Warmth and Temperature Regulation
Warmth and temperature regulation:Babies are not as adaptable as adults to temperature change. A baby's body surface is about three times greater than an adult's, compared to the weight of his/her body. Babies can lose heat rapidly, as much as four times more quickly than adults. Premature and low birthweight babies usually have little body fat and may be too immature to regulate their own temperature, even in a warm environment. Even full-term and healthy newborns may not be able to maintain their body temperature if the environment is too cold.
When babies are cold-stressed, they use energy and oxygen to generate warmth. If skin temperatures drop just one degree from the ideal 97.7° F (36.5°C), a baby's oxygen use can increase by 10 percent. By keeping babies at optimal temperatures, neither too hot or cold, they can conserve energy and build up reserves. This is especially important when babies are sick or premature.
Ways to keep babies warm:There are several ways to keep babies warm, including the following:
- Immediate drying and warming after delivery
A baby's wet skin loses heat quickly by evaporation and can lose 2 to 3°F (Immediate drying and warming can be done with warm blankets and skin-to-skin contact with the mother, or another source of warmth such as a heat lamp or over-bed warmer.)
- Open bed with radiant warmer
An open bed with radiant warmer is open to the room air and has a radiant warmer above. A temperature probe on the baby connects to the warmer to regulate the amount of warming. When the baby is cool, the heat increases. Open beds are often used in the delivery room for rapid warming. They are also used in the NICU for initial treatment and for sick babies who need constant attention and care. Babies on radiant warmer beds are usually dressed only in a diaper.
Incubators are walled plastic boxes with a heating system to circulate warmth. Babies are often dressed in a T-shirt and diaper.
The information on this Web page is provided for educational purposes. You understand and agree that this information is not intended to be, and should not be used as, a substitute for medical treatment by a health care professional. You agree that Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital is not making a diagnosis of your condition or a recommendation about the course of treatment for your particular circumstances through the use of this Web page. You agree to be solely responsible for your use of this Web page and the information contained on this page. Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital, its officers, directors, employees, agents, and information providers shall not be liable for any damages you may suffer or cause through your use of this page even if advised of the possibility of such damages.