How to keep an infant warm overnight without heat?
March 8, 2017 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Our power is out and isn't expected to come back until tomorrow mid-morning. Our heating system won't run without electricity. The low tonight is 32° F, and our house's insulation isn't great. How do we keep our 7 month old warm overnight?

Our heating system is a boiler that runs on natural gas but it doesn't run if there's no electricity to run its electrical parts. Our house's insulation leaves something to be desired so I have no idea how cool it's going to get in here. With an older kid we would just give him a few warm blankets but you're not supposed to put blankets in cribs with infants due to the risk of SIDS, and we have been following that guideline closely. I guess we can put him in his warmest footie pajamas and swaddle him, but even that is not the equivalent of a thick blanket.

I'm probably overreacting here, but I'm seriously concerned that it's going to get cold enough in the house that it could be dangerous for a seven-month-old. Do we have to check into a hotel?
posted by Tehhund to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know about dangerous but I wouldn't let them sleep by themselves at the very least. I'd check into a hotel for all of your comfort, regardless. It's going to get quite chilly.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:50 PM on March 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

He'll likely be fine if you can dress him in layers (onesie under pajamas under some oversized clothes and a coat, if he has one). But if hotel is an option it seems like it would be much easier, including for you.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:55 PM on March 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

You can buy space heaters at Walmart that are charged via USB port.
posted by Melismata at 1:57 PM on March 8, 2017

I would bring the baby to bed with me. If you're not comfortable doing that you can put the baby with their feet at the bottom edge of the crib and have a blanket tightly tucked around them and the edges of the crib, described here.
posted by apricot at 1:58 PM on March 8, 2017 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I'd bundle him up and not even worry about it. A house is great shelter - the big thing is being out of the wind and the damp. You'll be much more comfortable than you would in say, a car or tent, in those conditions.

I'd prefer to be home in your shoes, and babies are pretty tough - cavepeople used to raise them, after all. I'd make a blanket fort and have an adventure with lots of snugs and playing to keep warm - and if you do get really miserably cold during the night, you can ride around in your car to warm up.

But, you know, its your kid and your comfort level. There's no shame in going to a hotel or friends house.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:03 PM on March 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

If you have the resources to do a hotel, or even a friends house, I'd probably bail at this point. However, I have camped with an infant down to nearly those temperatures, and infants, especially seven month ones, manage in cold climates well enough. I would layer warm clothing, use a warm swaddle and then add a blanket tucked into the bottom of the crib (feet to foot of crib, blanket up to shoulders. Nothing else soft in crib). If you have a basinette or basket (or heck, even a low cut box), you could use that as a 'co-sleeper' tonight, and between you and partner in bed, as a cosleeper, you will also be using body heat. Baby having their own space is safer than a wee baby lose in adult bedding. The usual co-sleeping rules apply; no smoking/no drugs/no impaired parents...

But if hotel is an option, I'd be there.... Don't forget to winterize the house on the way out....shut off water in case stuff freezes, drain water pipes where possible, etc.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 2:03 PM on March 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

We kept our house crazy cold when our kid was a baby, and coslept because he reverse-cycled. Frequently he would sleep ONLY in a diaper, no matter how cold it was, because our body heat kept him that warm. Even if you're not crazy about cosleeping normally, it really is a great way to keep a baby warm in a pinch.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:08 PM on March 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you have a sleep sack? That plus a serious onesie would be enough. I mean, if the baby wakes up because of the cold, you'll know and you can always pop him in bed with you if necessary. They sell them at Target.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:13 PM on March 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

If I were you and DID determine that the risk was zero, I'd still be on edge all night and terrified that my conclusion was wrong.

I vote friend's house or hotel.
posted by cacao at 2:17 PM on March 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Co-sleeping? In Japan there is no central heating and insulation is poor, and it gets quite chilly in winter. Our kids just sleep with us.
posted by My Dad at 2:21 PM on March 8, 2017

Response by poster: My main concern is whether he'll wake up and let us know if he's uncomfortably cold. I swear I read somewhere that young children don't necessarily wake up from the cold, and therefore cold rooms are dangerous, but maybe that's younger infants or totally wrong.

We've never coslept (nothing wrong with it, we just didn't want to) so I don't think we're ready to start tonight.
posted by Tehhund at 2:28 PM on March 8, 2017

Best answer: Our kid is a couple months older than yours, but when he was around the seven month range, he definitely let us know when he was too cold. It was pretty rare, because he gets warm when sleeping/has plenty of that baby brown fat, but we'd get his screechy I'M NOT COMFY AND I WOULD MUCH RATHER BE SLEEPINGGGGGGGGGGGGGG cry. And as soon as we stepped into the room, we'd realize that it was super cold.

For the record, I'd have no qualms about letting him sleep in his crib in those circumstances if he was footie pajamas, a swaddle, and a sleep sack, particularly if it was a fleece one.

If I was feeling extra paranoid, I'd put rolled towels where the windows are, and just sleep on a mattress or on the floor to make sure the room wasn't uncomfortably cold.
posted by joyceanmachine at 2:47 PM on March 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Can you monitor the temperature in his room? My kids sleep comfortably in the winter in rooms that are 62-66 degrees Fahrenheit. The baby wore a onesie + footie pajamas when she was little. No blanket.

Our back room doesn't have a heating vent and the lowest I measured the temperature in there was around 50f when it had been around 10f for a couple days.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 3:10 PM on March 8, 2017

Can you get your hands on a Merlin sleep suit? They are very very very very warm.
posted by sestaaak at 3:24 PM on March 8, 2017

I'm not sure what the generic term is, but we've always used Grobags (a brand name) simply because the baby can't kick them off, or pull them over their head.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:27 PM on March 8, 2017

$40 inverter, a car battery, and a long extension cable will run your heater for a while. You could probably just run the heater once up to 80 late at night and it'd be fine.

A "USB space heater" would not have enough heat to be worth mentioning.

Finnish people have their babies sleep outside at temperatures colder than what your outside will be.
posted by flimflam at 3:48 PM on March 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

Do you have a gas conventional water heater? Fill the bathtub and sinks with hot water, it helps a little.
posted by H21 at 3:50 PM on March 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Our furnace went out for a couple days when my daughter was about 9 months old, and it was 15 degrees outside. It never got below 55 in the house, although we did bail to my in-laws the third night because *I* was too cold (my husband stayed home to keep an eye on the pipes). We did her up in layers and a sleep sack, and a hat, and she did fine (she didn't like the hat, so we snuck it on her head after she fell asleep).
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:54 PM on March 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Even if you're not sleeping in the same bed as your child, sleeping in the same room as them will have an effect; your own body heat and exhaled breath will keep things a bit warmer in the room. A smaller room with fewer exterior walls/ceilings/floors will also stay warmer, so if any room in your house fits that description, the three of you could sleep there.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:10 PM on March 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

We took baby mitheral, 4,10,16 months, tent camping several times where we go snowed on. She just slept in her jammies with us in our double sleeping bag, no problem.
posted by Mitheral at 4:46 PM on March 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't actually think your house is going to get as cold as you think. We had no boiler for more than a week in weather similar to this, in an old house with poor insulation and windows, and I don't think our interior temps ever went much below the mid-50s. Cooking, showering, and incandescent lights all have more of an impact than you would think. If baby has a snowsuit, use that as pajamas tonight.
posted by lakeroon at 5:03 PM on March 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Overheating is much more dangerous than cold at this age. I would layer onesie, socks, fleece sleeper, and assume we'd be good. Even with bad insulation, will the house realky get that much colder than 50 or so if it's as high as 32 outside?
posted by marmago at 5:06 PM on March 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all. He's sleeping in some extra layers in his usual spot - going to a hotel was a decent idea but we decided it would be more disruptive than it would be worth. I think he'll be fine, and we were just overthinking it.

After some googling it seems that the wisdom is cold babies fuss and hot babies get lethargic and might not fuss, so I had it backwards. I wish I had better sources for that but now that we think he'll let us know if he's uncomfortable we're feeling safe with our setup.
posted by Tehhund at 5:07 PM on March 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hot water bottle could help out if he gets cold overnight.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:53 PM on March 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Had my 12 month old tent camping when it got down to freezing outside (which hadn't been on the forecast.) We were kinda sorta cosleeping but I was in my own bag and I'd layered him up real well, terrified that he'd get too cold and wouldn't wake me. When he kept fussing I kept bundling him more. Eventually I saw why he was fussing so much: he was drenched in swear, all his clothes, the sleep sack, just soaked. Oops! Moral of the story: don't overdress the baby that much more than normal.

I was considering mentioning this camping trip in response to a question two posts up about close family birthdays. My boys are two weeks apart and we all went camping the weekend in between their birthdays; I think I will make this an annual tradition!<>
posted by wyzewoman at 7:09 PM on March 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

One more (non-baby-centric) anecdote to further ease your mind.

Our furnace went out about a month ago when temps were in the negative teens. Although we were able to use a small space heater in the living room, it did nothing to actually increase the temperature of the house. Our house is poorly insulated, with single pane windows. We slept normally (and didn't even bring the space heater into the bedroom) but kept an extra blanket nearby just in case. We didn't even need it. Now, it was DEFINITELY chilly in the morning, especially before getting dressed, but the inside temperature was about 52 degrees by morning. Cold for indoors in the winter, but certainly not deadly or dangerous.
posted by The Deej at 11:34 AM on March 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

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