Few things look cuter than a newborn baby bundled up in a receiving blanket, with a jaunty little hat covering his little head. Your hospital puts a hat on your baby's head after he's born to prevent heat loss, but you don't have to use their stockinette hat on your baby's head if you want to bring your own. Hospitals have no particular requirements for the type of hat they put on newborns, although common sense dictates that you follow certain guidelines.
Newborns leave a warm -- and wet -- environment of around 98.6 F for the relatively chilly delivery room -- a drop of 20 degrees or more, which is a shock to someone whose never experienced this type of temperature shift. Because he's also wet, he chills more easily because it takes body heat to evaporate liquids on the skin. A newborn's temperature can drop around 3 to 5 F in the minutes after birth, the "Maternity and Pediatric Nursing" textbook cautions. A newborn doesn't shiver, so he can't keep his body temperature up like an adult would. A hat prevents heat loss from his head, the largest body surface area he has. A French study in the June 2002 issue of "Medical Physics" found that hats reduced heat loss by 18.9 percent in newborn infants.
All newborns are at risk for hypothermia during the first 12 hours of life, according to a 2007 article published in "Infant." Unless your baby is in an incubator or on a warming table in the special care nursery, your hospital might insist that you keep his hat on him at all times, at least during his first day of life. The staff will also check your baby's temperature at least once per shift, to ensure that he's maintaining his body temperature adequately.
Bringing Your Own
Hospital hats for newborns are cute -- because anything looks cute on a newborn -- but rather plain. They're usually made from a thin tan material that adheres closely to your newborn's head. You can bring in your own hat, as long as it fits your baby's head properly. A too-tight hat could leave red marks or irritation on your baby's head, while a hat that's too big could slip over his face, posing a suffocation risk. Baby's skin is delicate and prone to rashes, so leave the wool hats and other potentially itchy and irritating materials off his head. A tightly knit hat will retain head heat better than one with loose stitches that allow heat to escape.
How Long to Wear a Hat
Once you take your healthy, full-term newborn out the hospital door and into your home, he doesn't need to wear a hat, California pediatrician Howard Reinstein explains. It's a good idea to keep a hat on him if you have a cold house, and it's an essential part of his fashion wardrobe if you take him outside in the fall or winter. Babies don't regulate their body temperature well until age 6 months, according to Reinstein.