Safe ways to keep babies warm this winter as experts warn of risk of death

As the winter months approach, parents are often worried about how they can keep their babies warm, and this year, rocketing energy bills are causing even more concern.

Millions of households across the UK will find it increasingly difficult to heat their homes this winter, with the energy price cap set to rise by 80% in October and another rise predicted for January.

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust has warned parents that some of the advice they hear about keeping warm “may in fact be harmful for babies”.

It said the best thing for babies is for the home to be a reasonable temperature and added parents “shouldn’t have to find workarounds for this to happen, especially if it leads to riskier practices around co-sleeping, or if these things are unfeasible or too expensive”.

However, with increasing levels of fuel poverty, experts have now urged parents to opt for safer methods of keeping their children warm and have given their advice on the best ways to do this.

The dangerous ways of keeping babies warm
Common methods of keeping babies warm, including wrapping them up in lots of layers and co-sleeping, can actually be very dangerous.

Professor Ian Sinha, a consultant respiratory paediatrician at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, warned that they could even have fatal consequences.

He said: “We’ve had to say ‘look, don’t wrap your baby up in lots of layers’ because we know that that is a risk for cot death, and pre-term infants are already at higher risk.

“We’ve had to say ‘try not to sleep in bed with your baby’, people are saying ‘well let’s all cuddle together, that will keep us warm’ – again, one of the key risk factors for cot deaths.

“So the way that we’re thinking about this winter is very much in terms of the most grave consequences, and we worry that this will either catch up with infants now or in the future.”

Dr Gareth Nye, a senior lecturer at the University of Chester specialising in maternal and foetal health, also said that too many layers can be dangerous for a baby.

He told the Mirror: “Putting multiple layers on your child may seem like a good idea at first, but ultimately can lead to overheating your child, which is a contributing factor to infant sleep related deaths.”

He also added that you should avoid covering a baby’s head as “this can interrupt the baby’s ability to regulate their temperature”.

How do I keep my baby warm in winter?
Although you should avoid the unsafe methods above, there are some safe ways that you can keep your babies warm this winter.

The ways that you can safely keep babies warm include:
Using a sleep bag with the correct tog
Keeping the room temperature between 16–20C
Excluding draughts from the home
Keeping babies away from damp and mould
Putting the baby to sleep in a cot or using safer co-sleeping methods.
Dr Nye revealed that the most useful product to buy for the colder winter months is an infant/baby sleep bag, which fastens over the baby’s shoulders and leaves their arms free. Like a duvet, these come in different togs and Dr Nye recommends using a two-tog version when temperatures dip below 17C.

He said: “For cold weather it is advised to dress a baby in a long-sleeved vest under a baby grow/sleep suit and then placing the baby in a two-tog sleep bag.

“This negates the need for blankets and duvets which can cause issues for a sleeping baby. For particularly cold temperatures, mittens and socks should be added.”

The NHS advises parents that the safest place for a baby to sleep for the first six months is in a cot in the same room as them, to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

But the Alder Hey Trust said if parents choose to share a bed with their baby, they can do this more safely by “making sure the baby lies face up on a firm, flat mattress, not having pillows or duvets near the baby and not having any other children or pets in the bed”.

It also advises that parents seek help from their council, children’s centres and Citizen’s Advice if their home is cold.