Remember summer? When we could just pop on some sandals and walk out the door? Now, it’s 20 minutes to bundle up my almost 2-year-old for 10-degree weather, and I end up sweaty – go figure.
The current temps here in Michigan, like most of the country, are in the single digits, before windchill. We’ve been inside way too much. My son is somewhere between Tom Cruise couch jumping on Oprah and Christian Bale’s on-set meltdown (Google it, put on headphones, and prepare for lots of F-words). So, we NEED to get outside. You feel this, mamas?
Bonus! Getting outside in the winter time is both good for you and your littles. It’s a completely different sensory experience for your child. In those first few years of life, your babies are developing both cognitively and physically by taking in the sights, sounds, feels and smells from their environment. The feel of the cold air, the sound of crunching snow, and the stillness of winter – these new experiences help that brain development. Outdoor time in the winter also increases our vitamin D intake, something those of us in the northern hemisphere can lack in the winter months. This is good for everyone in the family.
Getting outside, in general, has its benefits, such as:
- Reduces chance of obesity
- Reduces ADHD
- Helps with behavior issues (toddlers…yes, I can attest to this)
- BETTER SLEEP (I can attest to this, too) A 2004 study in the Journal of Sleep Research, babies younger than 13 weeks who slept well at night spent twice as much time in the daylight than their wakeful peers
A Stanford University study published in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Science found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression. Time in nature was found to have a positive effect on mood and aspects of cognitive function, including working memory, as well as a dampening effect on anxiety. Woo hoo!
Nordic parents are known for encouraging their children to be outside in below freezing, even sub-zero, temperatures. The reasons? Better sleep, less illness, and overall wellbeing.
The first key to outdoor happiness in cold weather is layering. Remember the 3 W’s – Wicking, Warming, and Weathering. Let’s break it down:
- #1 Wicking –
- This is your base layer or the layer that sits on the skin, and it is designed to remove moisture from the skin and keep you dry
- Wicking material helps you avoid that “sweat-sicle” feeling of when you are warm and sweaty on the inside, which then gives you the chills
- Wool or polyester are best
- Avoid cotton
- #2 Warming –
- This is the layer…or layers…that keeps you insulated and warm
- A good rule of thumb is to dress your baby in one more layer than you are wearing
- Look for wool, down, polyester, polypropylene, and nylon
- #3 Weathering –
- Protection from the elements – wind, rain, and snow
- Wind and waterproof materials
- This applies to your coats, pants, shoes, and mittens or gloves
Avoid tight clothing. You want to allow body heat to circulate.
Lastly, protect any exposed skin with a barrier ointment – this goes for both you and baby. We love Dermatone, I’ve used this for years as a skier, and I love that it has an SPF. You can use anything that doesn’t sink into the sink, such as Vaseline, Aquaphor, Burt’s Bees Multipurpose Ointment, or A+D.
Just like extreme heat, extreme cold can be hazardous. Babies, especially newborns, have a harder time regulating their body temperatures than adults. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the younger the child, the smaller the ratio of their body mass to body surface — which means more heat escapes through their skin. The second key to outdoor winter happiness is to be aware of warning signs that your kiddo is either too cold or too hot. And keep an eye on your other hiking partners as well, even the adults. If you are uncertain, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Those cute rosy cheeks are caused by your baby’s body sending more blood to the exposed skin to keep it warm. When skin becomes white, pale yellow, waxy or shiny, or hard, this indicates the first stages of frostbite. You can also perform a capillary refill test.
- Make sure the diaper is dry. Wet diapers get cold fast and can cause your baby to become real cold, real fast.
- My son is a hot box, and I tend to overdress him. Keep an eye out for sweating or hot flushed skin. To cool him off I’ll remove his hat or mittens for a few minutes, depending on the conditions, or take off an insulating layer.
- Keep an eye on baby’s hand and foot temperature. The back of the neck is another great spot to check to see if your baby is hot, cold, or just right.
- Wearing your baby will keep them warmer than in a stroller.
- Trust your gut when it comes to your baby’s health and happiness.
If you see signs that you need to rewarm your baby, do it right away. Don’t wait until you are back inside or at your vehicle. Direct skin to skin contact will start the rewarming process immediately. It is advised not to breathe on the cold skin as this adds moisture and can increase the problem. Same with rubbing the frost-bitten skin, this can cause more damage.
(Source: Hike it Baby, https://hikeitbaby.com/blog/winter-hiking-with-infants-toddlers-and-children/)
Other helpful articles for reference:
Layering for Moms > https://hikeitbaby.com/blog/winter-layering-options-for-mothers/
Winter Hiking – How to Layer for Infants > https://hikeitbaby.com/blog/winter-hiking-how-to-layer-for-infants/
20 Reasons to Brave Winter Hiking with Your Family >https://hikeitbaby.com/blog/10-reasons-to-brave-winter-hiking-with-your-family/
5 Comfy and Cozy Winter Carriers for Babywearing > https://hikeitbaby.com/blog/5-comfy-cozy-winter-carriers-babywearing/
HIB Hacks for Winter Weather Fun > https://hikeitbaby.com/blog/hib-hacks-for-winter-weather-fun/
PennState Hershey – Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Hike it Baby