Keeping baby cool in the heat
Breastfeeding Helpline: 1800 mum 2 mum | 1800 686 268
The article below ran in Australia. There heat is much more of a problem than in most of North America. Their suggestions for comfort for mother and baby are both creative and helpful! I hope you enjoy them. Any ideas for cooling down are welcome!!
In most areas of Australia, we face periods of hot weather. This can be exhausting for everyone. Babies and mothers need special attention in extremes of temperature to ensure that they are comfortable and well hydrated. When everyone is hot, often the last thing we want is to sit close to someone else! So it’s not surprising that babies may be fretful and unwilling to breastfeed at these times. In very hot weather, skin contact can be quite uncomfortable for both you and your baby. A towel, pillowcase, or cloth nappy placed between your baby and your arm and body can be helpful. A cool, damp face-washer in the crook of your arm is refreshing too. Lying down to feed may be more comfortable for both of you, as only baby’s mouth and your breast need be in contact. See our article Breastfeeding while lying down for more on how to do this.
If your baby’s skin feels hot to touch, sponge him with lukewarm (body heat) water at frequent intervals. An alternative is bathing often. You only need to use plain water as soap can remove the natural oils from his skin.
Having a glass of water at each breastfeed is one way of making sure your own fluid intake is adequate in these hot conditions. Some mothers find that water bottles placed through the house remind them to drink enough so that they are not thirsty.
Does my baby need extra fluids?
Most parents worry at some stage that their fully-breastfed baby may not be getting enough to drink in hot weather and they ask if they should give boiled water or fruit juice ‘just in case’. The answer in most cases is that extra fluids are not required if your baby is breastfed whenever he needs and this may be more often than usual – just as you are drinking more often.
Breastmilk contains a perfectly balanced ratio of food and water to meet all your baby’s needs. It is a living fluid, ever-changing to suit your baby and even in response to the weather! The first milk your baby gets from a full breast has a low fat content and naturally quenches baby’s thirst. Once the let-down has occurred, the fat content of the milk gradually increases as the breast softens. This later milk has a creamier appearance and satisfies baby’s hunger.
In hot weather a thirsty baby may want to breastfeed more frequently but for shorter periods. In this way he is getting more low-fat milk and so is satisfying his thirst. If you need to be away from your baby, it is preferable that he has your expressed breastmilk (EBM).
An older baby or toddler who is no longer exclusively breastfed may be encouraged to drink water between breastfeeds. You can also offer extra ‘snack’ breastfeeds to keep him well hydrated. Another refreshing idea for toddlers is to freeze fruit pieces, such as orange quarters, peeled banana or slices of pineapple – cooling and fun, just be prepared for the very sticky mess!
- Some babies become sleepy travelling in hot weather. You may need to stop and wake your baby for feeds.
- The effect of car airconditioners can cause some dehydration – so extra breastfeeds may be necessary on long trips, even if you are cool.
- Prams that are enclosed are airless and can get very hot. An open-weave bassinette, cradle, layback stroller, baby hammock, cot or portable cot is probably cooler for your baby to sleep in.