Caring for a new baby can be a daunting experience, especially for first-time parents. After all, there’s a seemingly endless list of dos and don’ts when keeping little ones safe, happy, and well.
And so, while knowing how to dress a baby for sleep might sound simple enough, there are some essential guidelines to consider. Of course, you don’t want them to be too hot or cold, yet getting the balance right can feel like a minefield.
But don’t worry; this post is designed to answer all your questions about the appropriate clothing babies should wear to bed. You can feel confident that your little munchkin will have a safe and comfortable night’s sleep.
How to Dress a Baby For Sleep? The Basic Rules
Most new parents are told a simple rule of thumb for dressing their baby for sleep; put one extra layer of clothing on them than you would wear yourself.
But while this is a great starting point, every baby and every home is different, so there are several things you need to consider.
Below, we’ll cover the basic, expert-approved rules for dressing little ones for sleep.
1. Room Temperature
The temperature of your baby’s sleep environment will dictate the type of clothing and how many layers your baby needs.
While there are no hard and fast rules about the perfect room temperature, most experts agree that the ideal range is between 61-68° F (16-20° C).
Straying too far above this temperature range can be potentially dangerous, as it can increase the risk of overheating and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)
The risks are highest for young infants under six months, but overheating is still a concern for older babies and toddlers.
It may seem natural to want to bundle your baby up in plenty of layers to keep them toasty and warm. The bottom line is that your baby should be slightly underdressed than overdressed.
So, with this in mind, the first step in dressing your baby in the appropriate clothing for bed is to take regular temperature readings of the room. Then, you can adjust your thermostat and add or remove layers of clothing depending on how warm or cool it is.
It’s also a good idea to regularly check your baby’s body temperature by placing one hand on their chest. Their skin should be warm but not hot or clammy to the touch.
But remember, when dressing your baby for bed, try not to overthink it. If you stick to the temperature ranges above, trust your instincts and use your common sense, your baby will be comfortable, happy, and safe.
Layering Sleepwear: Room Temperature Guidelines
Of course, not everyone can regulate their room temperature between the recommended ranges above. Many people live in hot climates without air conditioning, and others will struggle to keep their thermostats cranked up to a cozy temperature in the middle of a cold winter.
But don’t worry; you can still ensure your baby stays safe and comfortable by adjusting the number of layers they wear to sleep.
Below are some rough guidelines to follow according to the temperature of your bedroom or nursery.
- 61° F (16° C or lower)
Keep your baby bundled up in a long-sleeved onesie, long-sleeved pajamas, and a 2-TOG tog sleep sack. At this relatively chilly temperature, you should also consider dressing your baby in socks and mittens.
- 62°F to 68°F (17°C to 20°C)
At this ambient temperature range, a long-sleeved onesie, long-sleeved pajamas, and a light 1-TOG sleep sack are all needed.
But if your nursery is at the cooler end of this scale, you may want to add some socks too.
- 69°F to 70°F (20°C to 21°C)
Swap that long-sleeved onesie for a regular sleeveless onesie, and layer with a light pair of long-sleeved pajamas and a light 1- TOG sleep sack.
- 71° F to 77° F (22°C to 25°C)
At the lower end of this range, opt for a light pair of long-sleeved pajamas and a very light 0.5 TOG sleep sack. Towards the warmer end of the scale, swap the pajamas for a sleeveless onesie.
- 78°F (26°C) and above
If the temperature exceeds 78°F (26°C), keep the layers to a bare minimum. A simple sleeveless onesie or even just a diaper will suffice.
2. Blanket or No Blanket?
You may have noticed above that there’s no mention of blankets in the room temperature guidelines.
That’s because most experts, including the American Academy of Paediatrics, recommend against using blankets. At the same time, your little one sleeps until 12 months old.
Blankets and comforters can increase the risk of accidental suffocation and SIDS. The same goes for other soft bedding items like pillows and crib bumpers, as well as plush toys and stuffed animals.
While these items are acceptable while your baby is supervised and awake, using them unattended in a crib while they sleep is a no-no.
3. Sleep Sacks And Swaddles
Just because babies shouldn’t use blankets to sleep doesn’t mean they can’t be snuggly and cozy as they drift off into slumberland.
Instead, you can choose to use a sleep sack or swaddle.
1. Sleep Sacks
Sleep sacks provide a snug and safe space for your baby to drift off, eliminating the risks that loose blankets can pose.
Some sleep sacks compress an infant’s arms, chest, and body (similar to a swaddle). These should only be used in the early stages of infancy before your baby can roll over. Other sleep sacks provide extra room for your baby to move around, and these can be used for as long as you like.
Sleep sacks are usually graded by ‘TOG’, which stands for Thermal Overall Grade. This is the unit of measurement that determines the sleep sack’s thermal insulation properties. To find the best TOG rating for your baby, see the guidelines in the room temperature chart above.
Swaddling is snuggly wrapping a thin, soft fabric around your baby, leaving only their head exposed. This tight embrace can resemble a baby’s experience in the womb and help to lull them into a peaceful sleep.
But there are a few safety considerations before practicing swaddling at home.
- Learn the right method
Your midwife or nurse will be able to teach you the correct way to swaddle your baby. This is particularly important if you’re using a swaddling blanket. If the ends come loose during the night, this could increase the risk of accidental suffocation.
- Place baby on their back
Generally speaking, all infants should be placed on their backs every time they’re put down to sleep. But this rule is even more crucial when swaddling your little one.
Swaddled babies placed on their front are at an increased risk of SIDS and suffocation during sleep due to unintended obstruction of the airways.
- Stop swaddling when baby can roll over
Swaddling can be an excellent way to soothe young infants and keep them cozy as they sleep. But as soon as your baby can roll over by themselves, it’s time to stop swaddling for the reasons mentioned above.
Bonus Baby Sleepwear Guidelines
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the best sleep temperature and layering techniques. Let’s look at some additional clothing guidelines to keep your baby safe and comfortable while they sleep.
1. Choose a Snug Fit
For young infants, avoid baggy sleepwear. Loose clothing can let in the cold and catch or snag items in the crib. Instead, opt for snug-fitting onesies and pajamas that keep your baby cozy and eliminate the risk of accidental airway obstruction.
2. Consider Natural Fabrics
Many parents are rightly concerned about fire safety, and there are plenty of fire-retardant baby clothes available on the market these days.
That being said, it’s essential to consider the toxins that some of these chemically treated fabrics can contain. For this reason, many parents choose natural fabrics for their baby’s sleepwear.
Natural fabrics are soft, breathable, lightweight, and extra gentle on your baby’s skin. They might not offer the same fire safety ratings as fire retardant fabrics. Still, you can minimize risks by choosing snug, close-fitting garments and practicing routine fire safety checks around your home.
3. One-Piece vs. Separates
Single, one-piece clothing, otherwise known as ‘onesies,’ is generally a better choice for infant sleepwear compared with separate tops and bottoms. Onesies keep your baby warm and comfortable by eliminating cold drafts. Plus, they allow more freedom and range of movement, both during sleep and when they’re awake.
Some pediatricians encourage parents to ditch the popular footed variety of onesies and pajamas, as these can restrict your little ones’ wriggling feet.
If your baby needs to keep their tootsies extra warm in a chilly room, you might want to consider socks instead.
4. Avoid Extra Trimmings
Many baby clothes come with adorable little embellishments such as buttons and ribbons. And while these are undoubtedly cute, there are better choices for sleepwear.
These extra trimmings can scratch your baby’s delicate skin and make them uncomfortable in their crib. And worse, they pose a severe choking hazard when worn during sleep.
So, to keep your little ones as safe and comfortable as possible, always opt for embellishment-free sleepwear.
Knowing how to dress your baby for sleep keeps them cozy and comfortable, and most importantly, it keeps them safe.
Hopefully, the information above has given you the confidence to dress your little one for sleep success. For more tips on helping your baby (and you!) get a better night’s shut-eye, check out our post on why babies fight sleep and what to do about it.