Everything you need to know to make sure your baby sleeps comfortably and safely in Singapore’s hot climate.
So you’re having a baby in Singapore soon. Time to prepare for a whole new world of safe sleeping temperatures, swaddles and sleeping bags. Hit the fast forward button in your busy mind and picture this: you’ve made it home from the hospital and given your new little bundle a tour of your place. You’ve survived a few feeds and nappy changes, and the big scary one: the first bath. Now it’s time to put the baby to bed (no doubt followed closely by putting yourself to bed too). Outside the confines of the hospital walls with their temperature-controlled rooms and nurses on tap, you’re baffled and frankly, a little afraid. What should the baby wear? What temperature should the room be – and how do you get it there fast since you should have thought about this an hour ago? Should you use a swaddle or a sleeping bag, and what the hell is a tog? Is the baby going to overheat and melt like an ice cream? Or freeze like an ice cream? Maybe you should just sit down and think this through while you have an ice cream? How could you be thinking about ice cream at a time like this? Relax, new mum. We’ve been there, and so have many parents before us. Here, we share the bedtime wisdom of a few mums in Singapore who, along with their happy and healthy babies, have lived to tell the tale.
To keep your cool, don’t Dr. Google
Let’s tackle this one step at a time, starting with room temperature. Whatever you do, DO NOT GOOGLE. Your search results will assume you live in a country outside the tropics where there’s a phenomenon called ‘seasons’. This is not helpful. If you turn to official sources in Singapore such as government resources or parenting support services, you’ll be told to set the air conditioner at anywhere from 18 to 25 degrees celsius, depending on who you listen to. Helpful, but perhaps a little broad. Ask a mum in Singapore and she’ll tell you all the crazy things she did out of fear of cooking the baby, such as blast the air conditioner so hard and so low she could have kept a polar bear comfortably in residence. After chatting to our group of mums, we quickly learned that it really is a process of trial and error, and it’s very individual depending on the baby. The range of temperatures mentioned varied wildly from 21 to 29 degrees celsius, or just a fan, but the average air conditioner setting for the newborns of this group of mums was around 23 or 24 degrees.
Sleeping bags, swaddles and togs (say what?)
At the same time as creating the ideal room conditions you’ll need to think about what the baby should wear, which goes hand in hand with your little one’s bedding. The more clothing on the baby, the thinner the bedding can be, and vice versa. Again, you might need to go through an experimental phase to find the sweet spot for your baby. Our mum friends tried everything from just a nappy through to a singlet/vest combined with a long-sleeved, footed sleep suit. Bedding ranged from a thin muslin swaddle to a 2.5 tog sleeping bag (‘tog’ is simply a warmth rating. The higher the number, the warmer the bag). The most common combination for newborns was a long-sleeved footed sleep suit with a muslin swaddle, and as babies grew, at around three or four months of age some of them progressed to a legless onesie/grosuit combined with a sleeping bag of around 1 tog.
Of course, there are a few other variables you need to consider. Duvets, quilts and pillows are a definite no-no for babies under one year old due to the potential risk of suffocation and overheating. If you use a Cocoonababy (an ergononimc ‘nest’ for newborns), bear in mind that the baby might be a degree or two warmer than if they were sleeping in a standard bassinet or crib, because they’re lying in a cradled position. Some babies can’t stand being swaddled while others desperately need it, and some would rather stay wide awake than nod off in a sleeping bag. And as all good babies like to throw curve balls, they might change their minds about what makes them comfortable at a moment’s notice, leaving you desperately scratching your head while staring blankly at a giant pile of cute but infuriating sleeping apparel on the floor.
Some sound advice
Try not to fret. You WILL get there. Our advice, if you’re preparing to have your first baby soon, is to borrow as much as you can from friends or get things as cheaply as possible to try out a few combinations in the first couple of weeks. Then go shopping – online if you need to – once you know what seems to be working, as many of these items are far from cheap. Start with a few muslin wraps to use as swaddles, a swaddle bag with covered arms, and a sleeveless sleeping bag, and see what your little one’s assessment of each one is. Also get a digital room thermometer for some peace of mind. Most of our mum friends use the trusty old method of checking the base of the baby’s neck, just where it meets their spine. If they feel too hot or too cold in that spot, adjust the room temperature, their clothing, or their bedding. Even if their little hands feel quite cold, if the neck feels just right, don’t change a thing. Lastly, remember that babies have an in-built mechanism for letting you know when something’s not right. It’s called ‘crying’, and you’ll come to know it well! Trust your instincts, and when the baby is sleeping soundly, make sure you are too. You’ll both be just fine.
To help get you started, here are a few bedtime products our mums recommend:
1. Sleep suits: Bonds Wondersuits are a godsend when changing those middle-of-the-night nappies due to the two-way zip. Plus, Bonds is now delivering to Singapore! They come in short- and long-sleeved styles, and as long pants or shorts. They also have nifty built-in hand and foot covers, making them very versatile little numbers indeed.
2. Swaddles: any muslin wrap will do the trick. Aden + Anais ones are popular, and think the fun muslins by Oh Joy! for Target are worth making an international order for (yep, Target delivers to Singapore too). Or, if you’d prefer to avoid origami sessions try the Love To Dream Swaddle UP (which covers the arms) or the ergoCocoon, which can transition from an arms-covered swaddle through to a sleeveless sleeping bag.
3. Sleeping bags: Grobags are a very popular brand and often come with a handy free thermometer. The Merino Kids range is great because it helps to regulate the baby’s temperature due to the Merino fibres, but they are at the pricier end of the market.