How should you dress your baby for sleep? While it sounds like a simple question, any new parent knows that even the most mundane infant inquiries come with potentially scary consequences to weigh. (Who among us hasn’t painstakingly googled every hard-to-pronounce ingredient listed in every diaper cream on the market?)
Something as banal as selecting a pair of PJs for your pint-size peanut can feel like a daunting decision when you’re a newly minted and utterly exhausted parent. Fortunately, we’re here to help take the stress out of this process with some practical tips and basic guidelines. Wishing you and your baby a comfy and safe night of uninterrupted slumber — you’ve got this.
When you first bring baby home, he or she will sleep most of the time. According to experts on newborn sleep, infants need a whopping 16-17 hours of rest every 24 hours! To encourage your little one’s comfort and tranquillity, they will need plenty of snuggles, blankets and comfy pyjamas for the first few months of their life.
Knowing how to dress a newborn for both day and night will make baby happier and healthier. It will also make diaper changes and feedings easier for mom and dad! Instead of searching the Internet or getting lost among posts on social media, explore our guide to the essential clothing items for overnight sleep sessions and baby nap time. Once you read it over, bookmark it so you can have it with you when you shop. No matter the season or where you live, you’ll be confident you’re dressing baby for comfort, style and safety.
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The basic rules
Perhaps you’ve heard about the general rule of thumb for dressing your baby for sleep: Put them in one additional layer than you would wear at night. This makes sense, as a baby should not sleep with a loose sheet or blanket. Generally speaking, a two-piece cotton PJ set or footed onesie plus a muslin swaddle should suffice.
However, this rule is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll also need to judge if this generalization applies to your baby’s sleeping environment. The ideal room temperature should be between 68° and 72°F, so if your house tends to run cool or warm, you’ll want to adjust accordingly by adding or removing a layer.
It’s better to have the baby slightly underdressed than heavily overdressed. While older generations are often quick to bundle little ones in lots of layers, the danger of overheating is real and has been linked to a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While this peril is most pronounced through 6 months of age, it remains a concern for toddlers as well.
A home thermostat or indoor thermometer can help you feel confident in your nightly pyjama-picking procedure. Plus, in time, you’ll learn to trust your instincts and use common sense. If you feel good in your cotton jammies, chances are your baby does too.
To swaddle or not to swaddle?
Newborns generally respond well to being swaddled. The snug bundling technique can help young infants feel safe and soothed like they’re back in the womb. A cotton or muslin material is a good choice, as both are lightweight and breathable and offer ample flexibility for easy wrapping and tucking.
That said, parents who aren’t quite confident in their baby-burritos skills can choose a swaddle sack or suit that offers Velcro and zipper “cheats” (No, you’re not failing as a parent if you can’t ninja-swaddle a baby like a maternity nurse).
Do note that once your baby starts to roll over, it’s time to lose the swaddle, as it’s no longer considered a safe option. Baby can graduate to a sleep slack or wearable blanket instead. These are also great options if your munchkin didn’t take to the swaddle from the get-go.
If neither swaddling nor sleep sacks work for you, that’s fine as well. Choose footed sleepwear or slightly warmer fabrics to increase warmth when needed.
What should my baby sleep in and wear to bed?
They want to know what we recommend by way of pyjamas, sleep sacks, etc. for babies and toddlers. This is a great question!
We, new parents, tend to be overly worried our babies will be cold. So, it is probably rare that babies are not dressed warmly enough. Consider that babies can be dressed TOO warmly just the same as not warmly enough.
Here are a few general guidelines as to what babies sleep at various ages. Do use your best judgment, though. Decide on what your baby should sleep in based on where you live, how hot/cold you keep the temperature in your house when your baby sleeps, and your baby’s preference. There may also be other unique factors you need to consider as well.
What Should Swaddled Newborns Sleep In and Wear To Bed?
Do not want to dress your newborn in too-warm pyjamas because she will be swaddled, too. This is an added layer that may make her too warm. And, if your baby may fall asleep in a car seat, this may also add a bit of heat.
Not only could being too warm make your baby uncomfortable, but it also increases the risk of SIDS (note that using a fan can decrease the risk by 72%).
Think about layers at every age, because if he or she feels too warm, you can remove one layer at night. If she spits up on the outer layer, depending on severity, you can replace the outer layer, too.
For newborns who are swaddled, I recommend an onesie underneath a light sleep-and-play outfit (long-sleeve in the winter and short-sleeve in the summer). Then, swaddle your baby.
In the summer, you can probably skip the footed outfit or socks, but in the winter, you may want to keep them on.
What Do Babies Sleep In and Wear To Bed?
Once your newborn has grown up a bit and you are trying to stop swaddling your baby, you can dress your baby the same as a newborn. But, instead of a swaddle, consider a sleep sack.
This transition swaddle is another good choice, so you can gradually get your baby used to be unswaddled.
In the summer, depending on the temperature of your house, you may want to skip the sleep sack or blanket altogether. Babies sleep better in a cooler temperature, approximately 68-70 degrees as do adults. For most people (though not me), body temperature drops at night in order to lead to a better night’s sleep. If your baby’s body temperature doesn’t drop, you should dress him even lighter.
What Do Toddlers Sleep In and Wear To Bed?
One important thing with toddlers is that when they are TOO warm when they sleep, they are more prone to night terrors and nightmares.
So, you do want to make sure your toddler is warm enough at night, but not too warm, just like your baby.
Your toddler’s skin should be comfortable to the touch and even a little cool, but not cold/frigid.
Even when your toddler can talk, it isn’t always something they can express as to why they are waking at night. Sometimes we have to be detectives (at least I’ve felt that way!)
Many people continue to use sleep sacks into the toddler years, so this is still a good option. They make wearable blankets that allow your toddler to walk in them. And, then you don’t have to worry about him keeping the covers on at night.
Newborns, infants, and toddlers all have different ideal sleepwear.
When picking pyjamas for a newborn, infant, or toddler, comfort is only half the story. The other main factor is safety—especially when dressing newborns for sleep. Below, find out how to decide what to put on a newborn, infant, and toddler at bedtime.
Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) can occur until a baby is a year old, but the first four months are the most dangerous. SUID can occur due to suffocation or unknown reasons. That’s why it’s important to dress babies in clothing that isn’t too loose (because that lowers the risk of suffocation). One-pieces with built-in feet are a great go-to choice. The most important thing is to avoid any clothing that can ride up over the baby’s face, like tops that are loose around the neck. If the temperature in the nursery is less than 75 degrees Fahrenheit, babies will need a few layers to keep warm.
That’s where sleep sacks (with no hoods!) and wearable sleep blankets come in handy. (Don’t cover babies with a separate blanket, since that can accidentally cover their faces during sleep). That said, overheating boosts a newborn’s risk for SUID, so make sure to remove outer layers if your baby’s face looks flushed. And don’t forget the mittens! Newborns’ fingernails can be sharp and scratch their faces during sleep, so soft mittens can remove that danger.
The above advice should be followed until babies hit the age of one, which is when they are no longer at risk for SUID. At this point, pyjamas can be almost anything infants are comfortable in, and blankets can be added for warmth. Choosing cotton clothing is a good idea since it’s soft and breathable—and it helps keep a baby’s body temperature at an ideal level during sleep. One other thing to note for infant sleepwear: Legally, any pyjamas that are sized from nine months through size 14 must be either flame-resistant or tight-fitting. This is because loose clothing more easily catches on fire. Pyjamas in this age range should have tags saying whether they are flame-retardant and snug-fitting and avoid any that don’t say either.
By the toddler stage, the rules change again. At some point, your child will move into a big-kid bed, and then pyjamas can be anything that your little one likes. As for how warm the pyjamas should be, adults should use their bodies as a guide for how many layers are necessary.
The ABCs of Safe Sleep
How your baby sleeps affects his or her risk of sleep-related death. The ABCs of safe sleep can help you to understand and remember the most important things to do to keep your baby safe. The ABCs of safe sleep are:
All by Myself
The safest way for babies to sleep is by themselves. Your baby should never share a sleep space or bed with another person, including on the couch or in a chair. Keeping the crib clear of all blankets, stuffed animals, and toys can help to prevent smothering. To keep your baby close, put his or her crib or bassinet next to your bed.
On My Back
When babies sleep on their tummies, they have more trouble breathing and are at higher risk of sleep-related death. Babies are also less likely to choke when lying on their backs (there is less of a risk of spit-up getting into the windpipe in this position). Putting your baby on his or her tummy during waking hours can often help prevent a flat spot from forming on the back of the head. You should always supervise your baby closely during tummy time, making sure he or she is awake for safety.
In My Crib
Sleeping flat in a crib, bassinet, or playpen is the safest place for your baby. This keeps your baby from slumping, which can block his or her airway. Keep the crib empty, so your baby does not suffocate.
Examples of appropriate sleepwear
If you’re the type who prefers a concrete example to follow, check out the following suggestions for warm or cool nights, along with additional tips on hats, snug fits, and snaps.
Lighten up on summer nights
On warm nights, keep it light and breezy — a basic short-sleeve cotton or organic-cotton bodysuit or T-shirt with a muslin or cotton swaddle or sleep sack layered on top is fine.
A bodysuit or tee on its own is also OK if it’s particularly sweltering. Of course, if you have the air conditioner pumping, you can probably stick with cotton long-sleeve pyjamas with footies.
Prepare for a winter chill
Get your little one ready for a chilly winter night with appropriate gear. Either a pair of snuggly fleece pyjamas or heavier microfleece swaddle or sleep sack over standard cotton jammies should do the trick. Just remember no loose blankets.
But what about a hat?
Save the accessories for your Instagram photoshoots. While we adore those cute knit hospital caps, they’re not meant to be used for sleep once you leave the maternity floor.
You want to avoid all loose articles, and a hat could slip off your baby’s head and cover their face, inhibiting free breathing. Furthermore, a baby self regulates by releasing heat through that newborn noggin, so a hat can lead to overheating.
Stick with a snug fit
Some brands begin to offer flame-resistant pyjamas starting at the 9-month mark. These are made with materials that have been chemically treated to decrease the risk of catching fire.
However, some pediatricians question the potential health effects of these chemicals. As an alternative, you can stick with PJs made from cotton or natural-fibre materials that are labelled as “snug-fitting.” These are not treated with a flame retardant but instead, fit close to the body to minimize flammability.
Moreover, snug PJs are always preferable, as loose clothing or materials can ride up and dangerously cover a baby’s face during sleep.
Functionality over fashion
One more thing to keep in mind: convenience. You’ll most likely have to perform a few diaper changes throughout the night in the early days of infanthood. No one wants to fumble with tricky buttons at 3 a.m., so strategically placed snaps and zippers can make these groggy nappy changes more efficient.
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Creating the Best Sleep Experience for Your Newborn
Cozy pyjamas can set the tone for a restful sleep. In addition to dressing your child for the temperature inside your home and choosing comfy, high-quality bedding, there are other tools that can make naptime and bedtime easy. A sound machine with white noise or nature sounds helps drown out noise outside the nursery. You can also buy special soother sound machines that come equipped with glowing lights and lullaby tunes.
Remember: Leave extra items out of the bassinet or crib. Blankets, stuffed animals and bumper pads are all risky to put in a newborn’s bed because they increase the risk of SIDS. If your child needs a blanket at night, try a swaddle blanket or wearable blanket instead. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to consult with your pediatrician—or trust your parental instinct! No question is silly when it comes to the first few months of your child’s life. Plus, every baby is different. What works for one family may not be the best choice for another. This is why getting to know your little one is so important. Experiment with your options, pay attention to your baby’s cues and cries and don’t be afraid to try something new. Discovering the best sleep experience is a huge stepping stone in understanding your family’s personality and your newborn’s unique preferences.
Determining how to dress your baby for bed is just one of many daily decisions you’ll have to make as a new parent. While there are lots of variables to consider, it’s certainly not something you should lose sleep over because parents need all the sleep they can get.
Prioritize safety, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new swaddles or PJs to see what works best for your little lovebug. A restful night of zzz’s for both baby, and you are likely just around the corner.