Winter Nourishment: Warmth
Hello and welcome to the holiday season! Can you believe it's already here? I cherish this time of gratitude, giving, and family, and I’m excited to share some thoughts with you on this wonderful season. Today I'd like to discuss one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves, and especially our children, during the winter season: warmth.
During the first seven years of life, children's bodies are developing at a rapid rate; this is indeed a critical phase in development that impacts lifelong well-being. Newborns and babies are unable to regulate body temperature and young children have not yet developed their ability to properly gauge if they are too hot or too cold. So, it is the job of parents and caregivers to ensure that our young children are warm enough, especially during the winter months. Why is this so important? Continue Reading to learn more!
- Newborns and babies are highly sensitive and it can be both psychologically and physically stressful to be cold. Before birth, growing babies only know the warmth and constant comfort of the womb. Once out in the world, newborns experience discomfort for the first time and being cold understandably makes them irritable and fussy, which is stressful for both babies and parents. Additionally, being too cold impacts a baby’s metabolic rate and can lead to lethargic behavior. Babies need to use their energy for physical growth, building healthy neural pathways, and for precious parent-child bonding time.
- In the first seven years of life, children use vital energy for growth of important organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, and liver. If their energy is being used to keep their bodies warm, they are taking away from energy for essential growth.
- If children (and adults) are cold, they experience immunity suppression. We want to have all of the energy our bodies need to fight off infection during cold and flu season.
- Children may become overactive to warm themselves when inside. On the other hand, if children are not properly dressed when they are outside, they will have too little energy to optimally build muscle and develop thinking/problem solving skills through imaginative outdoor play. In other words, children may "act out" to get warm inside and, alternatively, expend so much energy just trying to keep warm outside that they don't have enough energy for the adventurous and invigorating play that only happens in nature.
- We want our children to be in touch with their bodies and to build lifelong self-care habits. We want our children to learn how to listen to their bodies and understand what they need to stay warm in childhood and beyond.
Here are some tips about how to keep babies and children warm in winter:
- First, a great way to know if your child is warm enough is to feel her fingers, hands, toes, and feet. Make sure your hands are warm and then feel your child's hands and feet. Are they warm or are they cool? From there, check their legs and torsos. You want their hands and feet to be as warm as their tummies. If they aren't it means that your child is expending their "growth" energy to keep internal organs warm. If your child's hands and feet are cooler than the rest of her body, she needs extra layers.
- The best materials to dress your newborn, baby, and young child are natural cotton, wool, silk, or a wool/silk blend. These natural fibers "breathe" with the body. Polyester makes your child sweat and then the trapped moisture cools and chills his body. So, whenever possible, try to find clothing that consists of a blend of natural fibers. Better yet, whenever the budget allows, find organic clothing so that no harsh pesticides and/or chemicals are close to your child’s skin.
- For newborns and young babies, a fitted cotton, wool, or silk hat or bonnetcan be worn at all times. Additionally, a onesie(short or long sleeve), long sleeve shirt, and sweater are a proper amount of layers for your baby while indoors. For bottoms, a wool/silk blend long johnor baby leg warmersare great options for a layer underneath baby's pants. Wool or cotton socksand slippers or bootiesare perfect for keeping feet warm, too.
- Baby wearing is another wonderful way to ensure babies are warm enough. First of all, when worn close to a parent or caregiver, your baby’s body temperature will regulate with yours. In addition, you will be in greater contact with your baby and naturally more in tune with how warm she is. Go here for a review on different types of baby carriers and be sure to follow instructions for safe baby wearing with whatever carrier you choose.
- For the young child, fitted long johnsare a great option underneath regular clothes. Wool/silk long johns are certainly an investment and if they are not in your budget, I recommend layering cotton clothing. Additionally, if you can get your child to wear slippersand a sweater or sweatshirt over their shirt, you are assured she will be warm for the day. Of course, a warm hat, mittens, jacket, snow pants, and good waterproof boots are proper attire for outdoor play.
- Finally, young children, until about the ages of seven to nine, have trouble paying attention to how warm or cold their bodies are. The young child lives in the moment, and is more interested in playing and having fun than developing an inner warmth gauge. How many times has your toddler wanted to run around your house naked while you are wearing layers to keep warm? How often has your young child swam in the lake, ocean, or pool until her lips were blue and her body shivering? And doesn't she always say she's not cold and wants to keep playing? As parents, we can help our kids develop a good sense of warmth and how to value the importance of staying warm for the rest of their lives.
A final note on the issue of warmth: It is so important to remember that it is appropriate for you, as the parent, to be in charge of what your young children wear. You are setting yourself up for a long debate if you ask your young child, "What do you want to wear today?" It is okay, and in fact a good thing, if you warmly and confidently tell your child, "Here are your long johns, shirt, pants, and socks. It is time to get dressed and get ready for a great day." Your authority provides great security for your child. You are the parent and your children seek your wisdom and knowledge as anchors for their day. You model strength, warmth, and confidence to your children so that they can develop these same qualities as they grow. If you are interested in exploring more ways to support your children's health naturally, take a look at the Nourished Family program.
With warmth & light,
Note: I provided some links to resources for wool, silk, and cotton products. I get no proceeds from these companies. Since I have done the research on these products I want to share these options with you so that you don't have to waste anytime looking yourself!