What should a baby be dressed in to sleep?
Your baby’s comfort and safety is your number one priority. So when it comes to how to dress them for sleep, it can be hard to know which clothing and how many layers is best. If only they could tell you, right?!
So, what should your baby wear to sleep? The best outfit for your baby to sleep in follows safe sleep guidelines and accounts for the temperature of the room. Onesies, footed pajamas, and sleep sacks are all ideal in helping your baby sleep comfortably without being too hot or too cold.
You’re used to making all the choices for your baby, and luckily, this is one of the easier ones. Once you have an idea of what type of clothing will help your baby be the most comfortable as they sleep, you’ll be able to use our guidance (along with your motherly or fatherly intuition, of course) to determine what your baby should wear for naps and bedtime.
Dressing Your Baby for Safe Sleep
There is nothing more important than your baby’s safety, and where they sleep and what they sleep in matters a lot.
The safest sleeping environment isn’t exactly a cozy one, which is why so many parents want to make sure they’re dressing their baby appropriately. Whereas you can snuggle under the covers if you get cold, or throw them off if you’re too hot, your baby can’t. In fact, it’s not safe for your baby to sleep with any blankets at all (as outlined by the AAP).
So with a bare crib (fitted sheet only) and a sweet chubby baby as your starting point, let’s talk about safe options for your baby to wear as they sleep.
Best Types of Clothing for Baby Sleep
The following types of clothing are safe choices for a sleeping baby. Keep in mind, however, that some are more appropriate for cooler environments and some are better when the room temperature is warmer.
These are comfy and best for cooler weather. These can be found in different fabrics allowing you to customize the warmth for your little one. Cotton is best for warmer room temperatures and fleece is a good choice in the winter. Terrycloth is great for milder weather in the spring and fall.
Onesies come in long sleeves or short sleeves. Short sleeve onesies are usually a great choice in the warmer months. In cooler weather where it might not seem cold enough for footed pajamas, opt for the long sleeve onesie with or without socks.
When deciding whether to cover your baby’s feet with socks (or a footed jammies) think about your own feet. If yours feel cold than likely so do theirs. I know in the winter months I like to put on slippers straight out of bed in the mornings, so in that case, socks for my baby would be a good idea.
Mittens are great for newborns simply because they keep your baby from scratching their face. So if this is a problem that your baby has, I’d recommend they wear mittens even in warmer months. You can adjust the rest of their outfit accordingly.
What about hats?
Chances are, when you gave birth, the nurses put your little on in the most darling tiny hat you’ve ever seen. But here’s the thing.
When you were in the hospital, your baby was very closely monitored with a nurse awake and close by 24/7. But that won’t be the case once you get home. Though a hat is likely find for a midday nap in the pack ‘n play while you’re closeby, it’s best to skip the hat overnight while you’re asleep. This is because as cute as your little one looks in the hat, it could potentially overheat your baby or slide down and cover your baby’s face.
Part of ensuring a safe sleeping outfit for your baby is getting the right fit.
The Right Clothing Fit for Your Baby
One reason that hats are generally a no-no is because they can fall in the category of “loose clothing.” Even if it seems secure enough when you lay your baby down, their rolling from side to side can easily take it out of place.
It’s important that you dress your baby in clothing that fits properly. Though this might seem like a no-brainer, be sure to always double-check that whatever you put on your baby is snug and can’t ride up over your baby’s face or become tangled.
Should my baby also wear a swaddle or sleep sack?
First of all, I just want to say how thankful I am for the safe option of a swaddle or wearable blanket since it’s not safe for our little to sleep with anything else in the crib. It’s just so bare in there that it’s nice to know we have a way to snuggle our little ones up (whether it’s cold or not!)
Though in warmer room temperatures it’s entirely up to you whether you put your baby in a swaddle or sleep sack is up to you. But most of the time, you’re going to want one for your sweet baby. I don’t think there was one night in any of my kids’ first year of life where they weren’t in a swaddle or wearable blanket.
Wearing a Swaddle
There is plenty of good reason to put your young (non-rolling) baby in a swaddle other than just making them look like a burrito. The most important being that they reduce the chance of your baby startling from the moro reflex, as we discuss here, as well as the way they mimic a mother’s womb. There are lots of different choices, including the all-season weighted swaddle from Dreamland Baby that’s also been proven to help your baby sleep. Who doesn’t want that?!
Wearing a Wearable Blanket
Once your baby starts rolling over, it’s time to transition to a wearable blanket. Wearable blankets come in various fabrics and there are even ones with sleeves. Ideally, you’ll want to choose an all-season option that works year-round. More likely than not, the temperature of your home will stay about the same throughout the year provided you adjust the heat or A/C as needed (I think most people do!).
Not only does Dreamland Baby have a swaddle (with a detachable wing), there are two more sizes of weighted wearable blankets to keep your baby cozy up to the age of 22 months. We know how hard it is to get a baby to sleep, and the gentle weight of these safe wearable blankets (more on that here) increases melatonin and serotonin to help your baby sleep.
You can find the rest of our favorites in, “Best Wearable Blankets of 2020.”
Dressing Your Baby for the Temperature
Generally, you’re going to dress your baby in thicker fabrics and more layers in the winter and more breathable fabrics and less layers in the summer.
However, every family has a different level of comfort and we all keep our homes at different temperatures during the day and night. The level at which you use (or don’t use) your furnace or air conditioning obviously will change the temperature of your baby’s room a lot.
So instead of focusing on the season, instead I’ve provided guidelines based on the temperature of the room where your baby is sleeping.
77 degrees Fahrenheit+:
This is pretty warm. Your baby doesn’t need much! If your baby doesn’t sleep well without a swaddle or wearable blanket, have that be their only layer with a diaper. Or, you may also want to consider turning on the air conditioning if you have it.
73 - 76 degrees Fahrenheit:
Onesie + Swaddle/Wearable Blanket
This is still warm for most babies and 2 light layers will be plenty.
68 - 72 degrees Fahrenheit:
Onesie/Sleeper/Footed Sleeper + Swaddle/Wearable Blanket
This is the ideal room temperature for a sleeping baby. On the lower end of this temperature, we would suggest a footed sleeper or perhaps a onesie paired with socks.
62 - 67 degrees Fahrenheit:
Onesie + Fleece footed Sleeper + Swaddle/Wearable Blanket
At this cooler temperature, your baby may also be more comfortable in mittens and even a pair of socks under the footed sleeper. In a cooler environment such as this, keep close tabs on your baby to find out what outfit option seems to keep your baby the most comfortable.
Less than 62 degrees Fahrenheit:
Long-Sleeve Onesie + Fleece footed Sleeper + Thick Swaddle/Wearable Blanket
Anything below 62 degrees is getting pretty chilly for your little one. If you’re able, consider turning up the heat in order to keep your baby’s room at a comfortable temperature for them. If you can’t, just be sure to keep an eye on your baby to ensure what they’re wearing is appropriate and they’re not getting too cold.
Adjust Through the Year as Needed
Of course the changing temperature outdoors does have an effect on the indoors as well. Even though you usually have control over the temperature of your baby’s sleeping environment, you’ll still want to prepare for changing seasons. If cold fall months are on the horizon, stock up on footed sleepers and a thicker wearable blanket. If the hottest days are ahead, short sleeve onesies and thinner sleep sacks should be ready to go.
FAQ Related to Your Baby’s Sleepwear
Here are a couple of questions that are probably going through your mind as you consider how to dress your baby for sleep.
What is the best room temperature for a sleeping baby?
Healthline Parenthood shares the following: “Keeping your baby’s room cool, but comfortable is one way to maintain a safe sleep environment. In fact, it’s recommended that babies sleep in a temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.”
4 degrees is a pretty small window, but every degree makes a difference - especially for your baby. So if you find that your house is a little cooler than that, no matter the time of year, dress your baby in warmer clothing. If you’re a family who likes to conserve energy overnight and your house gets a bit warmer, make sure that you aren’t overdressing your baby and that they stay cool enough.
Will a baby who is too warm or too cold have trouble sleeping?
If you are over or underdressing your baby, she will likely be uncomfortable. Even though the general rule of thumb is to dress your baby in one more layer than you have on, this isn’t always exact. For example, there were plenty of nights in the summer where my little ones would sleep with just their wearable blanket and a diaper! New parents can get a little overboard snuggling up their little ones, so if your baby seems extra warm and is having trouble sleeping, try taking away a layer of clothing (or removing the hat) and see if that helps.
What is a TOG rating?
When shopping for a sleep sack, you may find something called a TOG rating. A TOG rating is a unit of measurement that measures the warmth of a product. Lower numbers (1.5 or under) are usually best for ideal room temperatures and higher numbers (2.5+) are best if a baby’s room is on the colder side. I personally like sleep sacks that have a TOG under 1 because they are easy to layer and you don’t have to worry abou your baby overheating.