Babies are not as adaptable as adults to temperature change. A baby's body surface is about three times greater than an adult's, compared to the weight of his/her body. Babies can lose heat rapidly, as much as four times more quickly than adults. Premature and low birthweight babies usually have little body fat and may be too immature to regulate their own temperature, even in a warm environment. Even full-term and healthy newborns may not be able to maintain their body temperature if the environment is too cold.
When babies are cold-stressed, they use energy and oxygen to generate warmth. If skin temperatures drop just one degree from the ideal 97.7° F (36.5°C), a baby's oxygen use can increase by 10 percent. By keeping babies at optimal temperatures, neither too hot or too cold, they can conserve energy and build up reserves. This is especially important when babies are sick or premature.
There are several ways to keep babies warm, including the following:
Once a baby is stable and can maintain his/her own body temperature without added heat, open cribs or bassinets are used. Babies are usually dressed in a gown or T-shirt, a diaper, and a hat. A baby can lose large amounts of heat through his/her head. Often, a blanket is wrapped snugly around the baby, called swaddling.
To reduce the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents and caregivers avoid overbundling, overdressing, or covering an infant's face or head to prevent him or her from getting overheated.
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