How To Dress Your Baby For Sleep: Keeping Them Safe

baby boy wearing green pajamas from Cuddle Sprouts

How To Dress Your Baby For Sleep

Ensuring a good night's sleep for your baby is not just crucial for their well-being, growth, and development but for maintaining your sanity as a parent, too. If you’re the parent of a newborn, chances are you know what it’s like to be sleep-deprived and you’d do anything to ensure your baby sleeps through the night. 

The key to their sound slumber lies in creating a comfortable and safe environment perfect for sound sleep and sweet dreams. A fundamental aspect of this is knowing how to dress your baby for sleep. 

However, some parents, especially new ones, may feel overwhelmed and stressed when selecting sleepwear for their infant. After all, you don’t want the baby to be too hot or too cold at any point during their slumber as this could put their health and safety at risk. Instead, you want to dress them appropriately for the room temperature and season, ensuring they will stay comfortable and safe all night long.

What is the recommended room temperature for a sleeping baby? 

The general consensus is that a temperature between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 degrees Celsius) is best for sleeping babies. Opt to maintain a moderate temperature that is not too warm and not too cold given the time of year. 

If the room is too hot, for example, the baby will be at risk of overheating, night sweats, and general discomfort that could lead to sleep disturbances. In more serious cases, overheating can lead to serious injury or even death. Similarly, a room that is too cold could cause distress and discomfort.

That said, while studies show that moderate room temperatures positively impact the quality of one’s sleep, it’s also important to consider what the baby is wearing as well (1). 

Baby sleepwear chart

How should I dress my baby for sleep?

It is tempting for parents to select pajamas for their baby based on what they would wear to sleep. So, if that’s what you’ve been doing, you are not alone. However, this isn’t necessarily the best practice for your baby’s well-being. Due to the inability to regulate their body temperature as well as adults, infants are at a heightened risk of overheating or getting cold (2). It’s vital for parents to keep this fact in mind when picking out clothes for their baby to sleep in. 

If you’re not sure where to start with baby sleepwear, look for breathable fabrics that are gentle on delicate skin, providing optimal care for your little one while they sleep. Pajamas made using naturally breathable and thermoregulating fabrics, like Tencel, are the perfect option for supporting your baby’s comfort throughout the night. 

In addition to choosing thermoregulating fabrics, consider the time of year and temperature of the room when dressing your infant for sleep. Strive to keep the room temperature between 68-72°F, depending on the time of year. However, keep in mind that they are likely to need an additional layer to stay warm than you would need. In general, aim to keep them warm enough without needing extra blankets in the crib.  

Layering is another practical approach, allowing you to add or remove clothing as needed. A swaddle or baby sleep sack is a perfect outer layer for providing additional warmth, especially during those first 12 months when their cribs should be free from blankets, pillows, loose sheets, and toys.

 Tips to help dress baby for bed: 

To recap, as you prepare your baby for bed, consider the following tips to ensure the utmost comfort and safety: 

  • Keep the room at a moderate temperature. 
  • Dress your baby in layers to easily regulate temperature. If you think your baby is still cold add an extra layer.
  • Consider using a swaddle or sleep sack for added warmth. 
  • Opt for breathable fabrics to promote comfort and thermoregulation.

Ideal clothing choices include knotted gowns, footies, and two-piece pajamas. Additionally, bodysuits, swaddles, and baby sleep bags are perfect for layering.

Swaddle vs. Sleep Sack: What should you choose? 

Chances are, you’ve heard of sleep sacks and swaddles. But when it comes to sleep safety, you might not be certain which one you should choose for your child. While both sleep sacks and swaddles are sleepwear options designed to keep infants cozy and secure while they sleep, there are some key differences for parents to be aware of. 

A swaddle is a lightweight blanket used to snugly wrap a baby, creating a womb-like environment that restricts excessive movement during sleep. This cozy environment provides comfort while preventing the startle reflex that can wake babies during sleep. Swaddles are a great option for newborns, however should not be used once your infant shows signs of rolling. 

Once they show signs of rolling, usually between 2-4 months, you want to transition to a sleep sack. Sleep sacks are wearable blankets designed to keep babies warm and comfortable without needing loose blankets in the crib. Unlike swaddles, sleep sacks allow babies free movement of their arms, making it a safer option once they can roll. 

While sleep sacks offer a comfortable and safe transition from a swaddle, they are perfectly safe to be used in place of a swaddle. Just be sure the sleep sack is the right size, including checking that the opening for the head is not too big as the loose fabric could rise up and cover the baby’s mouth or nose during the night. 

If you’re unsure which is the right option for your baby, we recommend speaking with your pediatrician for additional information.

How do I know if my baby is cold at night? 

If you are concerned your baby is cold during the night, look for these crucial signs: 

  • Chest, neck, back, or stomach that is cool to the touch
  • Fussiness 
  • Restlessness or difficulty sleeping 

If your baby is showing any of those signs, add additional layers for warmth. 

Dressing your baby in appropriate layers, using sleep sacks and swaddles, and choosing clothing made from highly thermoregulatory fabrics, like Tencel Lyocell, can help keep your baby warm during the colder months. It is important to opt for warm clothing, cozy fabrics, and layers over adding blankets to the crib to reduce the risks and associated dangers of overheating (3). Remember, no matter the temperature of the room, blankets and other loose items should be kept out of the crib until children are over 12 months of age.

Should Newborns Wear Hats to Sleep?

Even during colder months, newborns generally should not wear hats to sleep. Newborns regulate their body temperature through their heads. Covering their heads with hats during sleep can impede this important natural process. Therefore, while you want to ensure your baby is kept warm, it is essential to prioritize their safety, and wearing a hat overnight can lead to overheating, increasing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (4).

To ensure a safe sleep environment, leave the hats behind and focus on dressing your newborn in layers of lightweight, breathable sleepwear as needed.

Should Babies Wear Socks to Sleep?  

Similarly, it’s not recommended for parents to cover an infant’s feet with socks during sleep. As with hats, covering their feet can lead to overheating and may increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). 

Instead of socks, opt for the safer option by dressing your baby in breathable sleepwear appropriate for the room temperature. If you are concerned about them being cold, choose layering options that cover the feet, such as footies and wearable blankets, for added warmth without the additional risk.

How do I know if my baby is too hot while sleeping? 

If you are concerned your baby is too hot while sleeping, look for these tell-tale signs: 

  • Sweating, especially on the back or neck
  • Flushed or hot skin, especially their cheeks 
  • Clammy chest, neck, back, or stomach
  • Restlessness and discomfort

More serious signs of overheating include: 

  • Rapid breathing
  • Heat rash

It is vital to know the signs of an overheating baby as experiencing excessive heat during sleep can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (4). It can also lead to discomfort, disrupted sleep, and potential health issues. 

 Tips to Prevent Overheating:

Remember, babies regulate their body temperature less effectively than adults, making it crucial to dress your baby accordingly to prevent overheating during sleep. Consider the following tips to ensure a comfortably cool sleeping environment for your baby:

  • Maintain a comfortable room temperature (around 68-72°F or 20-22°C).
  • Dress your baby in lightweight, breathable clothing suitable for the room temperature
  • Avoid covering the baby's head with hats
  • Keep heavy blankets out of the crib 
  • Use a fan to promote air circulation
  • Reduce layers under swaddles and sleep sacks as needed

Tencel Pajamas for the Prevention of Night Sweats

When thinking about how to dress your baby for sleep, it’s important to consider the fabric their sleepwear is made with.Tencel is a fabric made from eucalyptus wood pulp that is known for its excellent breathability and moisture-wicking properties. Tencel baby clothes, crafted from this fabric, offer effective thermoregulation, preventing night sweats by absorbing moisture and promoting airflow. When selecting baby sleepwear, consider Tencel as a material to help keep your baby comfortably dry and regulate their body temperature during sleep.  

Cuddle Sprouts’ collection of highly breathable Tencel sleepwear and baby pajamas is perfect for ensuring soft and cozy comfort all night long. 

Always ensure that sleepwear, regardless of material, is appropriate for the current room temperature to maintain a safe sleep environment for your baby.

Important Baby Sleep Safety Reminders 

Infant sleep safety goes beyond how you dress them at bedtime. In addition to dressing considerations, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest to follow general safety guidelines to ensure a safe sleeping environment for your baby (5):

  • Give your baby a separate sleeping space, including a crib or bassinet 
  • Ensure a flat and firm sleeping surface
  • Use a fitted mattress appropriately sized for your baby’s crib
  • Only use a fitted sheet
  • Avoid pillows, loose blankets and toys in the crib until 12 months of age.
  • Place infants on their backs for sleep
  • Avoid oversized pajamas to prevent any risk of suffocation 

Better Sleep For All 

Remember, better sleep for baby means better sleep for all! 

Ultimately, prioritizing your baby's sleep environment, including dressing them appropriately for the room temperature, will help them establish strong sleep habits and enjoy quality sleep. 

When your baby is comfortably and safely dressed for sleep, not only do they sleep better, but you will too. Instead of tossing and turning worrying if your child is too hot or too cold, or being woken by cries of discomfort, you can enjoy a more peaceful night’s sleep knowing your little one is safe and sound. Who knew that dressing your baby appropriately for sleep could foster a healthier sleep routine for the whole family? 

Reference Links 

1. National Library of Medicine, Effects of Thermal Environment on Sleep and Circadian Rhythm

2. Sanford Medicine Children’s Health, Keeping Your Baby Warm 

3. National Institutes of Health, NIH Alerts Caregivers to Increase in SIDS Risk During Cold Weather

4. Boston Children’s Hospital, What You Need to Know About SIDs

5. American Academy of Pediatrics, SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Updated 2016 Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment

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