Helping your baby stay cool in hot weather and get a good night’s sleep is probably the first worry that pops into your head when you hear the word heatwave.
Although summer is a great time for fun with little ones, it’s also the kind of thing that wrecks havoc with your baby’s sleeping patterns.
Hot weather is difficult for grown-ups to get to sleep in, let alone babies who don’t understand why they feel so uncomfortably warm.
Before we get to the tips, don’t forget to check out my post about keeping babies and toddlers cool in hot weather as you’ll find lots of tips for daytime survival in heatwaves there!
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What temperature is too hot for a baby to sleep
The ideal temperature for your baby’s nursery is 16 to 20C. If you have a room thermometer, such as a GroEgg, you can monitor the temperature in your baby’s room and act to heat it up or cool it down.
However in serious heatwaves, there’s not much you can do to get the temperature down to that ideal 20C, unless you’re lucky enough to have air conditioning installed in your home!
The GroEgg glows orange once the temperature goes above 20C and then it turns red, with a digital sad face for good measure, above 24C. This temperature is when the room starts to get uncomfortable.
You may find your baby will particularly struggle to get to sleep at around 26C and above.
If you don’t have a room thermometer, you’ll generally find your baby struggles to sleep at similar temperatures to you, so take your own comfort levels as a guide to theirs.
To check if your baby is too hot, stick your fingers down the back of their top, or feel their chest. If they are very sweaty, red, irritable, and fussy, then chances are they are too hot.
If your baby becomes pale, stops producing tears and is floppy, then they could be dehydrated and you need to offer them fluids and seek medical help.
However, provided you keep your baby in light layers and make sure they have plenty of fluids, you should be able to help them get a good night’s sleep during the hot weather without any issues.
How to help your baby sleep at night in hot weather
If you do not have air conditioning, or it’s broken (shock, horror), do not panic. There are plenty of things you can do to help your baby get some sleep despite the heatwave.
However, sorry to say, your baby may struggle to sleep regardless of your efforts to cool the room down and keep them comfortable. This is because during hot weather they are likely to be much thirstier than usual.
If you are feeling particularly tired, not just from the heat but also from sleepless nights, then take it easy yourself and don’t plan too much while the heatwave is at its peak.
Rest and take plenty of fluids, especially if you are breastfeeding.
1. Offer them extra fluids before bedtime and overnight
The number one thing you can do to help your baby be comfortable at night is to make sure they are well hydrated.
Offer extra feeds during the day if the weather is hot and make sure they take a full feed at night before bedtime.
Your baby may want additional feeds at night during hot weather, so let them feed as much as they want.
If your baby was sleeping through before the heatwave, don’t panic! This is a temporary blip and they will get back to normal once the weather has cooled down.
2. Get blackout blinds
The lighter evenings will be playing havoc with your baby’s ability to understand the difference between day and out.
Although your focus will be on keeping the temperature down in their room, it’s also worth darkening the room to help them realise it’s night time too!
There are a lot of different blackout blinds on the market, so do shop around. If you decide to install blinds, make sure they are either cordless, or you secure the blind cord so that it is completely out of your baby’s reach.
You can get easily portable blackout blinds that attach to windows with suckers.
3. Use fans in the nursery
Let’s face it, a fan is nowhere near as effective as air conditioning! However we can’t all afford/fit air conditioning units in our home!
A fan is the next best thing.
For me, it has to be a tower fan! They are so much more efficient at actually making you feel cool. I find the smaller fans just circulate the warm air and make me feel no different.
When feeding your baby before bed, it’s fine to do so in front of the fan, but just remember not to leave them to sleep in full blast of the fan.
They may cool down too much in such a strong breeze.
You could pop the fan close by to them, and put it on a timer with certain fans, just to be sure they won’t be too uncomfortable.
4. Strip them right down to a nappy
You may worry about your baby getting too cold overnight as the temperature drops. However your baby is not likely to get too cold if their room is in the high 20Cs. If they do get too cold, they will wake up and let you know.
If your baby has started to remove their own nappy (cheeky little things), then try turning it back to front so that the tabs are at the back. They will struggle to remove it then.
Follow dressing guidelines for what your baby should wear in certain temperatures. The lovely people at The Gro Company have a good chart guiding you on how to dress baby.
In general, when it hits above 25C I will dress the kids in just a top, or short-sleeved vest, and nappy or pants. I will give them a very light blanket which they can pull over themselves if they want and I check on them at around 10pm to see if they are too hot or too cold, then remove or add blankets/layers accordingly.
5. Give them a cool bath
Getting the temperature right for a bath in a heatwave is fairly crucial. You want it to be cool, but not icy cold. This is because their body will actually work to warm them up, which is counter productive to what you want to happen!
Get the temperature to a few degrees cooler than you would usually bathe them in, and keep the water levels low, just a couple of inches.
Let them splash for a few minutes longer too just so they can really feel the benefit of the cooler temperature.
Gently pat them dry, or let them air dry if it’s really hot, as this will help cool their skin too before bedtime.
6. Close curtains during the day
When the heat is on outside, you want to keep it there as much as possible. Once the mercury rises to above 25, shutting the windows and closing the curtains can help to keep some of that heat out.
At 30C, if you keep the windows open your house will just heat quicker as the warm air breezes in through them.
This is especially important for bedrooms that are sun-facing in the afternoon.
7. Pop their sheets into the fridge
Get your baby’s bed sheets and pop them into a plastic bag, then stick them in the fridge. Then around an hour before bedtime put the sheets onto the bed.
This is only appropriate for older babies over six months. Smaller babies struggle to regulate their temperatures more and may react badly to the cold sheets. Try some of the other tips instead if your baby is younger than six months, or was born prematurely.
8. Go for a drive
If your car has air conditioning then it’s probably the coolest place you own right now!
This can really help a baby who is struggling to settle in the heat because the car is not only the best method of soothing a baby to sleep, but you’ll know they’re comfortable in the temperature too.
Once you get home, transfer them to their bed. Let them sleep for around 30 minutes beforehand, just to make sure they are in a deep sleep.
9. Move your baby’s cot to a cooler room
This is a last resort, and may not be possible depending on your home. But, moving your baby’s bed to an entirely different room, one that is not so hot, could help them get a better night’s sleep.
If you have a two-storey house you are likely to find that downstairs is a few degrees cooler. In hot weather, that few degrees can make all of the difference!
Make sure that the room and their surroundings are safe for them before making the move. Always follow safer sleep guidelines.
10. Grab a wet flannel
A damp flannel can work wonders as a simple way to cool off. If your baby is sweltering during the last breastfeed of the day, or getting hot as they have one final fuss before sleep, dab them gently with a cool, damp flannel.
11. Remove waterproof mattress covers
Waterproof mattress covers are essential for babies. They protect your baby’s mattress from vomit, wee and poo so that if you have to make a quick midnight bedding change, you know the mattress is still clean.
But waterproof mattress covers also can make your baby sweatier during very hot weather. If you are willing to take the risk, consider removing it temporarily.
12. Fill a hot water bottle with crushed ice
Make sure the hot water bottle will be safe for your baby with no loose, small pieces.
You can pop the water bottle into the bed where they are going to sleep just before popping them in and them remove it once they are in bed. Alternatively you can leave it in there with them tucked under their blanket at the foot of the bed, or under the fitted sheet if it is flat enough.
13. Swap sleeping bags for very thin blanket or muslin
Sleeping bags are one of the best baby products out there! However in a heatwave they mean your baby cannot escape if they get a bit hot in their sleep.
Consider switching out your sleeping bag for very thin cellular blankets or a giant muslin.
Check on your baby before you go to sleep to see what the temperature is in their room, or your room depending on where they are sleeping. You can always add blankets if you are really worried about them being cold.
I hope these tips will be useful to keep you and your family cool during the summer heatwaves! If you have any ideas or advice of your own, please leave them in the comments!