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Do I need to heat my baby's room?

Do I need to heat my baby's room?

Adding to the endless list of parental worries is how warm your baby’s room should be, particularly in the middle of winter when temperatures drop. It’s important to try and maintain a safe and comfortable temperature in the nursery as much as possible, not only to help your baby sleep better, but to help reduce the adverse health effects, in particular respiratory illnesses that can present as a result of homes which are too cold.  

Whether you heat your baby’s room at night will depend on a range of things, including how warm your house is and of course, how costly it may be to heat a room all night.


How warm should a baby's room be?

Knowing how cool your nursery is arms you with information about how to best dress your baby for sleep, but it need not become something to obsess over. Trying to keep your baby’s room at a consistent temperature, especially at the cooler end of the scale, can be challenging. Even more so if you have limited funds for electricity or buying a heater.

The World Health Organization Housing and Health Guidelines (2018) recommend a healthy room temperature of 18 degrees which “should be high enough to protect residents from the harmful health effects of cold”, however for “vulnerable populations, such as babies or the elderly, a temperature of 20 degrees is recommended.”

There is growing evidence that sleeping in a cold bedroom can lead to increased illness for those more vulnerable groups of society, such as children and the elderly. Cooler than 16 degrees can lead to a greater risk of respiratory illness for those who are more vulnerable or who already suffer from Asthma or other respiratory conditions.   However, it’s also important to note that a room that’s too hot can make it hard for a baby to sleep and can also elevate the risk of SUDI.


How can I layer my baby’s clothes appropriately for cooler rooms?

As parents we tend to dress to how cool / hot we feel a room is and we have appropriate bedding for the time of year. It’s no different for your baby. Babies obviously can’t tell us if they’re too hot or cold, so knowing the temperature of their room can help inform us of what might help keep them comfortable.  

If your nursery is on the cooler side (say 16-18 degrees), it’s easy to add layers to your baby to keep them warm. A duvet weight merino sleeping bag or 2.5-3.5 tog cotton bag, with a singlet and full length zipsuit underneath would be ideal for this temperature. And if you think your baby is still cold you could always add another bodysuit or pair of socks. Merino sleepwear is ideal as the weave of the natural fibre helps to create a pocket of insulation around your baby, whilst still being breathable.

Remember to never dress your baby in a hat for sleep. Babies regulate their temperature through their head and a hat can also be a suffocation hazard if it slips down over the face. We also recommend natural fibres, such as merino or cotton, for sleepwear. Never use polar fleece clothing or blankets for sleep, as it doesn’t breathe and can easily overheat your baby.

Woolbabe Merino/Organic Cotton Sleeping Bags & Sleepwear

How can I tell if my baby is too hot or too cold?

The best way to check your baby’s temperature is to place your hand on your baby’s neck or chest and feel their temperature. Hands & feet are not accurate measures of their warmth, it’s the warmth of their core that’s the best thing to measure. You may also find them waking up more frequently than usual if they are cold, so try adding another layer or a pair of socks.

 

How can I measure the temperature of my baby’s room?

Using a room thermometer to measure the nursery temperate can take the guesswork out of layering your baby in their sleepwear. Many sleeping bags, such as Woolbabe or Ergopouch bags & suits come with a handy room thermometer and dressing guide, which will help you decide what to dress the baby in for their sleep. The Gro Egg is an easy to use and effective room thermometer which glows red if your baby’s room is too hot or blue if it’s too cold.

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How do you heat a nursery or children's bedroom?

If you do choose to add heating to your nursery in winter, there are a number of options, some of which are safer than others. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to be confident in the safety of your preferred heating choice. Things to remember when making a choice:

    • Make sure the heater is at least 1m away from anything else
    • Make sure your baby can’t reach the heater
    • If you have a toddler who may get up and walk around at night, don’t choose an oil heater or similar which could be tipped over.
    • Are you able to set a timer so that the heater switches off at an appropriate time? Heaters most likely aren’t needed all night long, so a timer can be used to prevent the room becoming too hot whilst you’re in bed.
    • Does the heater have a built-in thermostat? Using a thermostat or a device like a heatermate can allow you to control the actual room temperature with the device switching the heater on and off to maintain the temperature you have set.
    • Avoid gas heaters - hazardous carbon monoxide can build up which can make you very sick. The open flame is also a very real burn and fire risk.
    • Never use hot water bottles or wheat bags for babies
    • If you’re using a heater, or heatermate with your heater, follow the manufacturer’s guidance and instructions for safe use. Plug it directly into the wall socket (where possible). Heaters draw a lot of power and may overload a multiplug, especially if other devices are also plugged in.
    • If you’re buying a second hand heater (or any other electrical device) make sure it’s checked by a qualified electrician and has been certified safe.
    • Can you place the heater in an area with good airflow? It could overheat if it’s too close to furniture, walls etc.
    • Be careful of the cords – ensure they’re in good condition, furniture is not resting on top of it and that your baby / toddler can’t reach it.

How can I keep my home warmer & drier, without spending too much on power?

Heating a home can be expensive in winter, especially when you have more than one child (more bedrooms to heat), live in a poorly insulated home (as many are in New Zealand) or are on one income. The good news is that the NZ Healthy Home Standards became law in July 2019, meaning rental properties must be insulated in the floor and ceiling, have an appropriate form of heating in the main living area and have appropriate extractor fans to remove moisture as well as openable windows in certain areas.

But there are other ways to make your home warmer and drier without needing to spend precious money on electricity. These take the form of changes to our habits and also small changes to our homes.

Here’s a few tips to keep your home warmer and drier:

Properly ventilate your home:

  • When cooking or showering use an extractor fan, open the window slightly and keep the doors shut to prevent steam escaping into other rooms.
  • Open doors and windows daily for at least 10-15 minutes.
  • Keep furniture away from walls in winter - a small gap allows better airflow and therefore reduces the chance of mould.


Reduce moisture:

  • A damp home is harder to heat and can cause mould, so try to reduce moisture by using an extractor fan when cooking. Ensure it’s cleaned regularly to prevent build up of dust and dirt which will make it less efficient.
  • Cook with pot lids on to reduce additional moisture escaping.
  • Dry clothes outside on a clothesline as much as possible.
  • If using a hairdryer, open the window to ventilate and reduce humidity.
  • Vent your clothes dryer to the outside of your home.
  • Use an extractor fan when showering and keep the door shut so the steam doesn’t escape to other rooms

Other ideas:

  • Close the curtains before it gets dark to reduce the amount of heat lost through the windows (and open them during the day to allow the sun to warm the room naturally). You could also add a curtain pelmet to prevent draughts rising from the windows.
  • Block draughts from windows and doors. Roll up an old towel to draught-proof your doors and install window draught excluders, which are available quite cheaply.
  • If you have wood / vinyl / tiled floors, add a rug to keep the heat in and toes warm.

References:
1. WHO Housing and Health Guidelines. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO. Accessed 13 May 2022 from https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241550376 
2. Gen Less, Reduce Excess Moisture in Your Home, Accessed 13 May 2022, from https://genless.govt.nz/for-everyone/at-home/reduce-excess-moisture-in-your-home/ 
3. Healthy Homes, Accessed 13 May 2022, from https://www.tenancy.govt.nz/healthy-homes/ 
4. Douwes, Dr Jeroen (2008, 18 June). Cold houses and impact on health, Accessed 13 May 2022, from https://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2008/06/18/cold-houses-and-impact-on-health/ 
5. Cold homes and health, Centre for Sustainable Energy, Accessed 13 May 2022, from https://www.cse.org.uk/advice/advice-and-support/heat-and-health 
6. Taking care of electronic devices and appliances, Accessed 17 May 2022, from https://fireandemergency.nz/home-and-community-fire-safety/taking-care-of-electronic-devices-and-appliances


Do I need to heat my Baby's room? | Nursery Temperature

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