Should You Use A Humidifier In The Baby’s Room?

Warm mist humidifiers, cool mist humidifiers, vaporizers.  Which one’s right for the baby’s room?

Or maybe a better question might be:  Should you even use a humidifier in the baby’s room?  Given the fact that they’re on every new baby gift registry, just how essential are humidifiers in the nursery?

A Comfortable Baby Sleeps Better

Many first-time parents think a humidifier in the nursery is only necessary if the baby has a cold.  They picture the old-style vaporizers their parents used, filled with a blob of Vicks Vaporub, hissing away in the corner, relieving baby’s stuffy nose and congestion.  But a humidifier may help your baby sleep better all the time, whether he’s sick or not.

In the winter time the air inside your home can become uncomfortably dry.  There’s less humidity in the outside atmosphere and the heat from your furnace pulls moisture from the air inside your home.

This lack of moisture makes you uncomfortable.  Your skin may become itchy and develop dry patches.  You may develop chapped lips.  And nasal passages become dry which can lead to a stuffy nose and congestion, maybe even persistent nose bleeds.

All of these little discomforts, particularly the stuffiness, can make it difficult for you to sleep, and you’re an adult.  You can do something about it.  So imagine how difficult it is for an infant to rest peacefully when he has no way of alleviating these symptoms.

Dry air is also quite a bit cooler.  During the hot, humid months of Summer you’ve probably said more than once, “This heat wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t so humid.”  The reverse is true in the Winter – If there were more humidity in the air your home would feel a lot warmer.  Again, you can put on an extra sweater.  But the only way your baby has to tell you he’s uncomfortable is to cry.

There’s also some evidence that suggests the white noise produced by a humidifier might be just the ticket to help lull baby to sleep at night.  Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Baby On The Block,” believes that babies sleep best when the room isn’t absolutely quiet.  According to Dr. Karp, the noises your baby hears in the womb are twice as loud as even your vacuum cleaner, so babies actually feel more comfortable when there’s a bit of noise in the nursery.

So, if you’re baby seems to be fussy or congested all the time but there’s no sign of illness, try placing a humidifier in the room.  Of course, the next questions is…

What Type Of Humidifier Should You Use In The Nursery?

Cold Mist Humidifiers:  Cold mist humidifiers pressurize water, breaking it down into small particles and forcing it out into the air.  Because the water is never heated there’s some concern that you may just be rotating germs back into the air in the nursery, however, there are several different types of cool mist humidifiers available.  Some use ultra-sonic sound to break up water particles and some use chemicals.  The key, with any type of humidifier, is to always following manufacturer’s instructions to keep it clean.

Warm Mist Humidifiers:  Warm mist humidifiers, also known as “vaporizers” use heat to convert the water into steam for dispersal throughout the room.  Because there’s heat involved, germs and viruses are eliminated during the process.  However, for safety reasons, be careful to place the unit out of baby’s reach.  A warm mist humidifier may cost a little more and it will definitely add a few pennies to your monthly electric bill.

Filter or Non-filter:  Many of today’s humidifiers have filters available that help to ensure that the water vapor coming out of the machine is clean and germ-free.  Filters need to be changed on a regular basis, depending on use, anywhere from twice a week to once a month, which can add significant cost.  Some humidifiers have replaceable filters that you can remove, wash, and re-install, which adds to the initial cost but saves money in the long run.

Best-Use Suggestions

Pediatricians recommend that you get a humidifier with a built-in humidistat so you can monitor humidity levels in the nursery.  The ideal level is 50 percent.

Whether you’re using a cool mist or warm mist unit it’s important to follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding the type of water you use, and whether or not you can add chemicals.  It’s also critically important to make sure you follow manufacturer’s advice for cleaning your machine.  Many parents who use a humidifier throughout the winter report best results when they clean the unit every day, which only takes 3 or 4 minutes.


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