Baby It’s Freezing – Let’s Go Outside!

I sometimes get asked under what circumstances it’s “safe” to take babies outside in the winter. My answer is usually that winter temperatures rarely pose a threat to a healthy baby, as long as you dress him or her appropriately. On the contrary, fresh air helps young children stay healthy, as they’re less exposed to infectious virus and bacteria  outdoors than they are indoors. (In order to keep my lawyer happy I need to add that I’m certainly not a doctor and I don’t give health advice on this blog).

Baby, It's Freezing - Let's Go Outside! How to Dress Babies for Winter. Rain or Shine Mamma.

As I mentioned in my post How to Parent Like a Swede  letting your baby nap outside is a common practice in Scandinavia, and according to one Finnish study babies have been recorded sleeping comfortably for long periods of time in temperatures as low as -16 F (-27 C). Whether you’ve decided to give the outdoor napping regimen a try, or you’re just looking to stay active outside after becoming a parent, keeping a baby warm in the winter requires some know-how. Just the other day, I received this question from a reader, Mac:

“My wife loves taking walks with our son in the stroller, and would like to continue through the winter, assuming there isn’t too much snow and ice on the roads. Any advice for keeping a one-year-old warm who won’t be doing any walking? Spend the money for a bulky (and probably pricey) coat? Or just dress him in a few layers of clothes and use blankets as needed?”

Let’s break this question down: First of all, YES, if you live in a cold climate outdoor gear is worth every penny – even for a baby that is not yet walking. Having proper clothes rather than layering with blankets makes you much more flexible when going outside with the baby, and doesn’t restrict him or her to the stroller only. You’re also prepared should your baby become mobile during the winter.

Winter gear for babies doesn’t have to be expensive, it just needs to be warm. Below you’ll find my recommendations for keeping baby warm outdoors in the winter.

 For the stroller:

  • Wool liner. Wool is an amazing material when it comes to keeping both children and adults warm, and there are a few lambswool/micro-suede liners that are specifically made to fit strollers. However, I wanted something slightly bigger and pure wool, so I just bought a baby lambswool like the one pictured to the right. You can find a similar product at IKEA for a fraction of the price.
  • Bunting bag. When my kids were babies I used a JJ Cole Bundleme Original on top of the wool liner (in fact, the Little Naturalist, who is now four and a half, still uses it from time to time, even though she has really outgrown it). It is affordable, durable and not very bulky. I bought the toddler size to make it last longer. A warmer, but more expensive, option is the Jj Cole Polar Bundleme. With a bunting bag like this you probably don’t even need the lambswool.

For the baby:

  • Base layer. If your budget permits it, a wool base layer is by far the warmest. I really like this Hocosa line from Sofee and Lenee, just beware that these garments should be hand washed. If you don’t want to double up on gear, simply use a pajama or other soft and comfy gear. Synthetic materials are fine (and more affordable than wool) but try to avoid cotton if it’s very cold, since cotton is not a warm material.
  • Mid-layer. For the mid-layer I usually choose a fleece jacket and, in very cold temperatures, fleece pants. Another option is a one-piece fleece, like this MEC Ursus bunting suit, which comes recommended from Meghan at The Adventures in Parenthood Project. The cuffs fold over the hands and feet, so you don’t need to put on separate mitts and boots.
  • Outer layer. For their first winter both my daughters wore a one-piece down suit from H&M that was handed down to them from their cousin.
    Nothing fancy, but it did the trick. However, there are some really nice bunting suits on the market, and as baby starts walking a well-fitting outer layer becomes more important. Sarah, a.k.a. Rockies Girl, recommends the Molehill Down Bunting Suit for its versatility. To save money on the outer layer, try to buy a large enough size that you can get two winters’ use out of it, or try to find a used one. I like to look for marked down closeouts of last year’s style as well. I’m also a big fan of Columbia’s outdoor wear for children and this Infant Bugababy Interchange Bunting has a detachable fleece liner, which could eliminate the need for a separate mid-layer. The shell can also be used on its own in less harsh temperatures.
  • Accessories. For babies that aren’t yet walking, a pair of simple down booties on top of the socks (again, for very cold temperatures, wool socks rock) work well.

    Another great option is Stonz Booties, which can either be worn over socks, or over slippers or shoes. For the soon-to-be toddler crowd, it could be worth investing in a pair of MyMayu’s lightweight, water-repellant Muddy Munchkin boots and liners. For baby’s head, go with a hat that covers the ears and fastens under the chin. That way, ears will stay warm and the hat won’t move around. Cuffs that fold over the hands are the easiest way to keep hands warm, but when that’s not an option, or not enough, my next go-to choice would be mitts with long gauntlets that fit over the sleeve of the snow suit, since babies are notorious for not keeping their mitts on. I didn’t use brand name mitts for my girls and they did just fine, but if you’re looking for something unique and don’t mind spending a little more, these Veyo Mittyz are specifically designed for children under five (sizes start at 12 months) and lack thumbs, which makes it easier for the hands to stay warm. Plus, they’re adorable!

What are your best tips for keeping babies warm outside in the winter? Please share in the comments!

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21 thoughts on “Baby It’s Freezing – Let’s Go Outside!

  1. Kelly Patterson says:

    Great article Linda, thank you for writing it. I too am a big advocate for staying active outdoors with your little ones during the long, cold winters, it is good for the mind and sole, never mind fitness. Hence, one of the reasons we designed our Polar Stroller skis.
    I hate to see parents with their little ones in the stroller or being dragged along in a plastic sled without the appropriate protective clothing and gear. My big issue is protecting their pure little eyes from the glare and radiation of the sun. So much unseen damage can be done and the consequences not known until later on in life.
    I used the Polar Bundle me for the whole of last winter and it was worth every cent. My 2yr old still loves it and say night nights when he sees it. I am working on a designing for our own Polar stroller hydrophobic down filled bunting bag for next winter.
    I will share your article with my customers who buy our Polar Stroller Skis, as it fits great.
    Thanks again

    • Linda McGurk says:

      I’ve seen pictures of the Polar Stroller skis and they seem really awesome! We never got enough snow here for me to invest in a set while my kids were younger, and now we’re (almost) past the stroller age. Good point about protecting their eyes from the sun too. I would always just let my kids be exposed for 10-15 minutes to get their Vitamin D, and then turn them away from the sun or hang something in front of their face to protect it. Thanks for reading!

  2. Coombe Mill - Fiona says:

    We don’t have the cold weather like that here in Cornwall but I’m with your sentiments all the way. Protection against the rain is more of a must here as that tends to be more problematic than the cold, either way getting out is a must, children are like puppies, they need exercise everyday or the squabbles indoors are unbearable as they grow up. finding the right gear to make sure this happens makes it easier all round. thank you for sharing with me on Country Kids

  3. Karen Ung (@playoutsidegal) says:

    I agree that the right clothes make all the difference! We get frigid winter temperatures here and used layers and quality accessories like you recommended. Instead of a stroller bag, however, we used children’s down sleeping bags. The benefit is that you only need to buy one thing (instead of stroller bag + sleeping bag), but you should remove the kids’ boots if the snow is wet and that can be inconvenient when kids are at that in-between stage (wanting in and out of the stroller constantly). We managed ok as our snow is usually dry and then we cleaned the sleeping bags before summer. Might not work for everyone, but it saved us a little money. 🙂

  4. Lucy says:

    Great post and totally agree that babies and young toddlers should still be allowed out and about in the winter. In addition to what you mention here, we like tights under trousers as a base layer (for our boy) and a good pair of waterproof dungarees for walkers, to keep under layers dry and warm. #letkidsbekids

  5. Jenny says:

    We love being outside and both boys have been out in all weathers since they were babies. O used to nap outside in the buggy (including in the snow!) and A was carried everywhere from birth in a wrap, he is a January baby, so of course has been all snuggled up against me when chilly outside. #Letkidsbekids 🙂 x

  6. Jasmine says:

    I agree! I’m outnumbered where I live! Most parents I know don’t let their kids play in rain or cold. They don’t let kids go outside if their head is wet (especially evening). But I’ve always been the “go run around in the yard with your barefeet and play in the mud” kind of mama. I think this blog really sparked something and inspired me to be even more so though. I guess I always assumed rain and winter meant stuck indoors. I’m actually looking forward to the coming winter now! Since finding this blog I’ve been really striving to get my son (and myself!) outside everyday in the fresh air! I’m planning on getting him out in the snow as much as possible this winter! I’m slowly accumulating proper gear for the weather for him, and hopefully soon for mama as well! Great post!

    • Linda McGurk says:

      I know, unfortunately there are a lot of misconceptions about outdoor play – rainy or cold weather doesn’t make kids sick, viruses and bacteria do, and there are way less of those outside than inside! I’m so glad to hear that you’ve been inspired by my posts – make sure to sign up for my email updates so you can follow along! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, it means the world to hear from my readers:o)

  7. Emily says:

    Thank you so much for this post! My baby is due in August, and I have no plans to keep us all cooped up inside come the colder months. Most posts on how to keep kids warm in winter are geared towards older children, while posts about younger babies tend to focus on how to keep baby warm from the walk from the house to the car and during the car ride. When it comes to spending any actual time outside, the advice is usually “Don’t.” What do they think people did before everyone had a car or what people in colder climates do?

    • Linda McGurk says:

      Good for you, Emily! And yes, totally agree – people tend to forget that children grow up in all kinds of climates and that for most of human history, we haven’t had the conveniences of heated homes and cars…It’s sad to think of all the sensory experiences a baby misses out on if he/she is kept inside all winter.

  8. Keely says:

    Any tips on what to dress a baby in to baby wear during the winter? My son was born in October, and I’d like to walk to school a block away to pick up my daughter even once it starts snowing with him. I have a baby K’tan wrap that he loves, but I have no idea how to dress him in it once the snow hits. He’s against me in his wrap carrier so I don’t want him to over hear, but I also don’t want him to freeze. Thanks!

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