How to Dress a Baby for Sleep

Every parent has had to go through the mundane second-guessing stage where you are never sure how to dress your little bundle of joy for sleep. Let's find a middle ground with  practical tips and guidelines to help you and your child have a safe, uninterrupted, and comfortable sleep time.

SERPChampion, Partner
4-minute read

Is a single onesie enough to keep the baby warm during the night? Should I throw in a romper? Should I swaddle?

Every new parent - especially as a first-time parent - has had to go through the mundane second-guessing stage where you are never sure how to dress your little bundle of joy for sleep.

You panic when you dress them too lightly and wonder whether they are too cold. But you also get a little confused because when you throw in another layer, they get sweaty quickly.

The trick is to keep an open mind and experiment a little while prioritizing safety.

So what is the correct answer? This article attempts to find a middle ground and give you practical tips and guidelines to help you and your little pint-size peanut have a safe, uninterrupted, and comfortable sleep time.

The principle guidelines

Although it is not recommended to underdress the baby, a baby who is a little cold is much safer than an overdressed baby. But what is the middle ground? According to the American Association of Pediatricians, the basic rule of thumb states that you should put a baby in one extra layer than you feel comfortable in when sleeping.

This means that if you are sleeping in a two-piece PJ set, the baby will do fine in footie pajamas such as those at https://www.lewisishome.com/collections/baby-pajamas and a muslin swaddle.

Besides this rule, how you dress your baby is heavily dependent on one major factor; the temperature of the room.

Ideal room temperature

The generally accepted ideal room temperature to create a safe sleeping environment for an infant is a temperature between 68° and 72°F (20° to 22.2°C).

Although this is the ideal temperature, it is still hard to gauge whether your baby is comfortable. For example, most preterm babies cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently as full-term babies.

Therefore, the room’s temperature might need to be slightly higher to keep the baby comfortable until they can regulate their body temperature.

In general, keep in mind that this temperature is just the generally accepted average, and each baby is different. Some are more comfortable in colder environments, while others are more comfortable when it is a few degrees warmer.

Constantly checking your baby’s temperature and observing their general behavior will help you determine when your baby is uncomfortable.

You can check their temperature by simply putting a thumb on their chest. If the temperature is warm and not hot, and the baby is not fussy, you are good to go. Otherwise, use the good old thermometer to check for any spikes in temperature.

What is the appropriate sleepwear while considering age?

How to dress a newborn to sleep

When the room temperature exceeds 72 degrees, a single layer (a diaper or underwear is not considered a layer) of clothing is enough for a newborn to sleep in. However, if the room temperature is lower than 72 degrees, a single layer will not suffice.

If the temperatures are just a bit lower, an additional layer of breathable newborn pajamas or a muslin swaddle is recommended. Add more layers as required with every few degrees drop in temperature.

How to dress an infant to sleep

Newborns are less mobile, and thus a nice warm swaddle on top of a footed pajama can keep them warm and cozy throughout the night. However, after a few months, the tiny humans can roll over in all directions in their sleep, and therefore a swaddle becomes hazardous.

So, at this stage, you can substitute a swaddle with a sleep sack. Sleepsacks (also known as wearable blankets) are worn blankets that leave the baby’s arms free while covering their torso and legs. This allows them to move around freely and unrestricted.

This is great for when the room temperature is colder, and you need to keep your baby warm while still allowing them their freedom to move around. 

How to dress a toddler to sleep

At this stage, many babies can voice any discomfort they feel. Most are also able to choose what they want to wear to bed. It is also a lot easier for you as a parent because you already know your child’s behavior and what level of temperature they prefer when sleeping.

However, it is recommended to ensure that your toddler sleeps in pajamas that comply with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s ruling. For extra warmth, it is also safe to use a footed sleep sack at this age.

You can slowly start introducing blankets or soft bedding at this stage, but with close monitoring.

How to know if your baby is comfortable

Although sometimes you can decode the source of their discomfort from their coo and cry, it is just trial and error most of the time. So how do you know for sure when your baby is either too warm or too cold?

An obvious sign of overheating is when your baby is still unsettled even after s/he has been fed and changed. Other signs include perspiration, wet hair, red cheeks and neck, sudden rash, quickened breathing, etc.

If the baby is a little cold, you will most likely notice their tiny hands and feet turn blueish. But this should be quickly be sorted with an extra layer or by turning up the heating system a few degrees. 

It is important to note that it might not necessarily mean that the baby is cold if the tiny hands and feet feel cold to touch. This is considered normal because babies circulatory system is still developing.

Final word

As a new parent, there are many decisions you will need to make every day. Determining how to dress your baby to sleep is just one of those million decisions, but it is also one of the critical ones.

While it is crucial, it is not something to lose sleep over - after all, you need all the sleep you can get. The trick is to keep an open mind and experiment a little while prioritizing safety. With time, you will learn your baby’s behavior, and everything will be much easier.