dress infant for safe sleep

How to Dress Your Newborn for Safe Sleep

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The day has finally come for you and your baby to come home! But maybe your anxiety has been through the roof about balancing a baby sleep schedule and what your newborn should wear to sleep for the safest sleep possible. Surprisingly enough, there are tons of options for what your new bundle could wear to sleep. So let’s settle some of those nerves and discuss what will work best for you. 

When you first bring baby home, he or she will sleep most of the time. Infants need about 16-17 hours of rest a day. To encourage your little one’s comfort and tranquility, they will need plenty of snuggles, swaddles and comfy pajamas for the first few months of their life. Knowing how to dress a newborn for both day and night will make both you and baby happier. It may also make diaper changes and feedings easier too! 

What Newborns Should Wear to Sleep [According to Season & Temperature]

It can feel like a guessing game trying to figure out what a newborn should wear to sleep. Especially since each baby is different and will have their own preference. But starting off by basing it on the current climate will help determine the basics of what a newborn baby should sleep in. Cozy pajamas can set the tone for a restful sleep. But you also don’t want to over do it. When dressing your newborn for bed, follow this rule of thumb: dress the infant in one additional layer than what you’d be comfortable wearing at night in that room. I usually start with a onesie and add a sleeping sack if  baby could get cold during the night. A good resource to reference is the TOG rating. 

The TOG (thermal overall grade) indicates approximately how many blankets a sleeping sack or sleeping bag is equivalent to. TOG is a unit of measurement of thermal insulation used in the textile trade. The British “TOG” value is the international standard measurement of a blanket’s thermal effectiveness (how well it keeps you warm). So this can give us mommas a good idea of just how warm our newborn will be once dressed for the night. But what about in the summer when nights can be a little warmer? 

Summer Sleepwear for Newborns

During the summer, babies should sleep in pajamas snug enough to lull a newborn to sleep but lightweight enough to keep them cool. If swaddling, you may want to try a cotton or muslin swaddle blanket on top of a short-sleeved cotton bodysuit. If your little one doesn’t like to swaddle (and you have air conditioning), a cotton footed pajama will make them feel safe and secure. 

Newborn bedtime clothing doesn’t have to be complicated.

 I recommend that you be prepared to dress your baby for sleep in many different circumstances and clothing combinations. Keep in mind, if your child is too hot, they’ll be uncomfortable, and if baby overheats, that could increase the risk of SIDS. Other risks for SIDS include extra blankets in the crib, so you’ll want to avoid them and only use a tight fitting sheet until the toddler years. And if your child is too cold, they may be too uncomfortable and have trouble settling into sleep or even wake up more frequently.

Babies run hotter than adults. 

One thing to note is babies tend to run warmer than adults. They are growing and so their metabolism is constantly at work. Which means, it can be easier for them to overheat then we’d think, even in the colder months. During the winter, what a newborn should wear to sleep will differ from summer months. Babies should sleep in either a pair of snuggly fleece pajamas, a heavier microfleece swaddle or a sleep sack over standard cotton jammies. Just remember: you want to avoid all loose articles. Things like hats can slip off  baby’s head, cover their face, and inhibit free breathing.

How to Dress a Baby for Sleep in a 70 Degree Room

Keeping your baby’s room cool, but comfortable is one way to maintain a safe sleep environment all year round. In fact, it is recommended to keep babies room between 68° and 72°F (20° to 22.2°C) as that has been said to be the best temperature for safe sleep.

What’s the big deal with 21 Degrees Fahrenheit? Coming from a one of the warmer states when we moved back to the Midwest I was a little nervous for my newborn. Kaleb had never been  in such cold weather conditions and I was unsure of how he’d handle it. I specifically was curious about what a newborn should wear to sleep at 21 degrees. While this is a very specific degree, I know, but bare with me.  I had once read somewhere that  when it gets below 20 degrees it may be time to layer your newborn baby in a sleepsuit. This is what I found on Baby Centre

  • If the temperature is over 26 degrees, they should sleep in just a vest
  • Between 24 and 25 degrees, a vest and a light blanket or sleeping bag with a tog of 0.5 
  • If it’s between 22 and 23 degrees, a vest alongside a sleeping bag or blanket with a tog of 1 will suffice 
  • If it’s between 18 and 21 degrees, add a sleepsuit to the vest and 1 tog sleeping blanket.
swaddling baby for sleep

Worried About Overheating? Here’s Some Extra Tips for Warmer Weather

I’ll be the one to say it — As much as I love a cute baby outfit, it is more important that what a newborn should wear to sleep be more functional than fashionable. Making sure clothing materials are thin and breathable should always be the goal. While clothing options like swaddles can naturally create extra warmth, be mindful not to  raise the baby’s body temperature higher than normal. As that is not good.

Tip 1: If your newborn is wearing lightweight clothing but is still too hot, inspect the bedding in your child’s bassinet or crib. Consider swapping out thick sheets for a lighter 100 percent cotton fitted crib sheet. 

Babies find it harder to cool off than adults. The youngest infants may also find it hard to communicate the fact that they’re way too hot and need their clothing or environment adjusted so they can cope with the temperature.

Tip 2: The best way to check if your little one is the correct temperature is to put your hand on the child’s chest. Does their chest feel comfortable and warm? It should not be hot or cool to your touch. Touching your baby’s hands and feet is not a good way to determine if your child is warm enough. Babies are born with very poor circulation meaning their hands and feet will  be colder to your touch. 

How to Dress Your Baby Without a Swaddle or Sleep Sack at Night

dress baby without swaddle for sleep

Newborns generally respond well to being swaddled. The snug bundling technique can help your young infant feel safe and soothed, like they’re back in the womb. A cotton or muslin material is a good choice, as both are lightweight, breathable and offer ample flexibility for easy wrapping and tucking. However, if you or your partner are not quite confident in your baby-burritoing skills, choose a swaddle sack or suit that offers Velcro and zipper “cheats” (No, you’re not failing as a parent if you aren’t able to ninja-swaddle a baby like the maternity nurse). These are great alternatives, for what a newborn should wear to sleep, and are super easy to reassemble after a 2am feeding.

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.

Again, the general rule of thumb for dressing babies for bed is to put them in one additional layer than you would wear at night. Contrary to popular belief, it is better to have baby slightly underdressed than heavily overdressed. Remember we are trying to avoid overheating. Generally speaking, a two-piece cotton PJ set or footed onesie plus a muslin swaddle (or one of the options mentioned above) should suffice once the time comes to leave the swaddle behind. And if neither swaddling nor sleep sacks work for you, that’s fine too. Choose footed sleepwear or slightly warmer fabrics to increase warmth when needed.

How to Safely Cover a Newborn Baby at Night

It is best to hold off on covering your baby with a blanket at night or during naps until he or she is at least 18 months old. Using anything other than a fitted sheet before this age could result in a baby becoming tangled in it. There are many articles and images detailing safe sleep for babies. But, if you do find that your new bundle of joy is not warm enough, simply refer back to the TOG infographic. Don’t stress and try not to overthink it. This infographic has all the information needed to keep baby safe while sleeping. 

Common Concerns and Questions About Infant Sleepwear

Having a newborn involves a host of emotions that never seem to go away no matter how many children you’ve had. It’s natural to have some questions and concerns regarding this new stage in your life. Safety is at the forefront of your mind, but Mama, please know you were made for this!

Should Baby Wear Anything Under a Swaddle?

If you choose to swaddle, you have options! You can either put a swaddle on top of a layer of clothing or just on top of a diaper. Swaddle options should be based on the climate of the room your baby is sleeping in. So, the first thing you’ll want to pay attention to is how thick or warm a swaddle is. 

Use your own sleep preferences as a gauge for what should your newborn wear to sleep. If the swaddle is a lightweight muslin material, 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. And if you think it’ll be over 80° in the house while your baby is sleeping, just swaddling over a diaper is a good option to ensure they don’t get hot and fussy.

what should a newborn wear to sleep

When Do You Swaddle with Arms Out?

With all this talk about swaddling and how they affect baby’s temperature, you may want to know how long you’ll need to swaddle your little one. 

Swaddling is a temporary procedure, although exact time varies for each baby, your baby may begin displaying signals to stop swaddling as early as 2 months. Somewhere between 2 to 6 months your baby will likely show signs that it is time to stop swaddling. When your baby starts doing any of the following 5 things, it is a good sign that you should start a transition plan from a swaddle:

  • Increase in activity and taking arms out mid-sleep
  • Growing too strong or too mobile to stay swaddled through the night
  • Fighting being swaddled and wanting one or both arms out
  • Starting to roll over due to increased arm and neck strength.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night often after a history of sleeping well

Can Newborns Sleep Without Being Wrapped?

It is not necessary to swaddle your baby. If your baby is happy without swaddling, don’t bother. And remember to always put your baby to sleep on his back. This is true no matter what, but is especially true if he is swaddled.

 How Do I Know if My Newborn Is Cold?

Of course overheating is certainly the bigger concern, but you’ll also want to make sure that your wee one is not too cold. If you notice that your infant’s hands and feet are looking slightly blueish, it might be time to turn up the heat or add a layer. Don’t panic — those cute fingers and toesies should return to their regularly rosy state in no time!

Trust me, I know determining how to dress your baby for bed is just one of many daily decisions you’ll have to make as a new parent. Something that can seem so overwhelming added to a list of so many other worries.  While there are lots of variables to consider, it’s certainly not something you should lose sleep over because — let’s be honest — 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 babies and you is likely just around the corner. 

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