Keeping newborn warm in winter
Immediately after birth, newborn infant starts losing heat. Unless heat loss is prevented, newborn will develop hypothermia (becomes cold) that can lead to many complications, even death. The smaller and more premature the baby, the greater the risk is. As newborn infant regulates body temperature less efficiently than does that of an adult, caregivers should take proper precaution to ensure that baby does not become too cold especially for premature babies.
Hypothermia (when body temperature is less than 97.7°F) is a common condition around the world and can occur in all climates. But the temperature of the environment during delivery and the postnatal period has significant effects on the risk to the newborn of developing hypothermia. Thus, we should be extra cautious in keeping babies warm in winter season.
In general, newborns need a much warmer environment than an adult. The smaller the newborn, the higher the temperature needs to be. Thus, to maintain optimum temperature in infants, experts from World Health Organisation (WHO) and Saving Newborn Lives initiative of Save the Children have recommended the following actions:
* The newborn should be immediately dried and covered with a clean dry towel before the cord is cut. While the newborn is being dried, it should be on a warm surface such as the mother's chest or abdomen or a prewarmed cloth on the bed. Newborn should be dried in a manner so that the white cheesy layer covering its skin is not wiped off.
* The baby should then be wrapped with a second, dry towel (discard the first towel) including its head. If the room temperature is less than optimal (less than 25°C/77°F), towels and cap should be pre-warmed.
* Skin-to-skin contact is an effective method of preventing heat loss in newborns, whether they are full term or preterm babies. The contact in the form of Kangaroo Mother Care is lifesaving for infants who are born prematurely or have low birth weight. If skin-to-skin contact is not acceptable, the baby could be wrapped after having been dried, and placed in its mother's arms.
* Breastfeeding should begin as soon as possible after delivery, preferably within an hour. The first milk, called colostrum, is rich in nutrients, antibodies, and is essential to provide the newborn with calories so that it can generate body heat. The baby should not be given any food or drink other than breast milk till 6 months.
* Bathing the newborn soon after birth causes a drop in the baby's body temperature and is not necessary. Thus, bathing the baby should be postponed for at least 3 days after birth.
* Newborns should be adequately protected from exposure to ambient temperature by clothing and bedding. As a general rule, newborns need one or two more layers of clothes and bedding than adults. In the first hours after birth, clothing should always include a cap, since as much as 25% of heat loss in a newborn baby may be from an uncovered head. Clothing and bedding should not be too tight to allow air spaces between the layers as trapped air is a very efficient insulator.