freeze a bottle of water and stand it in a bowl in front of the fan straight from the freezer.” Angela suggests. “This will help to cool the air the fan is moving around in the room and by the time the temperature starts to drop the water will have defrosted.
“Start this about half an hour before you put baby to bed so you can check the room temperature is safe for your baby’s bedtime.”
Try Keplin Cooling 13-inch Tower Fan, £36.99 (opens in new tab)
9. Sleep downstairs
If you're in a house remember that heat rises, so a simple solution that parents can try to cool a baby down at night is to switch up where they sleep.
“If it really is too hot upstairs, change to sleeping in a room downstairs for a while as it will be slightly cooler,” says Angela Spencer. “Our heatwaves never last that long so it will likely only be a couple of days that you have to change to a cooler room.”
10. Pushchair accessories
Pushchair gadgets and added extras like detachable parasols and fans are a parent’s best friend in the heat.
“Fans clipped to prams or pushchairs (opens in new tab) can be really handy if you’re out and about,” says Dr Sharryn. This is because they’ll shade your baby without stopping air flow.
One common misconception is to cover your baby’s pushchair or pram with a blanket to keep them cool and shaded - but this is incredibly dangerous.
“Never cover the buggy with a blanket or muslin when baby is inside,” Chloe Westmore (opens in new tab), a Developmental Baby Massage & Story Massage leader at Do It Like A Mother tells us. “It will act as insulation and the temperature can build to 40 degrees in a pram. Instead use a parasol and buggy fan.”