Dressing a baby for bedtime or sleep can be tricky for a new parent. You can’t ask a baby if they are hot or cold, and you can’t ask them to confirm that they are at a comfortable temperature.
This article will help you gain some perspective and some great tips on how to dress baby for sleep with appropriate attire that isn’t too warm, dangerous, or cool. Keeping your baby warm is important, but not too warm, and a safe sleeping environment is even more important.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Sleep
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a significant concern for many parents of infants under one year. Approximately 3,400 infants die each year in the US due to this syndrome.
While scientists are making exciting and promising breakthroughs in determining the cause and therefore developing a screening process and preventative measures for this tragic occurrence that claims the lives of thousands of otherwise healthy babies every year, it’s slow-moving.
This means that as parents, we have to continue to do everything we can to keep our babies safe from sleep-related infant deaths, including SIDS, strangulation, and asphyxiation. That is why following safe sleep guidelines are so important.
The Dangers of Blankets
Blankets are not recommended for babies under twelve months of age. In fact, having anything in the crib with your little one is not recommended until this age, including anything that can come off of the baby, such as a hat or pacifier leash. It also includes bedding or accessories such as pillows, stuffed animals, or toys.
So how can babies sleep and be comfortable throughout the night if they cannot have a blanket in the crib? Well, it turns out that there are products out there to remedy that situation.
A sleep sack is a wearable blanket that you can put your baby in without worrying that it will cover the baby’s head or face. A sleep sack should fit snugly so as not to slip off. It adds plenty of warmth for your little one, allowing safe baby sleep that is comfortable and warm.
Sleep sacks are great for babies because this wearable blanket has no sleeves, allowing for a range of movement. It also doesn’t generally overheat the baby. Think of it as a snug-fitting sleeping bag for your baby that is safe and poses no risk of becoming a suffocation hazard.
How to dress baby for sleep
While a sleep sack is a great option, it’s not always practical if you live somewhere warm or if your baby’s room is kept warm.
Babywear should be based on your baby’s temperature and room temperature. If you prepare your baby for sleep and notice that you feel warm, then chances are, your little one feels warm, too.
The same can be said in the opposite direction. If you notice that you feel cool in your child’s bedroom or your house when preparing your baby for sleep, you may want to reach for that sleep sack.
One More Layer for Baby Sleep
The general rule of thumb is to consider one layer more than what you feel comfortable wearing when you dress your baby for sleep. For example, if you live in cooler weather, and you are okay in just one layer consisting of long sleeves and pants, consider putting your baby in a tight-fitting onesie first and then a sleeper.
You can also decide to dress your baby in one layer of pajamas and add a sleep sack. Just remember that loose blankets are dangerous for your baby to sleep with, so no matter how cool you think it is in the room, never leave your little one unattended with a blanket.
Thermal Overall Grade
Thermal overall grade, or TOG, is a rating given to certain clothing items and camping gear such as parkas, sleeping bags, etc. It gives you an indication of how warm and breathable the fabrics are.
It’s important to dress baby in breathable fabrics, especially in warmer weather, so that your little one doesn’t get overheated.
The ideal sleeping temperature for a baby is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. So if you live in cooler climates, and it becomes difficult to maintain this temperature, you need to be dressing your baby more warmly for sleep.
Conversely, if you live in warmer climates than this, and it’s difficult to maintain this ideal temperature, especially for younger babies, you should dress your baby in cooler clothing.
Is my baby too cool or too warm?
Because most young infants cannot yet communicate clearly via speech with adults, you may be worried that your little one is cold or overheated, and you don’t realize it.
Adults are much better at acclimating to warmer or cooler temperatures and regulating their own body heat than infants are. Sometimes we feel just fine, but our babies don’t.
This can lead to worry, overdressing or underdressing your baby for sleep, and interrupting restful sleep for the baby because we’re constantly checking on them.
It begs the question from many parents: If my baby shows signs that they are too cold or too warm, will I know it? The answer is: You will if you know the signs.
The following are some of the ways your baby is telling you they are hot or cold without ever having to learn to speak.
Your baby’s face will show obvious signs if your little one is too cool. Touching a baby’s cheeks after they have been in their nursery for a while and have adjusted to the room’s temperature is one great way to read the situation.
If it is cool or cold to the touch, then the baby may be too cool.
Another sure sign is if the baby is shivering or if the lips are dark red or blue. You may even notice a bit of a red nose. These are all sure signs that your infant is cold. You will need to add another layer or introduce wearable blankets to your child’s pajamas.
If the baby is too warm, then they may feel clammy, the cheeks may feel hot to the touch, and their lips may even feel dry and cracked.
Baby’s Hands and Feet: A Myth?
You may think that grabbing a baby’s hand or foot is a great way to tell if the baby is cold. However, this is not always a sure sign that your little one is too cold.
Consider this: There is an excellent chance that your baby spends a fair amount of time with their hands or even toes in their mouth. When saliva touches the skin, and that skin is then exposed to the air, it cools it.
So the hands and feet of a little one aren’t that indicative of how the baby actually feels in terms of hot or cold.
The chest or belly is a much more reliable place on the body to check for temperature discrepancy. Core temperatures should be most regulated in this area. So if you dress your baby for sleep, but the baby’s belly or chest still feels cool, you may need footed pajamas.
If you dress your baby on warm nights and they have an overly warm chest, they may need a layer of clothing removed or to be downgraded from a sleep sack to a lightweight swaddle.
If you can’t access the baby’s chest to check for temperature, you can also check general body temperature by feeling the nape of the baby’s neck or back.
Baby Sleeps Poorly
Another sure sign that baby’s temperature isn’t ideal for sleep is if they go to bed and don’t stay asleep. If you notice that your little one tends to lose sleep often, then there’s a good chance that your child’s sleep environment needs a temperature adjustment, or you need to change how you are clothing them for bed.
As stated earlier, body temperature isn’t something babies can regulate easily, so you have to watch for baby’s cues, like not sleeping well, to know if something needs to change.
If you’re dressing baby for bed and baby is going to sleep but waking often, then your little one is missing out on a good night’s rest, which is not beneficial to their health or development. Know the signs.
There are many types of pajamas that you can dress babies in to either keep baby cool or keep baby warm.
Babies should always wear snug-fitting pajamas, and nothing should ever be attached to them, such as a pacifier leash.
There are sleepers with feet, sleepers without feet, two-piece pajama sets, two-piece pajama shorts sets, nightgowns for infants, and sleep sacks for infants.
You can also swaddle little ones up until about six months or until they start to move and roll over voluntarily.
Baby winter clothes
In the cold winter months, a baby’s skin will cool quickly if it isn’t adequately covered. If you don’t have snug-fitting long-sleeved pajamas, you can warm your baby sufficiently for sleep in a long-sleeved onesie and long pants.
Fleece sleepers are another great option for when it’s cold outside. Many parents choose to dress their babies in a lightweight onesie before putting them in a fleece sleeper so that the fleece doesn’t irritate the baby’s sensitive skin.
Regardless of how cold it is outside, try to ensure that you are properly heating your home and your baby’s nursery or sleep space. No matter how cool it gets, don’t put baby to bed in socks or a hat, as socks can be pulled off by an infant and put in the mouth, posing a risk of suffocation, and a hat can come off and do the same.
Stay Up to Date on Safe Sleep
Understanding how to keep your baby safe while sleeping is of utmost importance. Utilize the trustworthy resources available to you, such as the Raising Children Network (Australia), dedicated to helping parents in the journey of birthing and raising children, and the Center for Disease Control (US), which acts as an authority on nearly all illnesses, and other medical associations.
These organizations exist, in part, to help educate the public and keep our families and us safe. Staying up to date on new research for safe sleep will help you to give your little one the most protection and comfort as you raise your child.
Babies should sleep in their own crib
It’s tempting to sleep in the same bed with our little ones. Especially if they are breastfed and are up throughout the night to nurse, they are cuddly, make us smile, and having our little ones next to us makes us feel good.
However, sharing a bed with your baby isn’t the safest option. While it’s wonderful to have a baby in the same room with you, your little one should have their own crib, bassinet, or bed.
Never warm a crib with hot water bottles
Even if you plan to remove the hot water bottles before placing your baby in bed, this is still a dangerous idea. In colder weather, you might be tempted to warm the bed up for your baby first by using a hot water bottle to heat the mattress.
The issue is that you can very easily overdo it. You want your baby comfortable, but this is a risk you shouldn’t take. You could end up overheating your little one or, even worse, burning your baby.
In warmer weather, you may think that putting your baby to bed in loose clothing will help release heat from their body and keep them cool. This is not the case.
Loose clothing can ride up on a baby as they move around. The clothing can end up covering the baby’s head and face. A baby should always have their head uncovered and face uncovered.
To prevent overheating, put your baby in seasonally appropriate snug-fitting pajamas. Breathable fabric is best for maintaining an ambient temperature when it’s warm outside. You can also keep your baby’s bedroom door slightly open, so it doesn’t get too warm in their room overnight.
No electric blankets
Electric blankets are dangerous for a few reasons. First of all, they run off of electricity, and any time an electric current is involved, there’s a potential for danger.
Secondly, it’s easy to overheat a baby with an electric blanket.
And finally, blankets should never be in an infant’s crib.
An additional layer to stay warm
Remember the golden rule: Dress baby for bed in one more layer than you yourself feel comfortable wearing. Doing this will often make for a great night’s sleep that isn’t too warm or cold.
How to Dress Baby for Sleep Year Round
It can be confusing and stressful trying to make sure that your baby is comfortable for sleep. Many babies do just fine with an extra layer of clothing than what a parent is comfortable in. Still, if your baby starts experiencing poor sleep, or the other signs of temperature extremes, take steps to fix the issue.
Checking your baby’s face, back, neck, and chest are all great ways to check body temperature. Sleep slacks can be used to warm your baby without introducing dangerous loose articles in the crib. And the temperature babies are most comfortable in is 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 Celcius).
Always practice safe sleep habits, and stay up to date on them, as changes are made periodically but not always announced in a way that gets the information out to all parents.
It takes learning baby’s cues and practicing safety, but your baby can be sleeping like, well, a baby in no time at all.