Emily Oster

2 min Read Emily Oster

Emily Oster

What’s the Best Thermostat Setting for a New Baby?

Q&A on safe sleeping temperatures

Emily Oster

2 min Read

One of the safe sleep rules that the nurse teaching our newborn class emphasized very sternly was temperature range in the house. Not just the “not too hot” part you’ve covered, but also a very specific floor of no colder than 68 degrees on your HVAC. I live in a hot, humid climate, and my spouse and I have fiddled with the HVAC to come up with our own very specific number of 67 degrees to keep the temp and humidity under control in the house overnight. The sane part of me says that one degree cannot possibly make a difference; the hormonal part of me says that the nurse is right and if we don’t readjust we’ll cause SIDS (the warning was that severe).

What is the evidence for the top and bottom of the temperature ranges for safe sleep recommendations for infants under four months old? And how should we evaluate risk around the edges of those temperatures — is it a slope or a cliff?

—md

Please listen to the sane part of you. If a temperature of 67 degrees was a cliff, child-rearing would look pretty different. Even at the top end here, I’ve talked about the fairly weak evidence on overheating. On the bottom end of this range, there is no SIDS concern about lower temperatures. The concern is that infants might be too cold to sleep comfortably.

However: there is no reason to think 67 degrees or 68 degrees or even, god forbid, 65 degrees would matter for this. The American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep guidelines from a few weeks ago do not mention a temperature range that I can see and, in addition, say nothing at all about babies being too cold.

Please, do not revisit your household temperature range right now. You likely have plenty on your plate. Congratulations!

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