By Jennifer Buchanan CNM WHNP-BC, IBCLC ~
The rising temperatures of spring and summer can be a fun but physically uncomfortable time for everyone – especially pregnant mothers and babies. A pregnant woman circulates more blood than the average woman due to the increased demands of getting enough oxygen to her growing baby in her body. Thus staying cool in hot temperatures can be difficult.
And like an adult, a baby feels rising temperatures and can become increasingly uncomfortable during these hot times. Did you know a baby can sweat too? While it’s the body’s way of regulating core temperature, this is can be dangerous for a newborn as he or she can become dehydrated at a faster rate than an adult. See below for some helpful “stay cool” tips for handling the heat!
Just like you would want to protect your future child, it’s important for pregnant mamas to protect themselves from the harmful rays of the sun too. If you’re going outside, don’t forget sunscreen and a hat! Apply a sunscreen that contains both a UVA and UVB protection. I recommend wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, neck and shoulders. Find shade or a place out of the sun as much as you can when outdoors.
High temperatures can cause uterine cramping, which may feel like contractions. Drinking 2-3 liters/day can help prevent your uterine muscle becoming dehydrated and thus tight. The last thing a pregnant needs on a hot summer day is to sit in an ER thinking she is in labor. Also, swelling is more common with dehydration. If you have access to a pool, submersion in water will help push the fluid back into your tissues (and cool you off!).
Wear appropriate clothing for hot weather, such as light, loose fitting, cotton clothing. The heat also make feet swell. Wear comfortable and supportive shoes. If your feet do swell, elevate them above the level of your heart to help with circulation or have your partner give you a nice foot rub!
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. I cannot say it enough. Even if the stroller is covered by a blanket, keep your baby’s gentle skin safe from harmful UV rays. Apply a sunscreen that contains both a UVA and UVB protection and one that is meant for infant skin and don’t forget a hat. Stay in the shade as much as possible.
Breastfeed regularly to prevent dehydration. For newborns, I recommend eight times in a 24-hour period. It has been shown that breastfed infants do not require additional water when the temperatures increase; there is enough water to maintain adequate hydration in breast milk. For older infants who maintain a healthy diet of complimentary foods and have weaned from breastfeeding, the pediatrician may recommend 4-8 oz of sterile water per day to maintain hydration. Check with your pediatrician for the proper dosage for your baby.
Dehydration is a serious health risk to babies and needs to be addressed immediately by a physician whether it is in a clinic, a pediatric office, urgent care or emergency room.
Don’t bundle your babies when outdoors. A diaper and onesie are perfect for hot temperatures. It’s better to drape a light blanket over the stroller to keep the sun off rather than wrap the baby in long sleeves and pants.
Water can be a great way to keep babies older than 6 months of age (only those able to sit unassisted without falling over), cool and comfortable. Filling a small kiddy pool with water in the back yard (under a tree for shade) is always fun for the little ones. If you use a kiddy pool, NEVER leave your child unattended, even for a moment. Do not fill the tub more than a couple of inches with water; an infant can drown in even the shallowest of depths. Read more about water safety.
In the home
Don’t place your baby too close to the air conditioner. Babies have a hard time keeping their body temperature up when in a cold environment. When infants become cold they use more oxygen and metabolism, which can be stressful for a newborn infant or an infant with health issues.
Most importantly – stay safe and have fun!