Is It a Good Idea to Put Mittens on Babies?

The use of mittens on babies isn't recommended, as their hands are their main tool to connect with the world. Keep reading to learn more.
Is It a Good Idea to Put Mittens on Babies?
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Written and verified by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 19 December, 2022

Sometimes, in our concern for keeping babies warm and cozy, we forget about their hands and feet, which remain cold. For this reason, many recommend the use of mittens on babies to keep this from happening. But are they really useful for this stage of development? In fact, some pediatricians advise against their use at early ages.

The causes of cold hands in infants

Infants’ hands may appear even colder than they really are, due to the fact that adult hands are warmer. In turn, there are several reasons why your little one may have cold extremities.

Temperature regulation

Newborn babies have slightly higher body temperatures than adults. However, their hands, arms, legs, and feet will always be cooler. Keep in mind that their small size makes it impossible for them to warm up or regulate their temperature quickly.

Consequently, they should be dressed in one more layer than is comfortable for an adult, even in warm homes. Normal body temperature for infants is around 97° F, according to publications from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A newborn wearing mittens.
In general, infants have less blood flow to their extremities because of the normal lack of movement. So, over time, as they begin to play and become more awake, their hands and feet will become warmer.

Daily activity

The daily routine of infants is characterized by feeding and sleeping. Therefore, the child doesn’t move or exert themself for much of the day, which is healthy and normal for them.

Blood circulation

Blood, in addition to supplying oxygen throughout the body, also carries heat. Newborn babies have less blood reaching the parts that are most distant from the heart. Therefore, the distribution of blood flow is concentrated in the developing lungs, brain, and different parts of the body, so it’s limited when it comes to the hands and feet.

Fever

When babies have a fever, their feet and hands may be cold. This is because the blood flow and the immune system are intended to fight the agents causing the high temperature.

The use of mittens for cold baby hands

Mittens on babies help to keep them from scratching their delicate skin with their sharp fingernails. They’re even recommended so that they don’t lose body heat through their cold hands and feet.

The benefits of using mittens on babies

According to a publication by the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, mittens can be useful in the newborn’s first days to avoid injury from their own nails. However, these injuries aren’t deep and aren’t serious for the newborn’s skin, so by filing the nails periodically, these scratches could be avoided, according to a publication in the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Therefore, it’s advisable to file the child’s nails during the first days, especially the edges. Then, after one month, you can use nail clippers or blunt-tipped scissors.

The hands are the baby’s link to the outside world, as they come from a liquid medium that’s completely different. Even skin-to-skin contact is essential in the bond with their parents.

The disadvantages of putting mittens on babies

Some pediatricians advise against the use of mittens, as they claim that they provide more disadvantages than benefits. That is, they deprive babies of the sensation of direct contact with things in their environment.

In addition, the hands play an important role in breastfeeding, because the baby needs to feel the mother’s breast when breastfeeding, which stimulates the production of oxytocin and helps the release of milk. In fact, the sense of touch is the first to develop inside the uterus and begins to function to explore the world at the moment of birth.

You may be interested in: The Development of Newborn Senses

Conclusions regarding putting mittens on babies

The hands of newborns are their main tool to be able to connect and experience new stimuli and sensations in the environment. Therefore, it’s essential to leave them free and uncovered so that they can explore different softnesses, textures, sensations, and temperatures. In other words, it’s a whole new sensory world.

After a few months of life, babies tend to bring their hands to their mouths as an important part of their development. In fact, this oral phase also helps them explore the new environment and context. Therefore, it’s best to avoid the use of mittens during this stage as well.

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The contents of You Are Mom is for educational and informational purposes only. At no time do they replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. If in doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.