For Mom: As long as you're properly dressed, the National Safety Council says you're good to go even when it's 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind is blowing a bit. The real question is not how cold it is, but how windy it is. Check the wind chill factor (combined effect of temperature + wind) and remember that some activities—running, skiing, biking—create a wind effect of their own. Rule of thumb: If the temperature is near or below zero, you're better off exercising indoors. When the wind chill makes it feel like it's 20 below, it's downright dangerous to go out.
For Baby: If it feels cold to you, it will to your baby, too. But that doesn't mean that Baby can't go outside—it just means you have to take precautions (see next slide). Some daycare centers keep younger children inside if it's 25 degrees Fahrenheit; 20 for older kids.
For Mom: If you're exercising vigorously outside, the general rule is to dress for weather that's 20 degrees warmer than the thermometer reads (so if it's 30 degrees Fahrenheit and you're going for a run, dress for 50-degree weather). Make sure you wear breathable, skin-wicking layers so that the sweat is moved away from your body. Your top layers should resist wind and water, and your head and hands should be covered. If it's very cold, double up on gloves and socks, and cover your mouth with a scarf, gaiter, or face mask in a breathable fabric.
For Baby: Babies and children should dress in layers, too. You should put Baby in at least one layer more than you are wearing. Hats and gloves are essential and tights or leggings are often easier to wear under snowpants than pants (for boys and girls!).
For Mom: Just because the sun doesn't shine as long or as hot in winter, it's still there. And you still need to protect your skin (probably just your face at this point) from it. In fact, if you're skiing, snowshoeing, or even sledding, the sun reflecting off the snow can actually give you a sunburn. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, no matter the season. Also, remember sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes, and a moisturizing lip balm with SPF to prevent chapped or burned lips.
For Baby: Pediatricians usually recommend against using sunscreen on babies under six months, but baby sunglasses are a great way to cut down on glare for your child. If Baby is over 6 months old, put on sunscreen and then slather on Aquaphor, Lansinoh, Vaseline, or another noncomedogenic cream before any outing to protect those baby cheeks from the wind and wet weather.
For Mom: If at all possible, exercise outdoors when the sun is shining for maximum visibility. If it's dark out, or even dusk, wear reflective gear—tape, a vest, whatever. A headlamp or a flashlight is also helpful, not just to light your way, but also to warn drivers to look out for you. And, late winter is prime time for icy sidewalks. If you're running or jogging, you might want to invest in ice stabilizers or treks to minimize the risk of slipping. If there's a danger of black ice, consider keeping the workout inside. Finally, always bring a cell phone with you.
For Baby: If you are pushing Baby in a stroller, make sure you know the route. You don't want to get lost, or find that the sidewalks are so covered in ice and snow that you can't pass. Always make sure the baby is strapped into the seat and if possible, strap a light onto the wheel. A rain hood will help keep Baby warm and dry.
For Mom: Generally, you want to stay warm and dry when you're exercising in the winter. The one thing you do want to wet, though, is your whistle. It's just as important to stay hydrated in the winter as it is in the summer, even if you don't feel very thirsty. Carry water with you if possible, and drink before, during, and after your workout. Continued hydration is particularly important if you are breastfeeding or pregnant.
For Baby: As for wet versus dry, put Baby in a fresh diaper before you go out. You'll dramatically reduce the odds of fussing during the workout (by Baby anyway!).
For Mom: Be sure to warm up inside before heading out into the cold. Do some stretches, toe touches, jumping jacks—anything to get the blood pumping. You'll feel better at the start of your workout, and it can also help you prevent pulling a muscle, which is easier to do when you're working out in the cold.
For Baby: Babies are not as efficient as adults in cooling their bodies, so if they are dressed too warmly, they can overheat. They can also get cold quickly and might not be able to tell you about it. Continually check your child—her nose, her cheeks, her fingers—when you're out together and see if she feels too warm or too cold. Be prepared to head inside if she's uncomfortable at all.
For Mom: While you want to take off your damp clothes when you're inside, don't strip right away. Instead, give your body a few minutes to adjust to the inside temperature, then get out of the sweaty garb. Even if you don't shower immediately, change into some dry clothes. When you do have a chance to clean up, use gentle soap and moisturize generously.
For Baby: Unbundle Baby and see how he feels. Are his feet and hands warm and dry? How does his skin look? Is he shivering or smiling? Use these cues to help you plan your next outing.
While it can be hard to get motivated to go out into freezing weather, it's worth the effort if you're well prepared. Exercising outside in the middle of winter can ease your cabin fever, increase your energy, prepare you for the skimpier clothes of spring and summer, and help your baby sleep better. Follow these tips and you'll banish the winter blues for good.
Check out these articles on exercise and winter parenting: