Swaddled babies sleep sounder, scratch their faces less, and learn how to self-soothe. However, some parents have concerns.
Is it safe to swaddle your baby in the summer heat?
What can you do to enjoy the benefits of swaddling without overheating your baby?
We took a closer look at swaddling during those sweltering summer months to find the answer.
Understanding Your Baby’s Body Temperature
Babies are not able to regulate their body temperature. They cannot shiver when they are cold and they are unable to remove layers of warmth, such as clothing and blankets, when they get hot (1).
That is why you must continuously monitor a host of factors to ensure your baby is comfortable and safe.
These factors include:
- Your baby’s natural temperature range.
- The temperature of your baby’s environment.
- How many clothing layers your baby is wearing.
- What sort of fabric the clothes are made of.
If you keep these factors in mind, you will be able to swaddle your baby safely during the hottest months of the year.
Tips for Swaddling Your Baby in the Summer
Here are some basic tips for swaddling during the summer.
1. Find the Perfect Wrap
Not every swaddling blanket is created equal.
During the summer, choose a wrap made of 100 percent cotton. Cotton is light and breathable.
Muslin is a form of cotton that is also very popular for summertime swaddling.
You can even find special wraps designed to make swaddling trouble-free. Instead of a large blanket wrapped around your baby in a certain pattern, these wraps feature easy-to-use pouches and zippers.
2. Check Your Baby’s Clothes
When you swaddle your baby, what do they wear? What are baby clothes made out of?
In the summer, make sure your baby’s clothing is light and dressed appropriately for the hot weather. They should not need more than one layer of clothes. You can even swaddle your baby when they are only wearing a diaper.
When swaddling in the summer, it is also important to make sure your baby’s head isn’t covered by a hat or by the swaddling wrap itself. Heat escapes through the head and keeping it uncovered will help your baby stay cool.
3. Check Your Baby’s Environment
Your baby isn’t the only thing with the potential to overheat in the summer. Your house, car, and stroller can all become sweltering hot. It is especially important to monitor your baby’s room temperature in your baby’s room — babies are most often swaddled when they are put to sleep in their crib.
To keep the room cool in the summer, consider drawing the blinds or curtains during the day and keeping the lights off. You can also use a fan, placed safely away from where your baby could reach it. Make sure to store fans away when your baby is mobile in any way.
If your room is hot despite the use of a fan, it is okay not to swaddle your baby. Leave baby with diaper only and have her sleep on her back.
Editor's Note:Dr. Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD
4. Try Summer Swaddling Techniques
Many different swaddling techniques exist, based on what your baby needs and preferences on how you like to wrap the blanket. Here are two different swaddling techniques that are particularly useful during the summer.
First, is a technique allowing part of your baby’s body to remain uncovered. This keeps your baby cool and allows their limbs access to the cool air around them provided by a fan or air conditioner. However, it also keeps the blanket tight and secure on the upper body, which will prevent your baby from kicking off the blanket.
The second technique is known as the arms only swaddle. It is ideal for older or larger babies who have trouble sleeping because their arm movements startle them awake.
5. Use a Powder
Use a baby-safe powder containing cornstarch to absorb sweat and prevent rashes. In the summer, there is a higher chance of your baby becoming toasty and warm. Friction and sweat can lead to rashes, especially at your baby’s joints. Apply the powder to cool, dry skin before swaddling your baby.
Be sure to put the powder on your hands first. You have to use caution when applying powder — even baby powder — to a baby because it can hurt their lungs when inhaled (2).
A Word of Warning
Your first thought on how to keep your baby cool when swaddling may be to wrap your baby loosely in the swaddling blanket. This can be very dangerous. Should your baby be wrapped too loosely, they could kick off the blanket or wrap.
Loose items in the crib, including blankets, can increase your baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If the blanket ends up over your baby’s face or becomes constricted around their neck, it can lead to a scary, and potentially fatal, situation.
Always make sure you swaddle your baby tightly. If you are concerned about how to swaddle correctly, talk to your pediatrician. Nurses and doctors can instruct you in safe techniques. You can also reach out to trained midwives and doulas.
Is My Baby Overheating?
The easiest way to ensure you swaddle your baby safely during the summer is to monitor your baby’s temperature and watch for signs of overheating.
These are the signs you should be looking for (3):
- Hot skin: Feel your baby’s ears and cheeks. If they are hot to the touch and red, your baby may be overheated.
- Sweat: If your baby is sweating at all, they are too warm. If you are concerned they may have gotten too warm, unswaddle them to see.
- Rapid breathing: Check to see how fast your baby’s breathing is. Fast, shallow breathing is a sign of overheating.
- Room temperature: Your baby could be too hot if they are swaddled and the room is hotter than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Trust your instincts! When in doubt, don’t hesitate to unswaddle your baby and check on them.
Cooling Your Baby Down
If your baby has become overheated, remain calm.
Here are several ways you can safely cool your baby down in no time:
- Remove your baby from the swaddle. If needed, remove their clothing.
- Carefully fan your baby or rock them away from your body next to an electric fan.
- Using a soft washcloth, gently apply lukewarm water — not cold — directly to their skin.
- If your baby seems extremely hot or if they may have been hot for quite some time, give them a rehydration fluid such as Pedialyte or breastfeed or give them baby formula (4).
If your baby vomits or loses consciousness due to heat, call emergency services, or travel to the hospital right away. These signs could signal heatstroke and your baby needs to be assessed right away.