When Can Babies Regulate Their Body Temperature?

baby wearing a knit hat

One of the hardest things with babies is that they can’t tell you why they’re crying. Usually, it’s because they’re tired, hungry or need a diaper change, but it can also be because they are too hot or cold.

Unfortunately, babies struggle to regulate their own temperature so they can easily get too cold or too hot quite easily. In this article, let’s take a look at when babies can start having a more stable body temperature as well as some other issues.

Why can’t babies regulate their body temperature?

Unfortunately babies are just not very good at adjusting to changes in temperature (compared to adults). They get hot easier because they don’t sweat, which is the body’s way of cooling you down. And because they have smaller bodies they can get colder a lot quicker.

When can they start doing it?

Even some toddlers and young children still struggle at regulating their body temperature so it might not be until your son or daughter reach 4-5 or even older before they can adjust to heat and cold easier.

How do you know if a baby is too hot?

Here are some of the warning signs that your baby is overheating. In general, the most common signs are that their skin will feel warm to touch across the body and their skin might be a bit red, particularly around the cheeks. The best way to check is to feel their tummy, chest or back of the neck. If it’s warm, that’s fine, but if it’s hot, then your baby is probably too hot.

What about when they’re sleeping?

For daytime naps and during the night, your baby can overheat if you’ve used too much bedding, or put on too many layers. Make sure their cot or bassinet is not too close to a heater or in direct sunlight. While you want to make sure your baby isn’t cold either, being too hot is actually more dangerous as this can cause SIDS.

How do you know if they are too cold?

Babies can lose heat a lot more rapidly than adults. This is because their bodies are smaller, they have a high body-surface to weight ratio and they don’t have the skills to self-regulate their temperature yet.

To check if they are too cold, avoid checking their hands and feet as these are always colder than the rest of their body because they are more exposed. Your best bet is to check their chest and tummy. If it feels cold, then your baby probably needs some more clothing. The general rule is to clothe babies in 1 extra layer compared to you. Obviously in periods of extreme heat in the summer, this doesn’t really apply.

What temperature can babies tolerate inside?

You want the room temperature to be between 20°C to 22°C. If it feels comfortable to you as an adult it’s probably ok for your baby too. A little below and above that is also ok, but try to keep it below 24°C and above 18°C.

What temperature is too hot for a baby outside?

You baby is perfectly safe to play outside when the weather doesn’t pose any risk to their health. As a guide, it’s probably advisable to keep your baby inside if the temperature creeps above 32 °C (90 °F)

You can keep your baby cool in their stroller or pram by keeping them out of direct sunlight. Use a parasol or sunshade (many strollers have a clip on attachment to make this easier so you don’t need to hold it all the time).

And too cold outside?

It’s fine to take a baby outside in cold weather providing they have enough layers on to keep their bodies warm. They’ll definitely need a hat on and try to keep them out of the wind if it’s particularly chilly. As far as a guide temperature is concerned, you should avoid going outside with your baby if the temperature drops below -26°C. (-15°F) including with wind chill. At this temperature a baby’s skin can freeze if it’s exposed to the cold.

What is the most accurate way to take a child’s temperature?

Here is some guidance on taking your child’s temperature. In general, taking a rectal temperature is the most accurate for young babies and toddlers under 3. You can take an oral temperature in their mouth once they’re older than 4, but it depends on how cooperative your child is!


Try to avoid using smartphone apps, baby monitors and strip type thermometers as they are less accurate.