4 Tips for Keeping Your Child Warm During the Long Winter Night

So, last night I walked into my bedroom looking forward to falling into my warm cozy bed only to remember that I washed my sheets and forgot to put them in the dryer. 

Too sleepy to wait for them to dry, I ended up sleeping on top of my mattress cover with just a small lap blanket covering me. And I slept fitfully all night because I got so cold.


As I am currently working on a toddler sleep program, I was reminded that one of the reasons children might wake up during the night is because they are cold. THAT is an easy fix for night waking, so here are a few tips for helping your children stay warm during the night. 


  1. Set the right room temperature

The perfect temperature for sleep for a young child is between 65-70 degrees. It is unsafe for your child’s room to be too warm. A too warm room is a risk for SIDS. AND it is just too uncomfortable to sleep when the room gets too warm. The air in the winter is very dry and when the room is really warm, children will wake up with dry mouth and nasal tissues. Some kids will even get nosebleeds from the dry air. Keeping the room a comfortably cool temperature leads to better sleep. 


***Here I want to mention some things about space heaters ***

These are all potentially dangerous for causing fire, carbon monoxide poisoning and especially burns in children. Only electric space heaters that are safety certified should be used around children. They should  NEVER be left unattended - so these are not good choices to use overnight in any room but especially your child’s room. It is tempting to put one in your child's room to keep them warm, but DON"T do it! I have personally seen tragics results of this. 

You might want to use these to heat a room in the daytime or to warm the room up before bedtime, but they cannot be monitored for malfunction when you are asleep, so use of these in a child’s room at night is not recommended.

Any space heater you use should have tip-over features that make them cut off automatically if bumped or tipped over. They should also have automatic thermostats that will turn off when the desired temp is reached. They should always be at least 3 feet away from contact with bedding, curtains, etc  

2. Make the bed cozy and warm

No one likes to get into a cold bed. This could turn into just another stalling tactic your child uses to resist bedtime. So, make that bed appealing to get into.  You can try changing to warmer sheets in the winter such as flannel sheets or jersey-knit sheets. Amazon or your favorite big box store will have plenty of choices for you. 


You can also heat the bed before getting into it by putting a few towels in your dryer or a blanket warmer during your child’s bath. Use one to wrap the child in ( who wouldn’t love a heated towel right out of the bath?) and put another in the crib or bed to warm it up. (Remove them when the child is ready for sleep). This is especially helpful for babies who fall asleep feeding. Transferring them from your warm cozy arms to a cold bed is sure to wake them up. 

If you don’t want to waste energy using your dryer, you can put a hot water bottle in the bed until bedtime. Do not leave it in the bed during sleep though. 


3. Blankets

Remember that children less than age one should not use a blanket in their crib as this is a risk for SIDS. Once your child is over 12 months of age,  you might want to add a blanket to the crib or your child’s bed. But, many kids are very active sleepers and parents say that they won’t stay under the blankets. Duvets and heavy bedcovers tend to slide off during sleep. You can try tucking a blanket in at the bottom and sides, folding it down at the top so that is acts as a sleeping bag.  This technique helps your child to stay under the blankets better. (That is what "being tucked in" at night means!)  Or maybe you want to skip the blankets and go for warmer PJs.



4. Warm PJs

If your baby is less than one or doesn’t stay under the blankets, you might worry that they will get too cold during the night. There are many options for keeping your children warm without a blanket. The key is to layer just as if you were going outside on a cold day.  It is often hard to know just how warm your child needs to be. This might take some trial and error to find your child’s perfect combination of bedclothes. 

A good guide is that they should have one more layer on than what you are comfortable wearing. So, if you are sleeping in flannel PJs and a blanket than your child will need some extra layers. 

Remember that to meet safety guidelines, your child either needs to be wearing flame retardant fabrics or close-fitting pajamas. We aren’t going to get into the pros or cons of flame retardant fabrics here, but for layering, use of close-fitting clothing is best. 

Start with a base layer that will trap heat close to the skin - like a onesie, or T-shirt. Then add a one or two-piece close-fitting sleeper. Make sure that the sleeves and ankles are tight or that they have cuffs to keep them from sliding up during the night. If your sleeper doesn’t have feet, then you want to add some tight socks - because when your feet are cold you just can’t get warm. 


If you are not using a blanket then you can add a wearable blanket sleeper or sleep sack. There are blanket sleepers in wool, (which are the warmest and most breathable), flannel or fleece (which are the least breathable and may cause some children to sweat). Blanket sleepers come in varying degrees of thickness.

If you have a baby that still needs a diaper change during the night, a sleepsack that zips gives you better and quicker access, while still keeping them warm. Sleepsacks come in varying degrees of thickness too, including quilted ones. You might already be using a sleep sack and may just need to get a heavier one. 

How do you know if your child is warm enough?

To find out if your child is warm enough, you can slip your hand under their PJs and check their chest. They should be warm but not sweaty. If their hair is sweaty, their face is flushed, or they are sweating, take off a layer of clothes. If they still feed cool, add another layer.

As you are figuring out what works, check your child a few times during the night to make sure that they are still warm. As your child gets very still, their body temperature will cool off during the night.  If so add a layer or swap out what you are using for a heavier layer. Every child is different - some are more hot-natured and others get cold more easily, So, it will take some experimenting to find the right combination for your child. 


If you find that your child is waking up at night, check to see if they might be getting cold and adjust as you need to. 

I hope that you find these tips helpful. Let’s continue the conversation over in the Dream Baby Mama Tribe, our private facebook group for mamas who are supporting each other in this often-confusing parenting journey. We would love to know what tips you have for keeping your child warm on a cold winter night. 

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