Should Newborn Babies Wear Hats and for how long after birth?

new born baby lying on baby bassinet

How many times do you see a photograph of a newborn baby wearing a sweet bonnet or soft cap after birth? Babies wearing hats have always been a traditional practice but should newborns really wear a hat?

This is a question many modern parents are asking and medical experts are in two minds about this topic. After researching this around the time of the birth of my daughter, I found some answers to help you make a decision on this important topic. 

Why is it an important point to consider? Well, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is connected to the baby overheating, which you absolutely want to avoid.

The Answer to Whether Newborns Should Wear Hats

Throughout the pregnancy, the baby has been growing inside the mother’s warm and cozy womb. The newborn baby is often delivered into a cooler environment and a nurse may place a hat on their head to keep them warm. You should keep the hat on your baby only until you get home. 

Why Should Newborns Wear Hats?

Entering this world can be a shock for your little one especially if it’s cold! Newborn babies lose a lot of heat through their heads which is why you’ll see a nurse or birthing practitioner sometimes placing a little hat onto your baby’s head straight after birth. 

At birth, babies battle to regulate their body temperatures, often losing heat 4 times faster than adults. When the outside temperature is too cold, your baby puts a lot of energy into keeping warm. This puts pressure on his ability to maintain his reserves for growing and being healthy. For sick or premature babies, this can become a serious problem. 

At What Temperature Should Babies Wear Hats?

Dr. Hannah Chow, MD, a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System recommends that babies should only wear hats to prevent heat loss if the temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If your baby is outdoors and the temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit, they should wear a hat for sun protection

The ideal temperature for baby room for newborns and how to keep a baby warm

The ideal temperature for your baby to stay warm, without wearing a hat, should be between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a safe space heater to keep your baby’s nursery warm is one way of keeping the room temperature stable. 

For this reason, it’s essential to maintain a steady room temperature so your baby doesn’t get too cold or too hot. When your baby is born and depending on the circumstances at birth, the following may happen to keep your baby warm:

  • The baby’s wet skin is dried immediately to prevent further heat loss.
  • Your baby is placed onto your body for warmth from skin-to-skin contact.
  • Babies are placed into incubators to keep them warm.
  • A radiant warmer is placed over the open bed and is used to gauge the baby’s temperature so it can adjust the heating of the room accordingly.

For how long after birth do babies need to wear hats?

Healthy, full-term newborn babies only wear hats in the first few days of their lives. Once they leave the hospital there’s no need for your baby to wear a hat unless it’s extremely cold outside or in your home. A sickly or premature baby may need to wear a hat for longer until they reach full-term maturity and feel stronger, health-wise. 

Depending on the hospital you gave birth in, your newborn baby may not even be covered with a hat post-birth. While it was considered standard practice many years ago, placing a hat on a newborn baby is not necessary today unless the baby is premature. 

A healthy, full-term baby, when it’s ready to leave the hospital, should be able to go without a hat. But, if it’s winter or the temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit in your home, you could continue using a hat for a short while longer. 

Should Babies Wear Hats to Sleep (during daytime or at night?)

Most baby experts recommend that babies should NOT wear hats when sleeping whether it’s daytime or at night. The biggest danger is increasing the risk of SIDS through overheating while sleeping. 

The most common prevention tip for SIDS is to place younger babies up to a year old on their back while sleeping. But, the other tip parents should note, to minimize SIDS, is to keep their baby’s head uncovered. While this often refers to bedding and keeping blankets below the baby’s shoulder, it also means avoiding hats. 

Overheating is thought to be one of the causes of SIDS. As mentioned in this article, babies lose excess heat through their heads and this minimizes the risk of overheating while sleeping. But, if they’re wearing a hat, the heat can’t escape. This could cause your baby to overheat. 

Watch this informative video talking about safe sleep practices for babies to minimize the risk of SIDS.

Should Babies Wear Hats Indoors?

Babies should only wear hats indoors if the temperature is below 55 degrees to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, hats should be removed as soon as you enter a building, vehicle, or any other warm spots which could cause your baby to overheat while still wearing a hat. 

If you notice any of the following signs while indoors and your newborn is wearing a hat, take it off immediately:

  • Flushing cheeks
  • Sweating
  • Skin rash
  • Damp hair
  • Rapid breathing

Should Babies Wear Hats Outside?

Mothers are always told by caring grandmothers, fussy friends, and even strangers to make sure their baby’s head is covered whenever outdoors. This makes perfect sense on hot, sunny days to protect against harsh UV rays. But, make sure the hat is made with light, breathable fabrics so your baby doesn’t overheat. 

All babies should be dressed warmly when outside on cold winter days. Always trust your own judgment. If you feel cold while outdoors it’s possible your baby is too so putting on a hat is a good idea. But, if your baby starts to niggle, gets red in the face, or starts to sweat then remove the head covering. 

If you’re struggling to get your baby to wear a hat when it’s cold outside then take a look at my article on how to get your baby to wear a hat

Should Newborns Wear Hats in the Summer?

Being exposed to the sun and UV rays are harmful to newborn babies. Whenever you’re outdoors with your newborn baby, make sure they’re protected by keeping them under a sun canopy if they’re in a stroller or staying in the shade. 

Applying sunscreen to your newborn baby’s head and face can be done but use sparingly to avoid any risk of your baby getting a skin rash. If you’re worried about your baby being exposed to sunlight then getting them a hat is essential. Ensure the hat’s brim is wide enough to cover their face, ears, and neck area. 

Buy a hat that is made with natural, 100% cotton fabric. This type of material will keep your baby cool and prevent the risk of your newborn overheating. However, always keep a close eye on your baby to make sure he’s not getting uncomfortable at any time. 

What Types of Hats Should Babies Wear?

One of the reasons many parents opt to get hats for babies is because they look so cute wearing headgear! How many times have you caught yourself cooing over an adorable baby wearing a sweet cap or knitted beanie? Getting the right type of hat for your newborn baby depends on a number of factors. These could include:

  • Material type: The best fabric for babies’ hats should be a natural mix. This means the hat will keep your baby cool on hot days and warm on cooler or cold days. Organic 100% cotton is also a good material as it’s breathable and light.
  • Hypoallergenic fabric: Newborn babies have very sensitive skin so opting for hypoallergenic fabric such as silk, bamboo, or cotton is a good idea. 
  • Chin straps: Hats with chin straps or ties help to keep the hat in place and prevent your baby from trying to pull them off. However, make sure the strap is not too tight, and always remove the hat when your baby’s sleeping to prevent the risk of strangulation. 
  • Bonnets and soft caps: For newborn babies, begin with bonnets and soft caps. This helps your baby get used to wearing something on their head and they’re also gentler on a newborn’s soft scalp.  
  • Wide-brim sun hats: When your baby is older, you can introduce them to wide-brim sun hats for outdoor use. 

Stay away from hats made with vinyl or animal fur. These materials can become a choking hazard should your baby remove their headgear and start sucking on the fabric. 

Final Thoughts

Deciding whether your newborn baby should wear a hat is dependent on a number of factors. A healthy, full-term newborn should only need to wear a hat for a couple of days after birth. If the temperature is icy cold, both outside and in your home, then wearing a hat is a good idea to keep your little one warm. And, sun hats are essential for those outings to outdoor venues on sunny days. 

Baby headgear can be added to your list of items to get for your newborn but make sure it’s necessary before keeping their head covered at all times.

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