How to Tell if a Baby Is Cold

By Zora Hughes
Newborn baby wrapped up in blanket

Don't ignore your baby's pale skin, lethargic behavior and low appetite -- it could be signs that your baby is too cold. Infants lose body heat quickly and can't regulate their body temperature as well as adults, according to Stanford's Lucile Packford Children's Hospital. If your little one is too cold, he must exert more oxygen to warm himself, depleting energy reserves and lowering his heart rate. In extreme cases, hypothermia can set in. Ensure your baby is not too cold, especially in a drafty room, by checking for physical signs and getting an accurate read of his body temperature.

What is Too Cold?

A normal body temperature for infants is between 97.5 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, as infants generally have higher body temperatures than older children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). If your baby's temperature is lower than 97.5 F, her body has to work harder to try to regulate her temperature, causing lowered energy levels. Premature and low-birth weight babies are especially susceptible to getting cold quickly. Hypothermia also starts to set in if your baby's temperature falls below 95 F. Call your pediatrician immediately or take your baby to the emergency room in this situation.

Cold Baby Symptoms

You can gauge if your baby is too cold by looking out for telltale physical signs. Touch your baby's skin to see if it feels unusually cool. Don't just go by how his fingers and toes feel, however, as babies generally have cooler extremities due to an immature circulatory system. Instead, check his stomach and back with the palm of your hands. Other signs to look out for include your baby looking pale in the face, having blue lips, being irritable, not feeding well and being less active than normal.

Taking Baby's Temperature

The only accurate way to determine if your baby is too cold is by using a thermometer. The AAP recommends taking a rectal temperature for all children under the age of 3 for the most accurate body temperature reading. To take a rectal temperature, the AAP recommends using a sterilized digital multiuse thermometer and add a tiny amount of petroleum jelly or similar lubricant to the tip. Hold your baby face down across your lap or face up while holding his legs to his chest. Insert the tip no more than an inch into the anus and wait for the thermometer to beep before removing and checking the temperature. Although a rectal thermometer provides the most accurate reading, the Mayo Clinic also considers taking baby's armpit temperature safe for infants older than 3 months. Just place the digital thermometer under your baby's dry armpit. Hold his arm closed until the thermometer beeps.

Warming Baby Up

If your baby's temperature is below 97.5 F, it's important to consult your pediatrician, who might have you go to the emergency room if the situation is serious. If you're baby's temperature is only slightly below 97.5 F, your pediatrician may recommend ways to warm your baby up at home. The North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation recommends adjusting the temperature in the room if possible to between 62 to 72 F. If the room your baby sleeps in drafty, invest in window insulation and insulated curtains. Swaddle your infant in a lightweight cotton blanket, or place your baby in a one-piece footed sleeper or sleep sack, which keeps babies warm without causing a risk of suffocation from using loose blankets. You can put a lightweight hat on your baby's head to keep heat from escaping, but only when she is not sleeping, as hats can slip down a baby's face and cause suffocation. For a quick warm-up when your baby is cool, put her in a sling next to your body so she can take advantage of your body heat.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.