Environment, clothing and checking baby’s temperature
Although your baby appears almost fully grown, a baby born even a few weeks early
comes into the world lacking a large percentage of a full term infant’s weight and may
show some immature behaviour. For this reason your baby will require slightly more
attention during the first few weeks at home.
It is not necessary for you to routinely take your baby’s temperature. It is important to
ensure that they do not become too hot or too cold.
Most baby care experts recommend dressing a baby in one layer of clothing more
than you would wear to be comfortable. Avoid the temptation to overdress your baby.
Usually a baby who is dressed too warmly will fuss, turn red and possibly sweat. A cool
baby may also fuss but may have cool, pale or marbled looking hands or feet.
The temperature of a baby’s hands or feet may not be a reliable indicator of their
temperature. Feeling their chest, tummy or between their shoulder blades is far more
Hats and caps are important items in all weather. During cooler weather, a hat can
prevent your baby losing heat through the surface of their head. In warm weather a cap
protects baby’s delicate skin on the head and face from direct sun exposure. S.I.D.S.
guidelines recommend that you don’t let your baby sleep with a hat on.
Keep your home environment warm, but not too hot or cold. During winter, avoid
placing your baby too close to a heater and always ensure the room is well ventilated.
Also avoid using heavy blankets, quilt covers and cot bumpers. Several layers of
lighter clothing and blankets are better so that they can be easily removed.
If you suspect your baby is sick then you may need to take their temperature.
The recommended way to check your baby’s temperature is under the armpit (axillary).
Before taking your baby’s temperature, ensure the area under the arm is dry. Insert a
digital thermometer under the baby’s arm and hold the arm snugly against their body.
Wait until the thermometer ‘beeps’ before you remove it.
A normal temperature under the armpit is 36.5 to 37.2º C.
If a baby’s temperature is less than 36.5°C, check the temperature under the other
arm and if it is the same, add an extra layer of clothing and a warmed blanket or
place the baby skin to skin with you. If the temperature is between 37.2 and 37.5, try
removing a layer of clothing and check again in 30 minutes.
Some possible reasons to check baby’s temperature are if
- Baby is especially irritable
- Baby’s skin is hot, or there is excessive sweating or a rash
- Baby’s complexion is either very pale or flushed
- Baby’s breathing is unusually fast, slow or especially noisy
- Baby has a runny nose, is sneezing or coughing
- Baby’s appetite is poor
- Baby rubs their ear(s) rolls head or screams sharply
- Baby is vomiting or has diarrhoea, or the stool has an unusual colour or odour
Crying is a baby’s most powerful means of communication. It is a signal to alert the
person looking after them that they need attention. Crying is a baby’s language, and
they cry for many reasons. It is important for parents to understand why babies cry
and to be able to identify certain behaviours.
When to call the doctor
- Persistent temperature over 37.5°C
- Looking pale, lethargic/drowsy
- Disinterested in feeds
- Weak or high-pitched cry
- Persistent vomiting, particularly if bright yellow or green in colour
- Rapid breathing, drawing in of the chest wall
- Abnormal behaviour such as lethargy, irritability, floppy, poor response
- Less than 4 wet nappies in 24 hours