Help me keep my closet baby warm at night!
November 2, 2014 1:26 PM   Subscribe

It has come to pass that the best place for our 1 year old kid to sleep is in a crib in the walk-in closet in our bedroom. Now that the cold weather is upon us, I am looking for ideas for keeping him warm overnight. We have radiator heat throughout our drafty old house, and our bedroom tends to be one of the more poorly warmed rooms. The closet has no radiator in (or near!) it, and is therefore much colder still. To complicate this issue further, we STRONGLY prefer to keep the door to the closet nearly closed while we are in the room. Baby goes to bed around 6pm, grownups are on the scene from about 10pm onwards, and everyone is awake by 7am. He already wears layered pajamas and a sleep sack. Does anyone have any suggestions? My instinct was to find a tiny space heater that we could put in the closet, but a quick google tells me that I will kill all of my loved ones and everyone we have ever met if I do that.
posted by waterisfinite to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
electric heating pad which automatically turns off after a couple of hours?
posted by zdravo at 1:30 PM on November 2, 2014

What is the room temperature going to be?

Overheating is a serious risk for infants, so if you decide on a heating pad, remove it before you put your baby in his bed.
posted by Ms. Next at 1:42 PM on November 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

We had the exact same arrangement for a time, and used one of these:
No fumes. No flames.
posted by mmf at 1:56 PM on November 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Based on the principle that heated floors warm up our very cool bathroom and take the edge off the nip in the air, I suggest an electric blanket - but for the floor. I would not put an electric blanket in a crib, other than to warm up the bed before adding child. Have you actually measured the closet's temperature? I would suggest that unless the space is super cold that children often sleep better in a cool room and wee waterisfinite might be more comfortable than you think.
posted by dawg-proud at 1:56 PM on November 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

A space heater that doesn't have radiant heating coils, like these oil-based heaters, is perfectly safe to use in this situation. They can't set stuff on fire even if you drape something combustible on top of it, and have a themostatic control that will keep the closet at whatever temperature you want it to be.
posted by beagle at 1:57 PM on November 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: He may be just fine as he is.
posted by harrietthespy at 1:58 PM on November 2, 2014 [12 favorites]

What temperature would it be without a heater? I'd be really wary of putting in a space heater in such an enclosed space.

They do make these wall heaters that might work for your use: Econo-Heat.

Could you heat it up before putting him to sleep, then keep him in a warm sleep sack? Would that not be warm enough?

If you do go with a space heater, go with a really well-proven oil heater. But they can also have bad failures and I'd be really hesitant to use it so close to my kid. I'd probably suggest warming the room, putting him to sleep with the door closed, then opening the door and using an oil-based heater nearby.

If you can post the temperature of the room, it might be helpful. It's probably better for him to be a bit chilly than too warm in such an enclosed space.
posted by barnone at 2:00 PM on November 2, 2014

I'm not sure I'd worry about this - how cold is it in the closet? Babies are in footie fleece pajamas a lot of the time -- if I spent half an hour in one of those get ups I'd probably want to die. Nothing traps heat like fleece. I won't even wear it, I find it so horrible. But when you're talking about a little baby you're trying to keep toasty in the northern winter, things are different. Baby Llama slept in footie pajamas and sleep sacks in our quite chilly bedroom with us in New England, and she was toasty - I'd slip my hand into her jams to check on her. I never found her cold, even though the room itself was probably 62 degrees.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:25 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Get a thermometer for the space. Take actual readings of the actual temp in there. Check it periodically. Especially check it to determine what temperature is associated with the baby falling asleep and what temperature is associated with the baby waking up cranky and not wanting to sleep (or refusing to go to sleep to begin with).

My second child was born in Germany in November and he was an armful of fat rolls. If it was too warm at night, he could not sleep. I happened to have some weirdo means to measure the temperature, a card that would change colors or something and had markings for 2 degree increments. Thus, I was able to determine that he could not sleep above X temperature (I want to say 72 degrees Fahrenheit, but it's been a long time). So there were nights when he would fuss and not want to sleep and I would check the temp and, sure enough, it was too high. I would open two windows in Germany in winter to establish a cross breeze in the apartment and as soon as the temperature dropped to his preferred sleep temperature, he was out like a light. And then I would close the window.

Also, pay attention to what temps cause the baby to curl up and look like they are trying to stay warm. This same child could not keep themselves covered at night to save their little life. I kept him in PJ's that zipped up and had long sleeves and feet in winter until he outgrew them because he kicked everything off. I would check on him and he was laid out practically spread eagle, showing no signs of feeling too cold, in temps that would have made it unbearable for me to sleep.

Before he was born, when I had to take hubby to work in the middle of the night because he was going to the field, my first born son (the winter he was 18 months old) would fall asleep in his snowsuit in the car on the drive there and back. He was a nightmare to put to sleep, so I would carry the entire baby seat up to our third floor apartment, stick it in his bedroom, and open the window in winter in Germany and sort of loosen the snowsuit around his neck a bit so he did not overheat (and unlocked the seat belt so he wasn't trapped if he woke up). Then I would shut his bedroom door so I wouldn't freeze to death and our heating bill wouldn't go through the roof and I would go back to bed, to get a smidgeon of blessedly uninterrupted sleep.

I think sleeping in such conditions would have killed me. But they have a few genes from their dad, who loved the cold weather and could not take hot weather, and the second one was born in Germany. They both slept just fine, with no ill effects, in quite cold temperatures as long as they had adequate, appropriate clothing.

I will second the possibility of putting an electric blanket on the floor. When my oldest son was less than 6 months old and had no crib and began refusing to sleep anywhere but the living room floor of our tiny Texas apartment that fall/winter, I laid an electric blanket on the floor of our living room and he stayed plenty warm.
posted by Michele in California at 2:35 PM on November 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Wool is a lot more comfortable than poly fleece for body temperature regulation. There are a few different kinds of wool sleepsacks on the market - they are costlier but seems like it could be a good choice for your baby.
posted by stowaway at 3:06 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Once you've established how cool the space actually gets, I'm picturing the electric blanket draped over the side of the crib so that it's warming the air around the baby without touching the baby.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 3:37 PM on November 2, 2014

The article that harrietthespy posted was really interesting, and it would calm my fear if I were in your position.

One thing that I might do is install crib bumpers that cover each entire side, all the way up to the top edge. This would cut down a lot on drafts and better conserve the heat generated by his body. Otherwise, if he's in warm pj's, socks, a cap, and a sleep sack, I think he's probably in great shape.
posted by primate moon at 4:23 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: There are some great ideas here, so far- thanks, and keep 'em coming!

I measured a temperature in there one random February night of 60 degrees F. This was a night when our household thermostat was set to 69.

He does tend to sleep best when the room he's in is between 67-69 degrees.

Snickerdoodle, can you elaborate on why the Dyson was the only heater you trusted?
posted by waterisfinite at 4:32 PM on November 2, 2014

I have no idea if this is a real thing or not, but I've always felt like a humidifier makes a room feel warmer.
posted by cooker girl at 5:01 PM on November 2, 2014

Could you add a grate to the door, with a fan outside the room to increase the warm air flow thru into the closet? The fan would have the advantage of adding white noise to mask any noise increase from the door no longer being solid. Also, many baby monitors now include a temperature display on them, so you could see what the room temperature is, without opening the door.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 5:57 PM on November 2, 2014

Heated mattress pad?
posted by Jacqueline at 5:57 PM on November 2, 2014

I wouldn't trust a heater in such a small space nor would I put an electric anything in a crib with an infant. Microwave rice sacks to warm the bed before putting baby in. Use blankets fresh out of the dryer to cover baby and do get a sleep sack because kids kick off their covers. On really cold nights, you will need to bring baby into a warmer room. Since there is no ventilation in your closet, do not try to heat it up with a heater before putting baby in and do buy a carbon monoxide monitor for the closet.

On a side note, I can't imagine a firefighter looking in the closet first for the baby. Please make certain that your smoke alarms work and you have a plan in place in case of fire.
posted by myselfasme at 6:15 PM on November 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I raised my kids in a very cold house in a cold climate. In the winter they all wore woolly hats to bed, and an extra sweater or vest. Both worked well, they stayed very healthy. Something about keeping both head and chest warm just made sense.
posted by mareli at 6:22 PM on November 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

How about installing a programmable thermometer for a little peace of mind? You can set it to sound if the temperature goes higher or lower than a set range.

But I really think you should use puppies.
posted by Beti at 8:36 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would think that it might be a good idea to have some air circulation between the rooms, even if you want the door to be closed.

You can go get a couple of air vent covers at the big box stores. Trace the outline of the air vent cover on your closet door. Using a jigsaw or sawzall, cut an opening slightly smaller, then screw the cover over the hole for a more finished look.
posted by Ostara at 9:39 PM on November 2, 2014

Best answer: Warmer sleep sack? You can get 3.5 tog ones here, and sleepsuits with quilted arms (although both together would probably be overkill unless the room is colder than it is now).

Our room gets to about 16°C/61°F at the moment, and the baby is in a vest, sleepsuit with quilted arms, and 2.5 tog sleeping bag.
posted by Catseye at 9:47 PM on November 2, 2014

Best answer: I put a very thick (regular, not electric) blanket under the crib sheet, in order to retain extra heat that I felt the mattress would not retain. I also used a space heater (on the other side of the room). Could you maybe turn on a space heater in the closet for a little while before baby's bedtime, so that by the time he goes in the space is warm and cozy? Also, even if baby is wearing fleece pj's, you can still put layers on underneath (a onesie, a thinner footie to go under the thicker footie, socks, etc).
posted by vignettist at 9:58 PM on November 2, 2014

Someone mentioned the dyson heater, but my favorite heater is this. i've had several, and given most of them away to family.(the step-up $20 more digital control panel version is neato, but i never felt like it was worth it. you can get the basic version on sale for like $60-80). No exterior surface of it gets warm, the air that comes out is only barely lukewarm, and yet it warms a room perfectly evenly and is incredibly quiet. like, quieter than most of the desktop PCs i've had.

You can shove a ton of cat fur in one, stop the fan with a pencil, and it will not ignite the cat fur. There's a NASA amount of safety systems involved. The coils also intentionally never get visibly red, for both efficiency and safety reasons.

I used to have a 4-poster type bed with a canopy and i'd place this under the bed, inside the curtains to warm just the bed area, and not my swiss cheese room i had at the time which would just waste electricity. This defies all logic as something for a mentally competent person to do... but if anything ever obstructed it, it got kicked over, too dusty, etc... it would just turn off.

I'm not a baby, but i was a college student that was often drunk to toddler levels of intelligence and i never lit myself on fire, even when i spilled a ton of water in the thing(let it dry for a few days, it was 100% fine). I would feel 100% a-ok about putting one of these in a closet with a baby.

...especially since one of those oil filled radiators burned my old house down(yes seriously. NEVER AGAIN)

Also, since tight temperature regulation is a desire, these heaters have better thermostats than any others i've used. The thermostat itself is not a simple on/off switch and neither are the heating elements. It smoothly steps through a lot of levels of heating wattage/fan speed and after the temp normalizes, it'll keep your room exactly 72 degrees or whatever you want. Once it's normalized, it seems to never step above the minimum level either. Very energy efficient. At the time i finally got one of these, i had become infuriated with stupid heaters and my tiny room(and eventually, doing the bed canopy thing and trying not to die) with which i'd wake up to a 9000 degree room. Never with this. Set it to 70, wake up, 70. The other problems i ever had were operator error.

Still have the same heater today, years later. Still heat my bedroom with it. If it ever breaks i'm going to just buy another one.
posted by emptythought at 1:16 AM on November 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: We have also struggled with cold bedrooms and I've always been frustrated by how thin kids' fleece pajamas are.

We are in the US and have a Grobag sleep sack; I forget if it's 2.5 tog or 3.5 tog, but it is quilted and WARM. The Grobag website has some discussion of babies' room temperatures and the corresponding appropriate weight of sleep sack to dress them in.

When our son got too big for a sleep sack (i.e. he got frustrated with not having use of his legs) we switched to an outerwear style fleece bunting, something like this. That pretty much got us to the point where he could sleep under a blanket.
posted by telepanda at 7:13 AM on November 3, 2014

Best answer: I will add that air temperature is a relatively easy metric to track by just sticking a thermometer in there, but it is not the only one that matters.

If you have ever camped, you should be aware that sleeping on cold ground with too little insulation between you and the ground will suck the heat out of you far worse than the cold air above you. It is the same principle that causes cold water to be a much bigger danger for hypothermia than cold air (being in water that is, say, 60F can be deadly if you stay long enough though that is not an air temperature that typically concerns people as something dangerous).

When I lived just south of Death Valley, one year it was 155F every single day for 2 weeks in July. After about a week, it kind of didn't matter how much the air conditioner ran or what the indoor air temperature supposedly was, the floor felt hot, the couch felt hot, the walls felt hot and I just felt like I was baking and could not breathe. In cold weather, you can get the cold equivalent of that where the floor feels like ice, the couch feels too cold, etc. and it matters little how hot the air is -- if anything it can be annoying for the air to be hot when everything you touch is cold an is sucking the heat out of you.

So, if you can find a way to make the floor is warm, the mattress is warm and he has a little bubble of warmth around him somehow (and without cutting airflow so much that oxygen deprivation is a concern), then how cold the air is will matter less. Air temperature happens to be a convenient measure, but it actually falls far short of quantifying all the relevant details that impact how comfy and cozy a body will be in a particular situation. Cold air in sunlight with no wind while walking can be just fine. The same nominal air temperature with wind, in shade, while sitting still can be a serious risk of hypothermia.

Also, I have slept with a space heater very near me. It can be seriously dehydrating to sleep too near a space heater. It would far more comfortable for baby to focus on making the floor and bed adequately warm (but not hot) rather than trying too hard to heat the air per se while not warming those surfaces. Historically, Americans used to use bed warmers more and accept that the air would be cold because the house wasn't much heated (I am talking, like, colonial days, as I understand it). That approach is surprisingly comfortable, far more so than some of the things we do in the modern era where we circulate warm air but often do nothing to warm actual surfaces we will actually be in contact with.
posted by Michele in California at 10:25 AM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't use a filament/blower heater, use an oil-filled radiator. I live in similar conditions (mildly improved attic space) and use one in this style. Useful for range of temps from sorta cool to jeebus! cold and pairs well with a mechanical timer to kick on/off at certain times. Very safe, never had a fire issue even when forgotten at 'blazing' setting for two days.
posted by cult_url_bias at 2:02 PM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I lived just south of Death Valley, one year it was 155F

Um, that should say 115F.

That's a typo. Ugh.

posted by Michele in California at 5:34 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

You've mentioned that you use sleep sacks, but several people on the local parenting message board here have mentioned the Grobag for cold, drafty houses. I guess it gets measured in togs, the higher the tog, the warmer the sleeping bag. It's like a comforter, but in sleep sack form.
posted by echo0720 at 6:14 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Grobag or Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Baby Sleeping Bag, combined with footed pajamas, will likely make him warm enough. There are merino wool pajamas, which might help to regulate temperature underneath the sleep sack.

Preheat the room in the afternoon. On the coldest nights, set up a heater in your room and keep the closet door open. Or wheel the crib into your room with the heater.

You really don't want to be messing with crib-height bumpers, heated mattress pads on the floor or a heater with an exposed element. All of those seem like great ways of negatively impacting air flow (which is thought to contribute to SIDS) or bring in the possibility of an accident.

I'd definitely try this routine for a few weeks or months and see if you can get through the winter. If not, you'll have a better sense of the risks involved and your own comfort with the various options.
posted by barnone at 9:05 PM on November 3, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the great answers!

We added a cozy rug to the floor and upgraded from the standard sleep sacks to a 2.5 tog GroBag. I also upgraded his sheets to velour and flannel sheets. I'm also going to upgrade a few of his jammies to wool jammies.

The electric blanket idea was brilliant! I left one in the crib during our bathtime and bedtime routine, pulling it out just prior to putting him in.

Cumulatively, I think we have a pretty rockin' plan for this winter!
posted by waterisfinite at 3:12 PM on November 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

« Older Holmes! Shandy! Švejk! Can it indeed be that you...   |   I need punny party food Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.