Figuring out how to bring your baby home from the hospital in the winter can feel like a hard question to answer for new parents. As if you didn’t have enough to worry about during labor and delivery, staring at the snow outside of your room could make you anxious thinking about how to keep your baby warm for the trip home if you aren’t prepared.
When bringing home your baby from the hospital in the winter parents should dress their newborn in layers, avoid bulky coats or outfits in the car seat, and focus on using blankets for extra warmth. Be sure the car is warm and the roads are safe before leaving the hospital.
While every situation is a little different, parents should focus on a few basic rules to keep their new baby warm and safe on their first trip home from the hospital. You need to know about the proper outfit to dress your newborn in, car seat safety in the winter, and other tips for keeping your baby safe and content.
How do you bring a baby home in the winter?
As the thermometer dips down below freezing on the day you are scheduled to leave the hospital it’s common for new parents to worry that their precious little baby is going to be too cold when they leave the hospital. Unfortunately, this can lead to babies being overdressed and potentially less safe in their car seats due to bulky coats or winter suits.
In general, you want to use multiple thin layers to dress your baby and simply take however many layers you are comfortable in yourself and add one. Often, this layer should be a light blanket.
It’s important not to overdress your baby because overheating has been linked to SIDS-related deaths in newborns. In fact, the National Institute of Health issued a warning recently that SIDS risk increases during cold weather months because extra blankets and warm clothes get babies too hot.
Once you have your baby dressed appropriately you should avoid putting a bulky jacket or winter coat on her because it can put her at risk during a car crash.
The Today Show did a segment on this a while back and featured a particularly scary video of a crash test replicating what would happen if a baby was dressed in a big jacket. Essentially, the big coat or suit creates a LOT more space around your baby than you think and car seat straps are designed to be in close contact with your baby’s skin to be effective. Here is another example from The Car Seat Lady during her own personal tests:
With all that being said there ARE safe options from manufacturers that want to ensure babies are still safely strapped into the car seat with their products. I’ll talk about those below!
After you have your properly dressed newborn properly latched into the car seat you should then tuck a light blanket around them, if necessary, for extra warmth.
By using a blanket you will keep your baby safe and you can easily remove the blanket if you fear that your baby is getting to warm. As a good rule of thumb, newborn toes should be relatively cool to the touch, but not cold, and their bellies should feel warm. If the toes are warm, your baby is probably too hot. If the belly is cool, then she is too cold.
This is pretty much all you need to know about getting your baby home warm and safe from the hospital in the winter. Of course, we can go into lots more detail on the subject so let’s break down some of these steps and add some specific recommendations!
By the way, I’ve written an article all about the pros and cons of having a winter baby that you might want to check out here. Having a winter baby can be challenging, but has it’s perks!
The best outfit to bring baby home in from the hospital in winter
Like I mentioned before, we want to focus on light layers rather than one big bulky outfit. That means your best bet for an appropriate outfit will probably be way simpler and lighter than you might have originally thought about bringing.
Bring your baby home from the hospital during the winter in a newborn onesie, pants, and socks. If necessary, add a knit or cotton cap and a light blanket for the times when you are walking to and from the car.
The first time you dress your baby and put her in the car seat is NOT the time to get fancy with the outfit and try to make sure that she has on the cutest dress, tutu, or whatever your dream clothes are. This will only lead to an aggravated baby as you try to bend her arms and legs into the outfit. Flaring skirts or tutus could also make it more difficult to fasten the latches on the car seat. If you want to get into all of that then consider having a coming home party!
Of course, just because you can’t get as fancy as you might want doesn’t mean that you can’t make it special. Consider picking up a custom onesie with a cute message on it or your baby’s name. There are lots of cute options available on Amazon as well with lots of fun messages and designs. Just be sure to take into account the weight of the fabric on something using sweatsuit material and avoid sleepers because they will interfere with the car seat!
When your winter baby is leaving the hospital
Once your baby is dressed and ready then you will need to send your spouse down to the car well ahead of time. That way he can go ahead and get the car running and warmed up for you as well as check over any other random details that might need tending to such as getting gas or packing up the bags.
Talk to the hospital staff early about what their procedure is for discharging you and letting you leave the hospital because it might not be what you expect. Some hospitals force you to have your baby in the car seat before you leave the room and others demand that you ride down in a wheelchair. Knowing the routine beforehand helps you plan accordingly.
When your spouse gives you the go-ahead to come down or comes back up after parking the running car in the discharge area then make your way down to the car.
Do you need a baby car seat when leaving the hospital?
If you are driving home in your own car then the answer is YES!
Since it is the law to travel with your baby in a car seat almost every hospital has a strict policy to only allow you to leave their care once they have determined that you have a car seat and your baby has been latched in safely. This is a good system and protects a lot of babies. If you plan on traveling home with your baby for the first time in winter without a car and car seat then you might want to check out my article on that topic here. I go into WAY more detail on the subject and give you some tips for ridesharing and other options.
Just be aware that newborns should generally only be out in the extreme cold for the time it takes to walk to and from a car not the entire distance to your home.
How do I keep my baby warm in the car?
If you have properly dressed your baby in layers, have put a light blanket around them once they have been latched into the car seat, and had the car running and warmed up before the baby gets in then you probably don’t need to do much else to keep your baby warm.
These days car heaters and climate controls are very capable of keeping the temperature inside a vehicle comfortable and stable. Just like a baby’s room, aim for the ideal temperature of 68-72°F (20-22.2°C) in the car which will help your baby regulate her own temperature more easily. This means you probably shouldn’t have the heat blasting the whole way home. If you have a long drive be sure to stop and check on the temperature of your baby to make sure he isn’t overheating or getting too cold.
Can baby be swaddled in the car seat?
Swaddling a baby is a fantastic way to soothe them, keep them warm, and help them sleep but it is incredibly dangerous to put a swaddled baby in a car seat. If your baby is swaddled then her legs will not be in the proper position and it is likely that the harness in the car seat won’t keep her secure in the event of a crash.
This is a pretty crazy subject because if you look into this online there is very little information out there. There are, however, several reports of babies being injured or dying as a result of car seat failure involving a swaddled infant. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.
Car seat-safe winter coat options
Even though I’ve recommended so far that you shouldn’t use a bulky coat or suit when your baby is in the car seat doesn’t mean that there aren’t any ingenious companies out there that haven’t tackled this issue!
For newborns leaving the hospital, you should definitely check out this unique and safe baby car seat swaddle thingy on Amazon here. In addition to being very affordable, this car seat snuggler has an open back so that your baby will be safely strapped into their car seat with the warm cover lying on TOP of the straps. It’s seriously a cool idea that will work really well for when you take a car seat out of the car to tote your baby around – you won’t have to worry about adding any extra layers!
Can you put a baby in a snowsuit in a car seat?
For the same reasons as the puffy jacket you need to avoid using any type of snowsuit in a car seat with your newborn unless it has been specifically designed to allow the baby to be strapped into the car seat correctly.
What to bring baby home in during November
Most major cities in the US are going to have daytime highs of between 50 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit (or 10 to 18 degrees Celsius) which means that this month is typically quite cool but not particularly cold most of the time. In general, these average temperatures would have most adults wearing regular pants or jeans, a shirt or blouse, and maybe a light jacket. In a lot of places up North, this is probably still flip-flop weather!
With that being said, it’s probably best to bring your baby home in November with a regular onesie, pants, and maybe a light blanket tucked around them in the car seat.
Of course, this is JUST AN AVERAGE so be sure to check your local weather as you are getting ready to pack for the trip home from the hospital.
What to bring baby home in during December
The average daytime high temperature in most US cities during the month of December is going to swing down to between 33 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1 to 10 degrees Celsius) which means it’s starting to get quite cold. Most major cities will have nights below freezing during this month but will normally be above that during the day. In general, these temperatures will have normal adults wearing regular pants or jeans, long-sleeved shirts, a light or medium jacket, and possibly a hat. Definitely no flip-flops!
With that being said, the best bet to bring your baby home in December is with a warmer fabric such as flannel or fleece (not a knit fabric), pants with the same material, socks, and a medium blanket to tuck them into their car seat with during the trip.
As always, double-check the weather in your local area to be sure that the temps are within this range!
What to bring baby home in during January
Once January rolls in it really starts to get cold in the Northern states but many of the most Southern states, such as Florida and Arizona, can still enjoy some relatively mild daytime temps. On average, major US cities will have daytime highs of between 31 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit (or -.4 to 9 degrees Celsius) which leads to the majority of nights ending up below freezing and less relief from the sun. In general, most adults will be wearing pants or jeans, thicker socks and shoes, long-sleeved shirts, and medium or heavy jackets. Hats, scarves, mittens, and other accessories will be common at night.
Many major cities also experience their lowest yearly temperatures during this month!
With that being said, you should probably bring your baby home in January wearing a long-sleeved onesie and pants or footie pajamas made from a warmer fabric such as fleece or flannel, socks, a hat, and a medium blanket to tuck them into the car seat with snuggly.
Since many parents head out of the hospital first thing in the morning, remember that this can often be the coldest time of the day since the sun hasn’t had any time to work it’s magic!
What to bring baby home in during February
February is usually a little warmer than January for most places but just barely! Average temperatures in major US cities will rise to between 34 and 52 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1 to 11 degrees Celsius) which still includes many freezing nights and potential snowstorms covering the ground. In general, adults will be wearing jeans or other long pants, thicker socks with shoes, long-sleeved shirts, and medium or heavy jackets. You will also see most adults wearing scarves, hats, mittens, ear muffs, and other accessories at night and sometimes during the day.
With that being said, you should try to bring your baby home in February with long-sleeved footie pajamas or a onesie and pants made from warmer fabrics such as flannel or fleece, a hat, socks, and a medium blanket for tucking them into the car seat.
Again, it could be quite cold first thing in the morning so factor that into your plans if you think you will leave the hospital early in the day. Just because the daytime high is one temperature doesn’t mean that it will be reached by 7:00!