From:  Charlotte Ashworth – Early Years

Tip:  Top Tips for Winter with young children

As the temperature drops and the nights get darker Winter is on its way. We thought it might be useful to share some top tips for this time of year – from how to try and keep illnesses at bay and also want babies and younger children should be wearing.

Get some sunshine every day (if you can!)

A healthy immune system is key to your children fighting off any bugs they pick up. To stay healthy and for their system to run at an optimum level, children need the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. If they’re deficient in any, that has a knock-on effect on their immune systems. One of the key vitamins is vitamin D, which sunlight provides. Over the winter, when the sun is weaker, vitamin D levels tend to drop. To boost them, try to spend 20 minutes out in the sunlight between 11am and 3pm with your child.

The NHS also recommends children between six months and five years of age take a vitamin drop containing vitamins A, D and E. Babies who are fed infant formula do not need vitamin drops unless they are receiving less than 500ml of infant formula a day, as these products are fortified with vitamin D. If you are breastfeeding and you didn’t take vitamin D supplements during pregnancy, you may be advised to give your baby drops containing vitamin D from one month old.

Don’t dress them too warm

It might seem an odd thing to say, when we all feel like reaching for hats, gloves, snowsuits, fluffy blankets etc to keep our little ones warm come winter. But, we are told to be careful how warm to dress them day and night. It is important that your baby or child does not get too hot at night or during daytime sleep. Keep the room at a temperature that is comfortable for you at night (18oC or 65oF). Babies don’t need extra layers when they sleep. Also, Covers should reach no higher than the baby’s shoulders and be securely tucked in, just use lightweight blankets.

If you are ever unsure if your little one is warm enough, feel their tummy. Don’t add extra clothing or bedding because your baby has cold hands – this is common in young babies.

And remember, take off the layers as soon as you are back inside.

How long can my baby stay out in the cold?

Whatever the weather, it’s good for parents and children to get some fresh air every day, whether it’s in a pushchair, sling, or backpack. However, if the weather is particularly bitter, you may want to keep any outdoor trips short, to prevent your baby and child from becoming too cold.

They’re unlikely to be too cold if they are young enough for a sling as they’ll be close to you, but always check on their temperature.

Just keep in mind that while you’re working up a sweat pushing your baby around, your baby may get chilly before you do. How will you know when your baby or children have had enough though? Be aware of their behaviour. If they’re happy to be out at first but starts fussing after a while, they may be trying to tell you that they’re cold. It’s a good idea to check their tummy, ears, and face regularly, and go inside before they get uncomfortable.
If your baby gets very cold, don’t try to warm their skin by rubbing it. It could make them sore. Instead, hold their skin against yours. You can tuck their hands under your armpits to warm them.

How can I keep their skin from getting chapped?

The chilly wind outside and the dry heat indoors can sap moisture from adult skin, so your baby or child’s delicate skin is especially vulnerable.

Keep their skin moisturised. Many lotions and creams are made especially for babies and children. If you’re heading outside, you could put some baby moisturising lotion or emollient on them to help prevent dry, chapped skin.

Hard water can be drying to your baby’s skin, so you don’t need to bath your baby every day in the winter months. Also, your baby may not like to be bathed when the room is cold. Close any windows and make sure the room is warm before you decide to bath your baby.

When you do wash your children, use a mild baby cleanser and warm, not hot, water. Use a bath emollient if they have eczema or dry skin. Don’t let them soak in the tub for too long either. Wrap them in a towel as soon as you take them out of the water and pat, don’t rub, them dry quickly. Finish by putting a mild lotion or emollient on their skin.

Try to keep illness at bay

We know keeping illness away at Winter time may seem an impossible task, but here is just a little guidance on how to try to keep the bugs at bay!

Limit nose-picking if you can

The easiest places for germs to get into your child’s system is through his mouth and eyes. So, it’s a problem when an older baby or child picks their nose and then puts its fingers in its mouth. The mucus in noses traps bacteria and stops it from infecting us, when mucus is eaten, the bacteria it contains can get swallowed too, allowing germs to get in.

Explaining to a toddler that those bogies are full of things that can make them feel poorly will usually cut down on nose-picking. If you’ve got a toddler and a baby, encourage your older child to kiss the baby on the top of his head, instead of on his face, to reduce the spread of any germs – particularly if he has a runny nose.

Keep your mitts clean

Avoid spreading germs by washing your hands regularly. Colds and flu shouldn’t be the only thing you worry about. Diarrhoea is another illness that can be contracted if you don’t follow proper hygiene routines.

We make sure all the children here at First Steps learn the importance of washing your hands, especially after toilet visits and before meal times.  So, keep this up all the way through winter to try and stop the spread of germs. Hands need a good twenty seconds of washing to get rid of the nasties and then dry them on a clean towel.

Exercise as a family

Even though staying indoors as the temperature drops outside seems enticing – getting out in the fresh air will not only help you keep fit but also stop bugs!

Being physically active is the most important lifestyle predictor of taking fewer sick days in autumn and winter, the riskiest seasons for illness in parents. Dr David Nieman’s research has shown that adults who work-out five days a week take 40 to 50% less sick days than those who only workout once a week. And by work-outs we don’t mean hours in the gym (who has time for that!) we mean a brisk stroll, a lovely family adventure in the woods, snowball fights, or even running around playing games in the park counts.

We really would love to hear if you find our tips and advice useful, and/or you would like a certain topic covered – just let us know, please contact Ian on hello@firststepspoynton.co.uk or call 01625 859867.