Learn how to dress your baby for sleep so to keep them 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

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Of all the things to worry about as a new mom, how to dress my daughter for sleep was probably the thing I worried about the most when she was a baby.

I was constantly “Googling” what ideal 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 American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep recommendations and the 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!

how to dress baby fir sleep

What Temperature Should a Baby Sleep In?

You’ll see it recommended that the most comfortable 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 a lot of confusion comes in for new parents (myself included).

I found this ideal temperature range to be particularly tricky in warmer months, when keeping the house that cool during a California summer would cost a fortune!

When you can’t keep the thermostat on that ideal room temperature, you can rely on other factors to help you figure out how to dress your baby for sleep.

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.

How Should I Dress My Baby for Sleep?

I used to stress over how to dress my baby for sleep. Now I’ve learned that we can use our common sense and intuition to help us.

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 most likely be comfortable dressed similarly.

Dressing your baby for sleep doesn’t have to be so complicated.

What are you planning on wearing to bed?

You can dress your baby in similar materials and layers that you’re going to wear for sleep and feel confident that they’ll be comfortable as well.

Here are some examples:

  • If you’re wearing flannel pajamas and a warm comforter—Dress your baby in footed pajamas and a sleep sack or swaddle.
  • If you’re wearing a light shirt and short set—Dress your baby in a cotton onesie and a lightweight swaddle or sleep sack.

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.

How to dress your baby for sleep based on what you're wearing graphic

Using 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 your baby’s room.

How Do I Know if My Baby is Cold at Night?

The easiest way to figure out if your baby is too cold at night is to feel their skin.

It’s natural for your baby’s hands, arms, and even you baby’s face to run a bit cooler than the rest of their body. Cold hands don’t necessarily mean cold baby.

Because of that, when you perform a touch-test, I recommend you feel their belly or the back of their neck.

When you touch their skin, your baby’s temperature should feel warm. If their core temperature doesn’t feel very warm at all, it’s time for an additional layer.

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 hands, 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.

How to keep baby warm at night graphic

How Do I Keep My Baby Warm At Night?

There are plenty of options of how to keep your baby warm at night.

In colder months, you can layer a onesie or lightweight pajamas with warm baby pajamas and a swaddle or sleep sack as a way to keep your babe warm and safe in those earlier months before your baby can sleep with a blanket.

Can My Baby Wear A Hat to Bed?

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.

How To Know if Baby is Too Hot While Sleeping

Signs baby is too hot while sleeping graphic

Being able to tell if your baby is too hot is so important to avoid scary things like SIDS, but it also helps avoid things like heat rash and dehydration.

Here are some signs that your baby is too hot while sleeping:

  • Their neck and/or hair is hot and sweaty
  • Baby’s tummy is clammy or hot
  • Their ears and/or cheeks are hot and red

Here’s where the touch test comes in handy once again!

Touch your baby’s tummy or the back of their neck. If it feels warm, that’s fine, but you want to make sure that they are not sweaty or clammy.

How To Dress Baby for Sleep in the Summer

My daughter 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 newborn 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.

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.

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!

Should You Swaddle Your Baby?

I’m a big fan of swaddling newborn babies. Like anything in parenting, there are pros and cons of swaddling baby.

Swaddling is beneficial and calming, especially for young babies 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 my newborn baby).

Think again about how you’re dressed and dress your baby similarly:

  • If you’ll be sleeping with a down comforter—consider putting your baby in a short sleeve onesie plus long sleeve footie pajamas before swaddling.
  • If you’re happy with just a top sheet on your bed—dress your baby in a lightweight muslin swaddle.
  • If you’re feeling comfortable in the wearing 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 choice to ensure they don’t get hot and fussy.

Our Favorite Sleep Sacks and Swaddles

Using sleep sacks and swaddles are a great way to add an additional layer to keep your baby warm at night. Here are some of the best sleep sacks and the best swaddles.

Sleep Sacks for Cold Weather

If you live in a colder climate and want to know how to dress your baby for winter, these sleep sacks are great options:

  • Kyte Baby: This sleep bag is buttery soft and with a 2.5 TOG, it will keep baby warm with it’s temperature regulating fabric.
  • 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!
  • Baby Deedee Quilted Duvet sleeping bag is heavier and a great option for colder climates. The breathable fabric is perfect for those cold winter months that many cities experience.

Sleep Sacks for Warmer Weather

These sleep sacks are perfect for Summer or if you live in a warmer climate year-round:

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 good option for warm weather. The breathable fabrics are lightweight. 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 hot weather. They also have a version if you need a winter sleep sack.
  • 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 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.

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.

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  1. I just want to say thank you so much for this! I needed every bit of it. I’m guilty for every day checking exactly as you said. How to dress baby at night. Stressing. Worrying all night. So thank you!! I feel better for sure!

  2. 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?

    1. 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?

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