How to Dress a Small Child

In the uterus, a baby experiences a sense of security, safety and basic trust. The temperature is always perfect. In caring for the newborn, and even through the early childhood years, we try to give the child an environment that maintains this feeling of security, safety and trust as much as possible.

The first thing that parents need to do is make sure that their baby can maintain his or her body temperature. It takes babies until they are between 5 and 9 months to regulate their own body temperature. If babies need to invest a lot of energy into staying warm, they experience stress and cannot grow optimally. A baby that is not dressed warm enough can become restless, experience cramps or cry a lot. Simply dressing them more warmly can change their behavior and level of contentment dramatically. Small children have thin skin, and they spend time on the floor. Have you ever sat on a hardwood floor? Did you notice how cold it was? A first step for parents is to realize that it is important to dress a small child warm enough.

How do you know if your child (especially your baby) is dressed warm enough? Start by feeling their little bodies! A baby needs to have warm feet, warm legs and warm arms. Cold legs and cold feet are a signal that the baby needs extra clothing. On the other hand, if a baby’s neck and the area between his shoulders feels warm (or a bit wet), take one layer off. It is also important not to overdress a baby, as being too warm can be dangerous. Especially at night do not overdress the baby, do not use duvet covers and dress according to the room temperature. Under the age of 7, children do not know that they are too cold or too warm. They typically will not articulate this, but will misbehave instead. Parents are responsible for what their children are wearing! If children are dressed warm enough during the day and during the night, it is a lot easier for them to feel at home in their bodies. As a rule of thumb, small children should wear one more layer than their parents.

Wool and Silk
The delicate skin of a baby or toddler is best nurtured with clothes of natural materials like wool and silk. Wool is wonderfully warming. Merino sheep have very soft wool that does not itch. The wool of these sheep is further treated with natural enzymes. This makes the undergarment machine washable and also very good for children with uniquely sensitive skin. Silk, on the other hand, is like a second skin. It is calming and protects the child from over-stimulation that is part of our modern world. Therefore, silk is good for children who are sensitive to the environment. Silk takes on the body’s own temperature. Wool and silk are breathable and can absorb a lot of humidity without feeling damp.

The Baby Bonnet
Unfortunately, the baby bonnet is out of fashion in our culture. If you look at old pictures, small children are often wearing a bonnet. Babies’ heads are larger in proportion to the rest of their bodies than those of older children. The small soft spot in the middle of a baby’s skull, called the fontanel, is still open, and the head is also often still nearly bare. Therefore, a baby’s head radiates a great deal of warmth! With a bonnet, babies can more easily maintain their body temperature. For a newborn, a bonnet is not a luxury but a necessity!

At Night
In the uterus, the baby does not have a lot of space in which to move around. Therefore, the pressure of a tightly tucked-in woolen or cotton blanket in bed or the limitation of the right-sized sleeping bag gives children a feeling of trust in themselves and the world. By means of these boundaries, the baby feels where he ends and where the world begins. At night, small children often end up out from under their blankets and cannot cover themselves. With a wool sleeping bag, they can move and still stay warm all night long.

© 2009-2011 Ester Delhoofen. All rights reserved.