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At our antenatal classes we were told that it can be misleading to feel a baby's hands to check if they are too cold, because the extremities can get cold even when the baby is ok. A better method is to put two fingers down the back of their top and see if it feels warm there.

My mother (who ran a nursery for 20 years) claims that this is an "old wives' tale", and that you should always check the baby's hands.

Who is right, and does the same technique work for older children also?

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I'll be honest, when dealing with classes taught by trained professionals versus what your mum told you, it's generally wise to go with the professionals, unless your mum is herself a trained medical professional (trust me, at that point just give in) Certainly, when your mum claims that something you heard in class is an "old wives' tale", remember that she's probably the ACTUAL old wife in the room... – deworde Jan 9 '12 at 12:55
My mum ran a nursery for 20 years, so she's very experienced. However, she is undeniably an "old wife". :-) – Urbycoz Jan 9 '12 at 13:56
@Urbycoz, I met some nurses with a similar attitude at the baby department of the clinic where our first child was born. And they handled the babies (and moms too) in such a terrible, soulless and rude manner, that by the 2nd day our baby was crying loud upon seeing anyone in a white coat approaching. When we complained, the nurses were like "we have been doing this for 30 years, so just shut up and leave us do our job!". This is not meant to imply in any way that your mom would not be an expert in these matters, though. – Péter Török Jan 9 '12 at 14:54
@Urbycoz That's probably relevant information that should be in the question. (e.g. "My mother, an experienced nursery nurse") Thank goodness I put the caveat in or I'd look like a right fool. – deworde Jan 9 '12 at 20:23
@deworde Fair enough, it's in there now. – Urbycoz Jan 10 '12 at 11:54
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Firstly, in the event of the body needing energy for stuff like digestion or growing, the body generally diverts blood away from the limbs towards the "core", where the real work's being done by the heart and stomach, and to the brain.

This is especially common in newborns, as their limbs are basically useless until they're mobile, while pretty much 99% of their daily activities are growing and digesting. At the same time, their brain is doing an awful lot of growing and "re-wiring" in preparation for useful tasks, such as getting your attention and being cute on demand.

The general recommendation I've found is to check the heat of the back of the neck (path from heart to brain) and heat of the torso (contains everything else).

Also be aware that any uncovered part of the body will get cold faster than any covered part, especially the "sticky-out" bits (hands, feet, ears, etc.), because that's where the heat can get out from. So if your baby's hands seem worryingly cold, mittens would be the first step (Also, adorable!). But you should only really be doing this if you're out somewhere cold, or if your baby seems uncomfortable, as you're effectively blocking off the avenues of release for excess heat from the internal organs.

One source is here, but most of the sources when googling "baby's hands cold" say the same.

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General the baby should be dressed the way you should be dressed. I don't usually dress myself in the appropriate coat so I couldn't go by how I am dressed, but how I should be dressed.

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I know the rules about dressing the baby. I am just interested in how to check whether it is too cold. – Urbycoz Jan 9 '12 at 14:14
From what I have read (and experienced), in general the baby should get one layer more than you. – Péter Török Jan 9 '12 at 14:46
@Peter Torok When I had a baby in CT in January and another in February (obviously not in the same year:)) this is the directions I got from my pediatrician. I never worried about checking to see if the baby was too cold. If we were outside for a very long time I added a blanket, but other than that I worried more about the baby overheating. – morah hochman Jan 9 '12 at 14:49
@Urbycoz, indeed, no rules are to follow blindly when children are involved :-) – Péter Török Jan 9 '12 at 17:35
@Péter Török Yes, except that one. – Urbycoz Jan 10 '12 at 11:56

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