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How to Dress Baby for Sleep

Learn how to dress your baby for sleep so he is safe and comfortable throughout the night. Dressing baby properly for sleep can help the whole family get the sleep they need!

baby's head poking through under a blanket

Of all the things to worry about as a new mom, how to dress my daughter properly for sleep was probably the thing I worried about the most when she was a baby. I was constantly “Googling” what temperature her nursery should be, what kind of clothes she should be dressed in at night, and checking her body to see if she felt comfortable while she slept.

I knew draping her with a blanket was a no-no in order to help reduce the risk of SIDS and follow the AAP’s abcs of safe sleep.

I obsessed over the temperature that our thermostat read and how much it differed from the many conflicting temperatures recommended for a sleeping baby that I found online. In those early days, I was never sure exactly how to dress my baby for sleep and it stressed me out.

If you’re also wondering how to dress your baby for sleep, then I’m here to help! Take this information, apply it to your baby and your house, and try not to lose any more sleep over how to dress your baby for bed!

how to dress baby fir sleep

Learn How to Get your Newborn to Sleep!

Have a new baby or expecting one soon? Grab my Newborn Sleep Toolkit. It’s 25 cheat sheets of newborn sleep tips and tricks to get your new baby sleeping well. The Newborn Sleep Toolkit is full of graphics and easy-to-read info and is perfect for exhausted new parents! Get it here.

How Should I Dress My Baby to Sleep?

Wondering what your baby should wear to sleep? We have plenty of examples and suggestions!

Despite the old wives tales about bundling your baby up from head to toe, sleeping on the cooler side actually promotes sleep for all of us. The ideal temperature for baby sleep is between 68 and 72° F. That’s surprisingly cool!

But not everyone keeps their homes between 68 and 72° F, which is where I got confused a lot as a new mom!

If you take anything from this post, it’s this: Don’t obsess over the thermostat in your house. If you’re comfortable and your baby is dressed similarly, they are likely comfortable as well.

If you want to double check them, use your hand to feel their belly or the back of their neck. If it feels slightly warm to your touch, then they are good!

Okay, now we can get into more specifics about how to dress your baby for sleep in different climates!

How you’ll dress your baby for sleep will largely depend on the climate and temperature in your environment, as well as how cool or warm you keep your home.

Generally, a cotton onesie and lightweight swaddle or sleep sack will be sufficient for warmer weather, while footed pajamas and a sleep sack or swaddle will be sufficient for cooler weather.

It’s much easier for your baby to adapt to a cooler climate (with proper clothing or coverings) than it is for them to get comfortable being too warm.

This is important to know, especially in a situation where you don’t have as much control over the climate in baby’s space as you’d like. Traveling and staying with friends and family is great, but not everyone keeps their thermostats set to ideal “baby-friendly” temperatures.

I recommend that you be prepared to dress your baby for sleep in many different circumstances and clothing combinations. Here are some methods that I’ve found helpful when dressing your baby for restful sleep.

TOG Ratings

Another helpful tool for new parents is TOG—Thermal Overall Grade. The TOG Rating on baby’s clothes helps demystify how to dress your baby for sleep. Essentially, the higher the TOG Rating, the warmer the fabric.

Many baby clothing has TOG ratings on it, showing you exactly how to dress your baby for sleep based on the ambient temperature of the room!

How to Dress Baby for Sleep With A Swaddle

how to dress baby for sleep swaddled baby

I’m a big fan of swaddling when your baby is a newborn.

Swaddling is beneficial and calming, especially for newborns who still have that pesky startle-response reflex. Swaddling is also a safe and secure way to add an extra layer of warmth for your sleeping baby.

By keeping their limbs more secure and stopping their hands and arms from hitting their faces while sleeping, the swaddle helps many babies (and their parents) get longer and more restful stretches of sleep.

If you think your baby hates the swaddle, be sure to check out these tips!

While swaddling can serve a dual purpose of warming and calming, things get trickier if your baby needs a swaddle, but their room runs warm. The question then becomes: how should I dress my baby for sleep under the swaddle? (Which is what I was dealing with Mid-June with a newborn!).

The first thing to keep in mind is that after just a few days of life, most full-term babies have the ability to regulate their body temperatures. That means they can adapt to the temperature of their environment like we can.

I’ve learned to think about dressing my baby for sleep like this: if I feel comfortable dressed in a certain number of layers, my baby will probably be comfortable dressed in a similar way. This goes for baby’s awake time and sleep time.

Keeping that in mind, the first thing you’ll want to pay attention to is how thick or warm a swaddle is.

Is the swaddle a lightweight muslin material? If so, it probably won’t be adding much more warmth than the top sheet on your bed would. Maybe you’ll be using a down comforter in your own bed to stay warm. If that’s the case, consider putting your baby in a short sleeve onesie plus long-sleeve footie pajamas before swaddling.

If it’s going to be a warmer day or night and you’re feeling comfortable in the house wearing just shorts and a tank top, your baby will probably appreciate fewer layers while they sleep. A short sleeve onesie under the swaddle should be plenty.

If you think it’ll be over 80° in the house while baby is sleeping, just swaddling over a diaper is a good option to ensure they don’t get hot and fussy.

Swaddle Favorites

  • Aden by Aden Muslin Swaddle Blankets: If you can perfect the art of the swaddle on your own, then these muslin blankets are a great swaddle option for warmer weather. The material is lightweight and breathable. Bonus, they come in a ton of cute designs!
  • Love to Dream Swaddle Up Lite:The Love to Dream Swaddle helps prevent the startle reflex while allowing babies to sleep with their arms up. The Lite version is even more lightweight than the original and perfect for those hot summer nights. They also have a winter version if it’s colder where you are.
  • SwaddleMe Original Swaddle: This is one of the easier swaddles to use. Velcro buttons help keep baby wrapped, secure, and warm!
how to dress baby for sleep swaddled baby sleeping

How Do I Keep My Baby Warm At Night?

Once your baby transitions out of the swaddle, you’ll still want to make sure he is warm enough for sleep. There are plenty of options of how to keep your baby warm at night, even without a swaddle or blanket.

The days of putting grandma’s sweetly crocheted baby blanket into the crib with your new baby are gone. Modern studies link loose bedding and toys in infants’ cribs to incidents of suffocation and SIDS. It’s never worth the risk!

It’s a dangerous move to put blankets or loose bedding of any kind in baby’s crib before they’re 12 months old. If it’s cold where you are, you can layer a onesie or lightweight pajamas with warm baby pajamas and a sleep sack as a way to keep your babe warm and safe in those earlier months before your baby can sleep with a blanket.

Another way to add a layer of warmth is to use a sleep sack (or wearable blanket). Sleep sacks are not as restricting as a swaddle, but they come in different thicknesses and materials and you can zip them up safely and securely around your baby’s body for sleep.

Sleep Sacks for Colder Weather

Here are some favorite sleep sacks if you live in a colder climate:

  • Woolino 4 Season baby sleeping bag is pricey but can be used during all four seasons. Merino wool is breathable and helps regulate baby’s body temperature.
  • Baby Deedee Quilted Duvet sleeping bag is a heavier option for colder climates. The breathable fabric is perfect for those cold winter months that many cities experience.
  • Fleece HALO Sleep Sack:The fleece HALO sleep sack is a soft blanket-alternative for babies 4 months all the way up to to 3 years!

How To Dress Baby for Sleep in the Summer

baby sleeping on back with pacifier

Evelyn was born in Mid-may, which is a time when it’s already getting pretty hot here in Northern California. Even though it gets up to 100°+ in our peak summer months, I still found myself thinking that babies wanted to be bundled up while sleeping. It took some trial and error to realize that’s simply not true—it’s an old-school way of thinking and we need to put it to rest!

More importantly, the most recent research shows that you need to keep your baby from overheating because it has been linked to a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

When you consider options for dressing your baby for sleep in the summer, pay attention to where they are sleeping in relation to air conditioning vents, ceiling fans, or plug-in fans. If any of these are aimed at your baby while they’re sleeping, they’ll probably be more comfortable with at least one thin layer covering their whole body to keep them from feeling the cold air on their skin. A lightweight, full length long-sleeved pajama set might work best.

If they aren’t sleeping with cold air blowing on them, your baby may be perfectly comfortable sleeping in just a short-sleeve onesie.

how to dress baby for sleep in the summer

And if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of facing 85°+ temps indoors where baby is sleeping, don’t hesitate to let them sleep in nothing but a diaper. Our air conditioning once gave out on us during a multi-day heat wave and that was the only way our daughter could get comfortable enough to sleep!

Sleep Sacks for Warmer Weather

How to Dress Baby for Sleep Without Swaddle or Sleep Sack

If your little one has refused to swaddle or is an active sleeper and prefers to have their hands and feet free while they sleep, that’s perfectly normal! You can still dress them in ways that will help them sleep comfortably.

Again, think about how many layers you would need to feel comfortable sleeping in the same environment as your baby. Maybe you would feel comfortable in one layer, two layers, or three—chances are pretty good that your baby will feel the same. Make sure to take the swaddle into consideration as one of the layers.

We’ve talked a lot about how to dress your baby for sleep in various temperatures, and although that should be one of your biggest considerations, don’t forget about textures and fit of their clothing as well. You wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping in too-tight, rough, or scratchy pajamas and neither will your baby!

Make sure that the layers resting directly on their skin are smooth enough (no rogue tags), well-fitting (not loose enough for them to slip out of), and not too tight around their neck, wrists, and ankles.

Is Baby Warm Enough at Night?

baby sleeping with a blanket on

The best way to determine if your baby is warm enough when they’re sleeping is by touching them. Use your hand to see if they feel slightly warm when sleeping. A good place to check is the back of their neck or their belly—if it’s slightly warm, that’s perfect!

You can also feel their hands or feet, but those tend to run cooler than the midsection and may not be as helpful to determine overall comfort. If your baby has cold hand, try also checking the back of their neck before making any adjustments.

If your baby feels cold, it’s likely a sign that you should change how they’re dressed or change the thermostat. Remember that if a fan or air conditioning vent is blowing onto baby’s skin where you touch, you may think that they’re sleeping colder than they actually are.

Resist the urge to put a hat on your sleeping baby at night if they feel cold, as it can be a safety hazard if you leave them unattended and unobserved. A baby’s head is where they release most of their body heat, so it’s important to keep it uncovered for body temperature regulation.

If you try the touch-test and you’re still not sure, it’s time to read your baby’s cues. Is your baby more restless, fussy, or awake than usual? Has that coincided with a change in temperature outside and/or in the house? If yes, it is probably time to try a different method of dressing them for sleep.

As long as you have clothing layer options, know how to use the touch-test to check on baby’s sleeping temperature, and think about how you’d like to dress for sleep in the same environment, dressing your baby for sleep doesn’t need to be something to lose sleep over! I hope this helps you both sleep better tonight.

Amy Motroni

Amanda

Sunday 13th of June 2021

I’m struggling with how to dress my baby when the temperature changes wildly through the night. It is around 80 when we put her down, but by the time she wakes up in the morning it is around 50. We don’t have air con or a thermostat, just windows and fans to regulate temp, and she is a unicorn baby who sleeps through the night so there’s no good opportunity to adjust her layers in the night. Any advice?

Amy Motroni

Monday 14th of June 2021

Hi Amanda, That does make things a bit tricky! Can you keep her in an additional layer while they window is open or fan on and then before you go to sleep turn the fan off or close the window so she is warmer throughout the cooler parts of the night?