It’s a common sight to see a newborn baby swaddled snugly in a blanket with a little hat covering her head. The newborn’s hat serves an important purpose, because young babies often have trouble regulating body temperature. Without a hat, a baby may lose body heat through her exposed head.
Newborns have a proportionately large amount of body surface compared to adults, according to the Rockford Health System website. Because of this large amount of body surface, it’s easy for tiny babies to lose body heat quickly unless you cover skin surfaces with clothing or a blanket. Preventing heat loss can be particularly important for premature newborns or a baby born at a low birth weight.
Effects of Cold Stress
Babies who experience heat loss may experience cold stress. When cold-stressed, a baby’s body will attempt to regenerate the lost heat by using excessive amounts of energy and oxygen. When a baby uses energy and oxygen to compensate for heat loss, the baby does not have the energy and oxygen available for growing and remaining healthy. Cold stress can place negative demands on a newborn’s system.
Standard newborn care involves dressing the baby in clothing layers similar to what you are wearing, adding one additional layer or blanket for a very tiny or young newborn, according to the Sutter Health website. Add a knit hat or a bonnet to your baby’s head if the ambient temperature is below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Determine whether your newborn is properly dressed, too warm or too cold. Touch your baby’s feet, hands and back -- if these body parts feel cold, add a layer of clothing, a thicker hat or a blanket. If your baby feels overly warm and sweaty, remove the hat and possibly a layer of clothing. If your baby does not feel too warm or too chilly, your baby is comfortable and does not need any adjustments.
Sun exposure is dangerous for newborns, due to the risk of sunburn. In addition, a newborn’s skin is too sensitive to apply sunscreen, states the Skin Cancer Foundation website. If you take your newborn outdoors, keep him in the shade to protect his skin. Place a wide-brimmed sun hat on the baby to add extra protection for the newborn’s face, ears and neck.