Taking babies out in the Hudson Valley winter



Keeping babies toasty warm


Hudson Valley winters provide a challenge for new parents who wonder how to dress baby for the chill. Also, is it okay to bring baby out into the cold fresh air everyday? How do I dress them properly, or recognize when it's too cold?  And more! Here are some answers from Hudson Valley pediatricians.

Fresh air is good for babies
There is no reason to completely hibernate babies from the outdoors. “Parents have the misconception that babies should stay in during wintertime,” says Dr. Lin-Lin Remenar, pediatrician at Crystal Run Healthcare in Middletown. This is only partially true. “When we have nice sunny days fresh air is good but we worry about frostbite for babies,” says Dr. Remenar.

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Cover head and hands
The biggest defenses against winter weather ailments are hats and mittens. “Infants lose their heat much faster than adults and that is related to their larger head to body ratio,” said Dr. J. Keith Festa, vice president of medical affairs and family physician at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie. “They are not as efficient for mechanisms in generating heat so they cannot compensate as easily for the cold temperatures as adults do,” Dr. Festa says.

Parents should be cognizant of the three ways infants lose heat to the environment. “They lose heat according to unprotected surfaces on the body like their head and skin, wind chill and through direct contact like laying down on a cold bench or the ground,” says Dr. Festa.

Insulated material is recommended for baby clothing. “You want your inner layers to be made of polypropylene or silk and the outer layer to be more wind-resistant,” says Dr. Festa.

One good rule of thumb is that infants should have one more layer than an adult. Dress them in layers so if the baby starts to feel warm, you can peel layers off.

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Shorten outdoor playtime
“Do shorter times of play rather than trying to power a whole hour of play; try to break it down to twenty or thirty minutes twice a day,” says Dr. Remenar.
Know the warning signs of trouble. “If you have a nice 45 degree weather with a windchill going down to 30 degrees, it puts the kid at risk for frostbite. Babies can also get it from getting damp from a bit of sweating so you want to keep the baby nice, warm and dry,” says Dr. Remenar, who adds that cases of babies with frostbite are more common than we think.

If the extremities of the body start to look pale and flushed bring the child in right away; if it is hard and waxy on the skin, that is frostbite,” Dr. Remenar warns.
“You do not want to rub the area because if the skin is already injured you do not want to create more friction,” says Dr. Remenar. The key is to bring the baby back into a warm, dry place.

Bottle-warming?
"There is no real preparation for feeding babies in the cold, whether with formula or breastmilk,” says Dr. Remenar, “Do not warm it up any more than usual.

Jamie Lober writes frequently on pediatric and women’s issues. Reach her at Jamie@getpinkpower.com.