How to Dress Baby for Sleep
Dressing a baby for bed may seem like a simple task, but there is a lot to consider. It is important to choose the right type of sleepwear, consider the sleepwear fabric, and determine how much clothing to put on your baby before bed. After your baby is dressed, you will also need to ensure that the environment and bedding will keep your baby safe and comfortable through the night.
Part 1: Dressing Your Baby
Select sleepwear that is appropriate for the season. Overdressing babies in winter is a common problem, while under dressing babies in the summer is a problem. In the spring and fall, rapid temperature changes can also lead to over and under dressing.
Try not to overdress your baby in the winter. If you have a newborn and you are still swaddling, then you can dress your baby in a cotton long-sleeved onesie with socks under the swaddling. For babies past swaddling age, a heavier weight cotton long-sleeved footed onesie is a good choice.
Provide enough clothing in the summer. For newborns, swaddling in a lightweight cotton blanket should be enough, but feel your baby’s skin to be sure. Your baby can wear a lightweight short-sleeved onesie under the swaddling if it's not too hot. Babies past swaddling age can wear a short-sleeved one-piece pajama.
Check your baby's skin often in spring and fall. In the spring and fall, rapid temperature changes mean that you will have to check your baby’s skin often to see if he or she is comfortable. Try dressing your baby in layers in spring and fall so that you can add and remove layers as needed.
Choose sleepwear made from natural fibers. Natural fibers are more effective in hot and cold weather. In hot weather, natural fibers can absorb sweat better and pull moisture away from your baby’s body. In cold weather, natural fibers provide more effective insulation and they are easier to layer. Natural fibers also collect less static than synthetic fibers. Some good natural fibers to choose for your baby include:
Feel your baby’s skin. Your baby’s skin is a good indicator of how cold or how warm he or she is. To see if your baby is too warm or too cold, touch your baby’s skin in a few different places. Your baby’s skin should be at a comfortable temperature.For example, if your baby’s toes feel cold, then your baby may be too cold and you may want to put on some booties. If your baby’s skin feels too warm under her clothes, then she may be too warm and you should remove a layer of clothing. You can check any area of baby’s skin, but the back of the neck is a great indicator. The back of your baby’s neck should be a bit cool to the touch and there should be no sweat. Sweating can be a sign of overheating in babies.
Dress your baby in fitted sleepwear. You can start dressing your baby in fitted sleepwear after your baby is about three months old or sooner if you are not swaddling your baby. Choose one-piece sleepwear and avoid any sleepwear that has ribbons, ties, strings, or anything else that your baby might get tangled up in.
Layer your baby's sleepwear. Dressing your baby in layers makes it easier to adjust your baby’s sleepwear as needed. For example, you can remove a layer if your baby feels too warm or add a layer if your baby feels too cold. Add one more layer than you would wear. Babies are often colder than adults, so a good rule of thumb is to dress your baby in one more layer than you would wear. For example, if you are comfortable in a t-shirt, then your baby may need a t-shirt and a lightweight long-sleeve shirt as well.
Determine if you need to add a cap and booties. Babies lose a lot of heat from their heads and feet. Check the skin on your baby’s scalp and feet. If this skin feels cooler than other parts of the body, then add a cap or some socks. Make sure the cap cannot come down and cover the mouth or nose so that it won't obstruct the baby's breathing. Check your baby’s head and feet often. If your baby’s scalp gets sweaty, take off the cap. If your baby’s feet get sweaty, then remove the socks.
Step 2: Creating a Comfortable Sleeping Environment
Use a lightweight blanket if necessary. If the weather is warm, then a blanket may not be necessary, but lightweight blankets are best. Select a lightweight blanket that is made from natural materials, such as cotton, wool, silk, or hemp. Heavy, fluffy blankets are a suffocation hazard for babies, so it is best to avoid these.Always tuck your baby in if you use a blanket. Make sure that the blanket comes up to your baby’s chest (under your baby’s armpits) and tuck it into the sides and bottom of the mattress. Instead of a blanket, try putting your baby in a sleep sack. This reduces the risk of smothering while keeping your baby comfortable.
Consider swaddling your baby. Swaddling is when you wrap your baby in a swaddling blanket so that only your baby’s head is exposed. Swaddling can help a newborn baby sleep better and longer because it simulates a mother’s womb. You can swaddle your baby until she is three to four months old, or longer in some cases. To determine when to stop swaddling your baby, swaddle your baby and leave one arm sticking out. If your baby sleeps well with one arm out, then you may not need to swaddle anymore. To swaddle your baby, lay a lightweight, natural fiber blanket down so that it looks like a diamond from your perspective. Fold down the corner of the blanket that is furthest away from you.Then, lay your baby in the center of the blanket with her head resting on the folded corner.Pull one side of the blanket over your baby’s chest.Then, fold up the bottom of the blanket over your baby’s feet, tucking it up over your baby’s shoulder.Last, fold over the other side of the blanket across the baby’s chest. Make sure that the swaddling is snug, but not tight.
Keep the room temperature at about 18°C (65°F). A room temperature of about 18°C is ideal for sleep, so try to keep your baby’s room in this range. If you have a thermostat, then set it for 18°C. If you do not have a thermostat, consider getting an indoor thermometer to put in your baby’s room. This can help you see if you need to close or open a window, turn up the heat, or turn on the air conditioning. Keep your baby away from air conditioning vents or drafty windows.
This blog post was adapted from an article on wikihow.mom/dress-baby-for-sleep