• Black Instagram Icon

Wow! Those Are Some Cute Little Toes! Now Cover Them Up. Babies Won't Sleep If They Are Cold!

Updated: May 19

What Newborns need to sleep well:

1. Warmth

2. Security

3. Low Light

4. Consistent Noise Levels

5. Something to suck on (maybe)

6. Motion

For more information on this topic you should absolutely read Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp. His book is a good read and contains fascinating information!

Okay let's talk about each of these individually:

1. Warmth. Babies, especially newborns tend to get cold fairly easily. They have never had to regulate their own body temperature and it will take them awhile to figure out how. Also, most newborns are pretty scrawny. So until they fatten up, they simply don't have the energy stores to burn to keep themselves warm or the padding to keep them protected. How do we keep them warm?


I am joking, keep them mostly wrapped up in blankets made of natural fibers like cotton, hemp, bamboo or wool (cashmere if you can!) natural fibers breath well, helping to keep them from overheating. Our temperature rises and falls depending on the time of day and night. It is not unusual for a baby to need less protection in the morning as their temperature will naturally warm as they wake up. So if your baby is warm in the morning but waking up in the middle of the night, feel their feet and cheeks, they may just be cold.

Warm up their food. 1 calorie = the amount of heat it takes to warm 1 gram of water up 1 degree Celsius. Which means, if your tiny little baby is fed 1 ounce of milk that is 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it will take them cost them roughly

The math goes as follows

70 F = 21.1 C

Body temp = 36.4 C

So we need to raise the temperature of the food 15.3 degrees, per gram of milk.

1 ounce of milk is about 30 grams.

So 15.3 x 30 = 459 calories

1 ounce of formula has about 22,000 calories (if you are looking at a formula label right now and saying no... it says 22 Calories... you are correct. 22 Calories (big C) are actually Kilocalories (which is the amount of energy it takes to raise 1 Kilogram of water 1 degree C. And if you are wondering what the difference between a Kilogram and a gram is, the answer is 1000 grams to 1 Kilogram). And if all of this is deeply irritating to you... yeah me too. Time to switch to the metric system baby!

Moving on:

So if you feed your baby 1 ounce of 70 degree milk that has about 22,000 calories in it. It is going to cost your baby 459 calories simply to warm it up. Which means they net 21,541 calories. Which doesn't seem that bad, but multiply that useless waste of energy by 10 feedings a day and you end up with an accumulated waste of 4590 calories. Which starts making a difference. Especially for skinny or premature babies. Besides, it makes them cold, from the inside out. And like we talked about, cold babies don't sleep well!

You can feed them cold milk later on if you really want to just cool it down gradually over a week or two and it will be fine, but I wouldn't start doing that until after 3 or 4 months. And don't worry, they won't become "addicted" to warm milk... (on another note. What is with people being super worried about a baby being dependent on something... I mean seriously people, dependency is kinda the baby trademark).

2. Security. (Spoiler, we are about to talk about swaddling)! You will notice that when your baby was born they were most likely tightly curled up. their little hands were in fists, their backs were rounded, their knees up to their chest in the "fetal position". And you may have noticed that the did not like to completely straighten out their legs and they may have yelled when you tried to force their arms away from their body to stuff them into their clothes. I think new babies are amazing, almost like a perfect little origami sculpture! Pull a leg out and they immediately snap it back. Sometimes they take the energy to open their eyes and glare at you. Even their feet are turned in towards their mid-line. Some babies have feet so flexible that they can touch their toes to their shins. They are marvelous little things!! Over the next 4 months they will unwind and open up. They will open their hands to grab things and arch their backs to roll over. To me, a newborn is in part defined by this tightly coiled position. So when you want to sleep, you must make it so that their tightness is supported so that it doesn't cost them energy to maintain. Simply put, swaddle your baby... firmly. My favorite combination is a Miracle Blanket inside a Woombie swaddle (CAUTION, it is easy to get this TOO tight. So be careful and make sure that you can get three fingers inside the swaddle easily) you don't want them to struggle to breath. The Woombie doesn't need to be tight since it only serves to keep the Miracle Blanket from coming unwound. The Miracle Blanket actually does the securing. If you don't have a Miracle Blanket, you can cheat it using the ubiquitous large muslin blankets.

3. Low Light. Electricity is everywhere. We forget that Thomas Edison only created the first practical incandescent light in 1879. And electric lights were not common until early the 1900s. Artificial lighting is very new to our history. And shelters with windows are also a comparatively recent invention. Meaning, for the vast majority of human history, babies have slept in very dark places. Melatonin is only produced in darkness. Which means if you want your baby to sleep, they need amble time in darkness for their body to build their sleep hormone stockpiles.

4. Babies in utero will flinch in response to sudden loud noises. Loud noises mean danger. A cough between songs at the symphony is much more startling than a cough in the middle of Grand Central Station. If you are not in a silent place, then you need a sound machine to mitigate and absorb the suddenness of the loud unexpected noises. I don't like white noise because it is too steady and you have to turn it up much louder to get the same effect. Find a nice thunderstorm, ocean/harbor sounds,or river sound, and the ambulance screaming past their window will be lumped in with the thunder cracking or the ship horn blowing.

5. Not all children love a pacifier. This is where I differ from a lot of infant specialists. Again, this is a matter of fearing a "dependency". Here is the deal. research shows that a pacifier reduces the incidence of reflux, the severity of reflux, and the duration of reflux.


And they have been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS


Which is not to say that you should force a pacifier on your baby. BUT if your baby is soothed by a pacifier, then let them have it. Babies have a deep biological urge to suckle. This harks back to bringing their mother's milk supply. Building a milk supply is often a case of stimulation. A baby with a lot of will to nurse will bring in a stronger supply increasing their chances of survival, increasing their chances of going on to parent a baby with strong suckling instincts of their own. If your baby falls into this catagory, it seems a little bit mean to deny them something that is an inborn biological need.

You can always take it away after the newborn stage. I love transitioning to crib/travel only pacifier usage after 4 months. Babies are psyched to go down for their naps because they get their pacifier! And then at about a year, Explain that soon they will be too big to use a pacifier and then a couple days later, locate all of them and take them away. Your baby will be unable to drive to the store to buy more, they can't read yet either, so don't worry, they won't order more online. It will be a rough couple of days... but then it will be fine. As long as you stay strong.

6. Motion. In utero a baby in constant motion, jostled and jiggled. One of the biggest problems with growing babies outside of the womb is creating this constant motion. A fetus in stillness does not thrive. And then through much of our history, after birth a baby was simply carried around by various members of their family unit. Leaving a baby alone was a rather foolish thing to do when hungry bears and wolves roamed freely. Even a fox could make quick work of a lone newborn. So a baby was affixed to another place of constant motion. Now, a baby is born and we don't worry about a curious wolverine dropping by. We put them in sturdy cribs with hard mattresses (to prevent suffocation) in chilly rooms (between 68 and 72 is safest) on their backs (to prevent SIDS). All of these are solutions backed up by science. But in exchange, we get cold babies with flattened skulls and often sleepless nights. Once they are able to roll over on their own they have a nice layer of fat to cushion them from their hard mattresses. the flat head is often forever, but they can reposition themselves to stay comfy and we can dress them in warm pjs or sleep sacks to keep properly heated. But none of these things solves the motion problem. You could buy a Snoo... which is expensive and AMAZING. You can put them in a baby swing or MamaRoo, and if you do, I hope that you don't let anyone shame you. While yes, a baby in an optimal sleep situation is safest. A baby flat on their back with reflux and parents who haven't slept in days is also not in a good situation. Run the cost benefit analysis for your family. But realize that motion is an integral part of our history and our genetic expectations.

Home Page