Stocking caps for newborns help to keep the baby warm


May 31, 1994|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Special to The Sun

Q: I just saw my first grandchild. He is beautiful, but I have a question. Why do they put stocking caps on babies in the hospital? I would think it would be their little hands and feet that got cold! I recommend booties.

A: Before birth a baby is kept warm by its mother's body. Its own thermostat is not challenged. After birth, a baby's temperature regulation system is suddenly on its own. Placed in a cool environment, a baby may have trouble adjusting.

Compared to the rest of its body, a baby's head is relatively large. It provides a large area of skin from which heat can escape, even if the baby's body is bundled. The purpose of the cap is to preserve body heat. We do not know whether it also makes a baby more comfortable. Hands and feet are, as you pointed out, little. They are unlikely to be a major source of heat loss for a baby. We doubt whether a baby cares whether or not it has on booties, but booties do seem to make grandmothers more comfortable and may be recommended for that reason alone!

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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