Summer, spring, winter, fall: It's great to get out and enjoy the four seasons with baby. Still, you need to exercise good judgment before braving the elements with a little one.
Has the mercury soared above 80 degrees? Has it dipped below freezing? In both cases, avoid going out with an infant. Even in milder temperatures you're wise to consider how the weather may change. You'll need to shield your newborn from wind, rain, snow and direct sunlight.
When dressing baby for the outdoors, a good rule of thumb is simply to dress him as you're dressed. If you're warm enough in a T-shirt, that's all he'll need, too—even tiny babies don't need heavy blankets on a hot day. If you dress your baby in light layers you'll be prepared for changes in temperature.
For warm weather, your baby's clothing should be lightweight and should breathe (cotton as opposed to nylon). Dress your baby in light-colored, lightweight cotton pants, a long-sleeved top and a wide-brimmed hat or bonnet for protection from the sun. When you go from the hot outdoors to an air-conditioned room, cover baby lightly with a sweater or blanket to protect against getting chilled.
Check with your pediatrician before using sunscreen on your baby earlier than 6 months of age. After that, be sure to put sunscreen on any time baby will be exposed to sun; consult your physician about what kind to use. No matter what baby's age is, avoid the summer sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Use a stroller hood or portable clamp-on umbrella when you walk with your baby on a sunny day. Any part of your baby that sticks out—arms or legs, for example—may get sunburned.
If you use a baby carrier, pay extra attention to how hot baby is getting. If your carrier is made of corduroy or other heavy material, your baby may become overheated. Be sure he wears a sun hat and that his arms and legs are covered. Check his neck, back or chest to be sure that she isn't getting sunburned.
Like you, your baby should drink extra liquids in hot weather. Water, diluted juice or breast milk are good choices. Avoid sports drinks, which are full of sugar and salt.
In cold weather, follow the same rule as in hot: let your own comfort level be the guide. Dress your baby in as many layers as you need to stay warm, and keep a hat on him whenever it's chilly.
How do you know if baby's got enough layers on – or too many? Feel the skin on his torso, arms or the back of his neck. If he seems cool, add a layer; if he's sweating, take one off. Once he's comfortable, you'll be able to enjoy your time together outdoors.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.