Having a baby during the cold winter months presents unique challenges. Though it's nice to have a cuddle partner to snuggle away the winter with, there are difficulties due to cold, illness, and the cabin fever many moms experience trying to keep an infant safe during this time.
Due to the underdeveloped immune systems of little ones, many moms feel stuck and isolated trying to protect their babies from germs. There's also the issue of how long it takes to dress a baby in warm clothes just to run a few errands. However, staying in all the time can make mom feel blue, and in areas where the sun is out less and the cold weather blocks mom from experiencing nature, it's easier to feel down.
There are a few tricks to keeping the baby healthy and mom sane, and it just takes some planning and support. While it's nice to not have to be super pregnant during the hot, summer months, winter moms will need to make sure they take precautions against all winter has to offer.
If all goes well, mom may be able to avoid her child catching any major illnesses, and she can also score some quiet time to recovery without anyone expecting her to venture out in the weather with a baby.
From avoiding RSV to making sure the baby doesn't get too warm, the items on this list are meant to give mom a guide to surviving winter after birth.
15 Stay In When Possible
In the beginning, this won't be that hard. While mom is recovering from either a vaginal or surgical delivery, she likely won't really want to venture far from home, preferring instead to let her body heal in the privacy of her own home. However, as mom feels better, she may want to roam, and this may make her feel tempted to take the baby out.
For the record, mom does not have to barricade the doors and never leave, but it is wise to stay in with an infant, especially a newborn, as much as possible during winter. That's because the flu, whooping cough, and respiratory syncytial syndrome(RSV) are all afoot, and while adults can usually overcome these without too many complications, infants sometimes can't.
Staying in helps babies avoid germs left behind from people's coughs or sneezes, and it keeps strangers who may be carrying viruses from handling the baby.
14 Avoid Crowded Areas
Okay, so if you absolutely cannot stay in and need a breath of fresh air outside of the house, avoid areas that are known to be crowded. Children play areas are a cesspool of germs during winter, and many parents will bring sick kids out in public without any consideration for other children. A cold for a school-aged child can mean pneumonia for an infant, so staying in areas where there are less people is wise.
Also, try to go places on off-peak hours. Shop for groceries when everyone else is working, dine out at off hours, and look for ways to slide in and out of establishments before crowds arrive.
Less exposure to people means less exposure to germs, and that's good for a baby. It's true that we can't, and shouldn't, try to keep our children from everything. It can build a child's immunity to be exposed to certain bacteria. However, infants immune systems are not as well developed as adults, and that's important to keep in mind.
13 Receive The Pertussis Vaccine
Though the first dose of the pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine is given to infants when they are fairly young, there is still a period of time where they are not vaccinated from this condition, and it will take months or over a year for them to be fully inoculated.
Because of the damage pertussis can cause to infants, especially those under six months old, another way to protect them is for the adults in their lives to receive the pertussis vaccine.
Pertussis is a bacterial infection that starts out looking like a normal cold, but can actually cause young children to stop breathing. The reason is the whooping cough that is dry and long-lasting can leave them gasping for air. Some infants don't cough but instead just start gasping for air and are unable to inhale enough to breathe.
That's why any child under 18 months old with pertussis is watched extremely closely and may have to be hospitalized.
If the adults in the home aren't up to date with their pertussis vaccine, they might want to think about asking for the vaccine. It adds an extra layer of protection since they are around their children the most and don't want to be the ones to give them pertussis.
12 Have Visitation Rules
Babies know how to bring the visitors to the door. Everyone wants to hold the baby, stare at the baby, and just be around the baby. It's nice, and most visitors have good intentions, but tons of outsiders pose risks to all children, especially winter babies.
The problem is adults show very different symptoms than children when it comes to ailments like RSV or pertussis. While an adult may simply look like they have a cold, that same viral germ causing their supposed cold symptoms can cause a child to spend time in the hospital.
That's why it's a good idea to set some ground rules for visitors, and to also set a limit if necessary. No one who has shown signs of illness or had a fever needs to visit, nor should anyone who knows they have been exposed to illnesses like the flu. If a visitor does come over, they need to wash hands prior to touching the baby.
11 Use A Humidifier
Winter air is cold, and cold air is usually dry. Add in the fact that we run heaters in winter to deal with the cold, and the air around us is so dried out that we have cracked skin. The inside of our nostrils can also get dry and cracked, leaving us more susceptible to infection. In short, dry air stinks.
To avoid some of the problems no moisture in the air causes, use a humidifier. A cool mist humidifier is the best option since it won't be hot to the touch if a child somehow gets near it, but any will do as long as they put much needed moisture back in the air.
Humidifiers are relatively inexpensive, and every mom would be wise to add one to the baby registry. They are wonderful for babies, but they can be used for older kids and adults as well. Many doctors recommend them, and it's possible for baby to have a healthier winter if one is available.
10 Don't Resort To Blankets
Winter is cold, and for adults that usually means crawling under a thick layer of blankets and sinking into a pillow. We stay warm and comfortable that way, so some parents assume that's what a baby needs. It's absolutely not.
No matter how cold it gets outside, parents should not put blankets on their infant. They should also avoid pillows and stuffed animals in the crib, and researchers are now saying to also avoid bumpers that go on the side of the cribs. It's too easy for a baby to pull blankets over their faces or to sink into a pillow and suffocate.
When babies are cold, mom can dress them in a warmer onesie. Special, winter baby apparel is available that is warm but breathable and won't pose any chance of suffocation while the child sleeps.
9 Don't Bathe Baby Too Often
When our kids are teenagers, we will have plenty of time to nag them about hygiene and bathing daily. When their infants, we don't really have to. Babies don't need to bathe daily and can suffice on two to three times a week. This is great for parents with tinies during winter.
Bath time calms some kids, but it can also decrease their body temperature, leaving them shaking and shivering after they are taken out of the water. Bathing too often can also leach moisture from baby's sensitive skin, so it's fine to keep infants in their warm pajamas without the bath.
If mom has a baby who is calmed by the bath time routine before bed, that's okay. Mom can carry on with baths daily, but she may want to make them shorter during winter and keep the house warm so her little one won't get too cold before getting dressed.
8 Get Out On Warm Days
Sometimes in certain parts of the country, winter offers blessed breaks from the biting cold. Suddenly, a spring day will slip in among the gray, chilly ones, and that's the time to get out of the house!
It's still true that mom doesn't want to take her infant to an extremely overcrowded, inside destination, but putting the baby in a stroller or carrier and grabbing some much needed vitamin D from the sunshine is a great idea. This break from being housebound will help baby get energy out and sleep better, and it will give mom a mental lift since it allows movement outside of the home.
Besides walks, parks during school hours are not a bad choice for sunny days. With other children in school, parks usually aren't extremely crowded, so mom and baby might be able to have some time on the slide or swing while out and about. Whatever mom does, take advantage of the warm days tucked into winter.
7 Don't Overdress The Baby
It's tempting to cover babies in multiple layers of clothes in winter to keep them warm. It's true that infants aren't as great at regulating their body temperature as older children or adults, so mom and dad do have to make sure they are warm enough. However, overdressing a child can cause them to overheat, and this is just as big of a concern as letting them get too cold.
Overheating has been connected to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome(SIDS), so there is real cause for concern. Though the hospital will probably tell mom to let their baby sleep with the little infant cap on at night, this isn't always necessary after the first week. Heat escapes from babies' heads. If the head is covered, it can't, and this can cause overheating.
Winter is tricky, so mom will have to check in often to make sure her child isn't sweating or turning red from being overdressed. If a child is breathing quickly, mom also needs to check baby's temperature as that is another sign of overheating.
6 Take Me Time
Being a mom is an awesome job, but moms need breaks. Since winter makes it hard to keep conventional play dates due to illness lurking in the air, mom should instead make dates for herself to go out without the baby.
Each mom has a different idea of what makes great me time, and as long as mom feels refreshed and relaxed, it's her choice what to do. She may meet up with friends or spend time alone. If it's possible, winter date nights can also be magic. Hiring a sitter and breaking out with a partner is great for body and mind and helps mom come back to the house ready to parent full-time again.
Though some see me time as indulgent, it's not, especially during a time of year when mom may go days without seeing any other adult but her partner. Me time is mental health self care and a great practice for any mom.
5 Take Advantage Of Car Rides
Some moms have babies who like to sleep in the car or who will only nap in a moving vehicle. This can be an extremely expensive nap time due to the cost of gas, but it can have its benefits in winter.
If mom finds herself driving around to lull a cranky infant to sleep, she should take advantage of this time as much as possible. Make that deposit at the bank. Listen to that audio book. Grab some coffee through the drive through after turning on some white noise to dull the sound of the barista's voice through the speaker. These short outings into the world can be productive and refreshing if mom makes the most of them.
It's these little sneaky times where mom has some quiet time to herself that make parenting during the shut in months more bearable.
4 No Fluffy Jackets In Car Seats
When it is time to take a baby out to a doctor's appointment or the store, mom wants to make sure the child is warm enough every step of the way. This can lead mom to think the best choice is to strap a baby in a car seat wearing a large jacket to ensure they are warm. However, this isn't the right choice.
Car seat straps are meant to press right up against a child's body to ensure they are tight enough to hold the child in the seat in case of a wreck. A large jacket or sweater that keeps the straps away from the body puts the baby at risk if there is an accident. It's better for mom to take off the baby's jacket before placing them in the car seat and then put it back on when they are about to get out of the car. Yes, it's a lot of extra work, but it's worth it.
3 Be Careful At Baby's Check Ups
Having infants in winter can be tricky when it's time for doctor's appointments. Because babies have so many check ups that first year of life, mom may feel like she is living at the pediatrician's office. These appointments are important, but most moms don't want to take a well baby into a doctor's office during flu and sick season. That's a great way to leave with a sick baby.
To avoid a child picking up germs in the doctor's office during winter, mom should see if her doctor's office has a place for children who are just in for wellness appointments to wait. Being separated from kids who are sneezing and coughing can help the baby avoid picking up germs.
It's also a good idea to call and ask for appointments during times that are slow. It's also acceptable to see about pushing appointments back until the worst of sick season is over. However, a doctor needs to okay the last option, and mom doesn't need to skip appointments. Some doctors are just more lenient about letting kids go a bit over during really sick times of the year.
2 Call In Reinforcements
Despite mom's best efforts, infants can get sick at any time, and winter is a favorite. Viral infections turn into ear infections, RSV causes a child to need breathing treatments. A variety of dilemmas can occur, and while the baby will recover and move on, mom may feel worn out from caring for a sick infant.
Babies are needy on a good day. During a time of illness, they go into hyper needy mode, and of course mom is going to be there to provide what the baby needs. However, that means she is going to lose sleep, and by the end of the illness she may feel she is losing her mind.
Call for help when it's needed. Having a trusted friend or family member watch the baby while mom catches up on sleep is fine. It's a great form of self-care that will benefit the entire family.
1 Make Spring Plans
When it all comes down to it, winter can feel long with a crying baby. There are tricks to make it easier, but sometimes the most hopeful thing to do is plan for the future. Spring is beautiful, and it's fun to take babies out to have photographs taken in the flowers or to explore nature as the world comes into bloom.
If the long, gray days are getting mom down, she should start planning what spring is going to be like. She can look up events and figure out what will be doable for her child's age when spring comes.
Looking to the future offers hope and a reminder that no matter how trapped mom feels in the house living a life that is pretty much being on demand 24/7 for an infant, seasons change and a new one is right around the corner.