The more we learn about reducing the SIDS risk for our babies, the more our attention turns to the best temperature for newborn sleep. Studies have revealed an increased risk of SIDS with overheating. When I was a first-time mom, I felt it was my duty to keep my daughter warm at all costs — swaddling, hats, the whole nine yards. However, with experience, I’ve come to better understand just how sensitive babies are to temperature changes.
While studies haven’t revealed the ideal room temperature for a newborn’s nursery, it’s generally agreed that the best temperature is somewhere between 68°F and 72°F (20°C to 22°C). So what can we do as parents to maintain that safe temperature?
10 Steps to maintain the best temperature for newborn sleep:
1. Use a Room Thermometer
Invest in a room thermometer to monitor the nursery temperature accurately. A digital thermometer can alert you of significant temperature changes. Some baby monitors have built-in thermometers as a feature. Monitoring the nursery temperature is especially important if your room and baby’s room are on different floors of the house. If, for instance, baby sleeps upstairs, and you are downstairs, you would be less likely to know if the upstairs HVAC failed during the night. Monitoring the temperature would help act as a safeguard and enables you to keep the room at the best temperature for newborn sleep.
2. Dress Your Baby Appropriately
As a rule of thumb, your baby should be dressed with no more than 1 layer more than you would comfortably wear in the same environment. For example, if you’re comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt, your baby can wear a long-sleeved onesie. Dress your baby in light, breathable layers to ensure they are comfortable.
3. Swaddle Wisely
Swaddling may help your baby sleep better, but it’s important not to overheat. Use lightweight, breathable blankets for swaddling and ensure that the baby’s face remains uncovered.
4. Maintain Proper Ventilation
Ensure that the room has proper ventilation by allowing fresh air to circulate.
5. Avoid Overheating
Avoid heavy quilts, duvets, or electric blankets. In addition to overheating, thick bedding poses a risk for suffocation. Opt for lightweight, breathable bedding.
6. Use a Sleep Sack
Sleep sacks are a safe alternative to traditional blankets. They keep your baby warm without the risk of suffocation.
7. Monitor the Baby’s Comfort
Keep an eye on your baby’s comfort indicators, such as their body temperature and skin. If your baby seems too warm, remove a layer or turn on a fan to cool the room. If they appear too cold, add an extra layer.
8. Use a Fan
A ceiling fan or oscillating fan can help maintain a comfortable room temperature. Ensure the fan doesn’t blow directly on your baby, but rather simply circulates the air in the room.
9. Check the Baby’s Hands and Feet
Your baby’s hands and feet can give you clues about their comfort. If they are too cold or too warm, you may need to adjust their clothing or the room temperature.
10. Avoid Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight can raise the room temperature. Use blackout curtains or shades to block sunlight during naps and bedtime.
Caution: Know the Signs of Overheating
Signs of overheating include any combination of the following:
- The baby’s chest feels hot to the touch
- Baby seems irritable or sick
- Floppy or less responsive
In the case of suspected overheating, contact your child’s healthcare provider. Give them a cool bath and offer breastmilk or a bottle feeding.
Keeping your baby at the best temperature for newborn sleep is an important step in decreasing your baby’s SIDS risk. By maintaining the recommended room temperature and following these tips, you’ll create a comfortable and safe environment for your newborn. If you’re unsure about the room temperature or baby’s specific needs, consult with your pediatrician or healthcare provider for personalized guidance.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2010). SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Expansion of Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Pediatrics, 128(5), e1341–e1367. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2284.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2022). Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2022 Recommendations for REducing Infant Deaths in the Sleep Environment. Pediatrics, 150 (1), e2002057990. https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/150/1/e2022057990/188304/Sleep-Related-Infant-Deaths-Updated-2022?autologincheck=redirected
Ponsonby A-L, Dwyer T, Gibbons LE, Cochrane JA, Jones ME, McCall MJ. Thermal environment and sudden infant death syndrome: case-control study. BMJ. 1992; 304(6822):277-282