We are often asked by new mothers coming to our New Mothers’ Group how to go about dressing their newborn baby in freezing cold winter temperatures. Last year it was about -18 degrees during the time we hosted our February New Mothers’ Group, and the mothers were understandably worried about how to travel and get to the group safely with their babies.
Coming from Australia, I had a lot to learn about cold weather dressing for my baby and toddler in Helsinki. I found this lovely blog post from a New Zealand mother living in Helsinki really helpful:
Here you can see the dressing chart from the daycare which explains how many layers to put on for each drop in 10 degree temperatures. Essentially, for a -18 degree day your baby or child needs: base layer of cotton or fine wool; normal clothing layer (long sleeve top and pants or leggings); heavier woolen zip up suit (villahaalari); padded winter overall (haalari) or pants and jacket (toppa housut and toppa takki), plus the little kid balaclava and gloves. For babies, about 2 or 3 layers on the head is needed – cotton beanies, little cotton balaclavas and woolen beanies/balaclava. In the photo to the left you can also see that fake fur edging is useful on those days when it is snowing, as it keeps the snow out of their face. Babies not yet walking need padded footwear – you can get some soft snow booties for them. Older kids can wear the great, lightweight winter boots by Kuorma when it is cold enough for it not to be wet.
For babies that are not running around and keeping active when outdoors in the cold, it is important that you make sure the pram is warm. A pram curtain (cloth, with ringlet attachments to the hood) can make a significant difference for your baby, keeping the pram interior about 10 or 15 degrees warmer than outside. And you also need to use one or two blankets or sleeping bags in the pram. If you have a larger baby or toddler that is not behind a curtain, invest in a good, water resistant pram sleeping bag and put them in that wearing all of their outdoor clothes too.
Test your baby is warm enough by feeling his or her hands and cheek to check it is still warm to touch. Also be careful to make sure your baby is not overheating! A good rule of thumb is that your baby should wear about one layer more than you are wearing.
If you are wearing or carrying your baby, you need to make sure you have got crampons or spiked winter shoes, so that you do not slip on the ice or snow while wearing your baby. This could be very dangerous. It is generally quite a hassle to wear a baby in winter, unless you have a specially designed coat for them to be held inside the coat. You can get these kinds of coats at a shop called Ipanainen in Hakaniemi.
Also remember that you are often only outside for just a few minutes with your baby, transitioning between bus and home for example, so it is not super dangerous to be outside when it is -15 degrees or colder if your baby is dressed warmly. We wouldn’t recommend longer walks or leaving the baby outside for a nap at -15 or -20 degrees centigrade or colder, unless you can check the baby frequently.
But as any long term Helsinki resident knows, between 0 and -10 degrees is the perfect, snowy crisp weather for time outdoors – so hopefully you and your baby can rug up and enjoy!