Do Babies Always Need to Wear a Hat?​​

newborn in hat

Of all the adorable things we dress our babies in, hats are ubiquitous -- odds are a nurse planted a knit cap on your infant mere seconds after birth. Many moms continue that fashion statement 24/7 through all seasons, even summer, since they've heard -- from their mothers, grandmothers, well-meaning strangers, or otherwise -- that babies need hats year-round, indoors as well as out, to keep too much heat from escaping via their fuzzy little heads.

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While the baby hat industry must love the business, medical experts aren't sold on forcing your infant to don a chapeau.

"When babies are first born, they have a hat on them in the hospital to keep them warm, but after they leave the hospital, if the baby is healthy, he doesn’t need a hat," says Jennifer Burns, a child care specialist in Phoenix at the Bienetre Center. "There is debate about even having a hat on a baby. Some experts say that putting the baby next to you will give him enough heat, and that a hat will make a newborn too hot." 

So what are some rules of thumb moms can follow to keep their baby from shivering or sweating up a storm? For one, if you're indoors and/or your baby is snuggled up against you, skip the hat.

"Indoors, a hat is not strictly necessary," says Hannah Chow, MD, a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System, adding that the best temperatures for babies indoors are between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

More from CafeMom: 8 Precious Babies in Funny Hats Are Better Than Prozac

Outdoors, there are a couple factors to consider: heat loss through the head, and protecting your baby's head from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays. "I'd probably say under 55 degrees consider a hat for warmth, over 75 for sun protection," says Dr. Chow. But between these extremes, baby can probably go hatless.

When in doubt, just use your best judgment. "If you are cold, the baby is probably cold and needs a hat," says Dr. Burns. Also keep an eye on the baby if he gets fussy or his face is flush, since it could mean that he is too hot.

Bottom line: Don't automatically stick a hat on your baby without considering the season, temperature, and whether you'll be exposed to sun or not. If you decide after all this to skip the hat, don't let anyone make you doubt your decision.

When do you make your baby wear a hat?


Image © Clark Griffiths/Image Source/Corbis

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