When hot weather strikes it signals fun, longer days and pretty summer outfits – but as parents heatwaves are also tricky because keeping babies and toddlers cool can be a worry.
During the daytime, you need to protect their delicate, sensitive skin from the sun, then at night you want to keep them cool so that they can sleep well, and safely.
Of course in the summer you want to make the most of all that gorgeous sunshine with your child, so it’s good to be aware of all the things you can do to keep your little one safe and cool in a heatwave so that you can just enjoy the fine weather.
It’s a delicate balancing act during the summer. I remember being worried to take my first baby out at all during the hottest days of the year when it hit 30C.
I worried her pale skin would burn or that the heat would be too uncomfortable for her.
Now a few years on, I’m much more relaxed about going out in summer, and I know it’s just a matter of being prepared and avoiding direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day.
As a result, I just make sure I plan ahead and pick where we go to enjoy the sun very carefully, so that we always have shady spots to cool down.
One of the toughest things about summer for me is the hot nights. In the UK we have no air conditioning as standard in our homes, so we often have bedrooms that are in the mid 20s in the night.
Not only does this make the kids restless, and hard to settle in the heat, but when my children were babies I worried about the risk of cot death, as overheating is a key contributing factor to sudden infant death.
But please don’t panic, as there are lots of things you can do to keep your child cool, both in the daytime and at night so that they get a good night’s sleep.
Here are my top tips for keeping babies and toddlers cool in the hot summer months, including one thing you should never do with your baby in the heat.
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Keeping babies and toddlers cool during the day
Strip them down to their nappy
You might have lots of great summer clothes, but sometimes just stripping them off can be the best thing. Be careful if you’re outside and make sure they have plenty of suncream on and are in the shade.
In general, the best defence against sunburn is to cover the skin, so if you are abroad in a very intense climate or at home during a heatwave, light clothing that covers the shoulders is best.
I would often strip my kids down to their nappies when they are playing indoors.
Keep bath temperatures warm but not hot
A cold bath is not the answer, but keeping baths a degree or two cooler than normal can help to make your little one more comfortable.
A cold bath will just lead to tears. Also, really cold water encourages the body to warm itself, so it’s actually counter-productive.
You may find it easier to avoid the bath altogether, and just give your child a wash with a flannel before bedtime. This may prove to be much more cooling for them.
Make ice lollies
Buy or make ice lollies for your child to eat. This can be a fun summer activities. All you need is either a cheap lolly mould from somewhere like Lakeland or Tesco and some fruit juice.
You could also make flavoured ice cubes and pop them into a small or large tray then let your child play with them.
Frozen breastmilk popsicles
This is a great way to help keep your breastfed baby hydrated and cool. Express some breastmilk, pop it in an ice cube tray or lolly mould, freeze, then serve.
NEVER cover the buggy with a blanket
You do want shade for your baby during the summer and the hoods of buggies never quite seem to create enough of it.
But don’t be tempted to cover the buggy with a blanket to create more shade. This can actually trap heat where your baby is sitting and be quite dangerous.
A test where a buggy was covered had the following results:
Without a cover: The temperature inside a buggy left out in the heat was 22C.
With a thin cover: In 30 minutes, the temperature rose to 34C. And after an hour, it was at 37C.
Invest in a parasol for your buggy, or avoid going away from shady spots between midday and 2pm on very hot days.
Offer extra water
For new babies you can give some cool boiled water if you want to. However extra breastfeeds will also keep them hydrated.
For toddlers and babies who are weaning, always have water with you and offer it frequently.
Trips to the beach
If your child is going to be splashing in the water, remember to keep applying suncream every couple of hours. Even the waterproof stuff!
When packing the bag take a hat, a light top to cover their shoulders when playing in the sand, suncream, lots of water and sunglasses.
Keep them in the shade
Keeping your child out of direct sunlight is one of the simplest ways of keeping them cool.
Play with ice
This is such a fun activity and great for keeping your child cool.
Simply get some ice cubes from your freezer and pop them into a large container (possibly a paddling pool if you have one, but a bucket is best for small kids as you don’t want them climbing in and getting too cold in the ice bath) and fill with a little water.
Then let your child play with the ice using their hands or a bucket to scoop it out.
You could add some food colouring to the ice cubes to make them different colours, which will be exciting for little ones as they can sort them out into different colour pots.
You can also try freezing child-friendly paint.
Have the right clothing
Buy a sun hat with wide brim that covers their neck too. If you’re taking your child to a paddling pool of splash pad, you can buy waterproof hats that go with swimwear.
Light clothing is best and in really intense sun it’s a good idea to keep their shoulders covered.
Be suncream aware
Not all suncreams are created equally! It’s not just SPF that you need to be looking at but the UVA star rating as well. Four out of five stars plus is the ideal that you want to be getting.
Buy child-specific suncream and make sure you cover every bit of bare skin. You may find it easier to put the cream on before you get them dressed.
Open the loft hatch
This can help to cool your house as the heat travels upwards.
Keeping babies and toddlers cool at night
Know the room temperature
I have a GroEgg in each of my children’s rooms and I thoroughly recommend it.
The Gro Company has a fab graphic telling you what your child could wear to keep them cool at night with sleeping bags depending on the temperature.
Try to keep the heat out of your child’s bedroom
To keep your child’s bedroom as cool as possible at night, start in the mornings by opening out the windows wide.
This will be the time of day when the heat is least intense.
Once the day heats up, by around midday, close the windows and shut curtains in the bedroom. This can help to keep the heat out of the room. By shutting the curtains you’re preventing the intensity of the sun from shining into the room and heating it up.
Once the evening begins to turn cooler, then open the windows up again.
Be sure to keep their bedroom door open too, to allow as much air to circulate as possible.
Don’t be afraid to put them down in just a nappy
When I put my kids down at night and it’s 25C plus, I tend to just put them in a nappy and cover them with a light blanket.
Otherwise I have used short pyjamas for both children and a one tog sleeping bag when my youngest was under 18 months which I used in temperatures of 20C plus.
Check on your child’s bedroom just before you go to bed, as you may find the temperature has dropped dramatically. Have light blankets on standby so that you can cover them up in case you’re worried they will get cold as the night goes on.
In really hot weather you could just use a giant muslin as a blanket to provide them some cover.
Mist them with water
With toddlers you can try either dabbing them with a damp wash cloth that leaves their skin just a little wet as they lay in bed. This helps to cool the skin immediately, especially if a small breeze is coming in through the window, and can help them feel more comfortable.
You could also try popping some water in a small spray bottle and setting it to a fine mist. This works great during the day too if your child is struggling to stay cool.
Damping the skin has an immediate cooling effect as the water evaporates.
Leave a window open
Remember to only leave it open a crack and if you do this with your toddler, get some window safety limiters that stop them from pushing the window open any wider and potentially having a nasty accident.
Having a small fan in the room can really help. Don’t have it pointing directly at your child as you’ll find they will get chilly in the night in a direct breeze.
Some people also swear by putting large bottles of frozen water in front of the fan to cool the room.
I tried this a few times and to be honest, it didn’t do much for us. However it was nice to have the icy bottle of water to touch against my forehead when I was feeding my baby!
Move their bed
If downstairs is cooler, then consider moving their Moses basket or cot from their bedroom.
We find that our living room is often the coolest place in summer. Your kids may be excited to have a sleepover in another room!
I hope these tips were useful and give you lots of ideas for keeping your baby cool during the summer.
For me the most important tip is to be sunscreen aware. Pick the right product with a high UVA rating and apply it regularly. I have a whole post about sunscreen and how to pick the best product.
Enjoy your summer!
How are you keeping your baby cool in the hot weather?