How to

1 December 2016

Getting the Right Winter Clothes for Babies and Toddlers

Babies are small. But let’s bust a myth. To the cold mind of a mathematician, their size means one thing: a low Surface-Area:Volume ratio compared to bigger people. With less relative surface area from which to lose body heat, surely babies retain warmth better than adults; and therefore require less winter clothing, right? Au contraire. Actually, because humans are constantly respiring, and have variable levels of fat, blood flow and metabolism, the subset known as ‘babies’ are far more fragile that adults when it comes to pretty much anything; including exposure to cold weather.

Keeping them warm, and doing so properly, therefore requires careful consideration: because you have to keep their body temperature just right. Not too cold, nor, indeed, too warm. With a myriad of miniature garments on the market, from snowsuits to coats, mini jumpers and gloves, parents can often find themselves unsure which items of clothing are best. So, let’s run through some of the basic rules you should consider when choosing baby clothes.

Environment and Activity

Before stepping out into the winter cold with your young child, you should first consider that golden rule: not too cold, nor too warm. In planning, therefore, you have to consider what you’re going to encounter outside the front door. Specifically, are you going to be pushing the child in a pram or will they be running around in the snow? Will they be getting colder or warmer with time? Moreover, what’s the weather itself like? Is there ice and sleet or just a brisk wind? Pin-pointing the environment and the activity is your starting point.  

For example, if snow is forecast but hasn’t yet arrived, you may consider putting a coat on first but switching it for a snowsuit after a while. That’s especially true if you’re planning to let your toddler run around in the park and then sit in the pram on the way back home.


Secondly, you should consider: layers are imperative. At least three would be advisable, although, depending on the above conditions, you may have to use your own discretion. Still, as a good rule of thumb, claims that ‘infants usually need one additional layer of clothing over what adults need to stay warm.’ If that sounds excessive, remember: baby clothes are often thinner than adult clothes. If the down lining of your baby’s coat were the same thickness as yours, they’d probably be too puffed-out to move their arms.


Finally, in choosing the external layer, you’ll need to balance the above considerations with an awareness of practicality. For example, snowsuits are often ideal in cold weather; but since they can make nappy changes difficult, you might consider switching the snowsuit for an extra jumper, puffy trousers and a coat. What’s more, if you’re in a car, you need to strap your child securely in the baby seat. That’s why you shouldn’t use thick coats with car seat harnesses: they may prevent the straps being tight across the baby’s chest. Practicality, then, should be a fundamental concern.

Although there’s no silver bullet for tackling winter clothes for babies, experience, common sense and good discretion will prevail if you’re working alongside these few basic do’s. 

James Stannard

James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.