How to Dress Baby for Sleep in All Temperatures

how to dress baby for sleep image is tired baby yawning

Babies sleep a lot (hopefully!), and we want them to be comfortable. We also want them to sleep safely! If you find yourself worried about how to dress your baby for sleep, I hope this post will help put your mind at ease.

(If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet, read this article about establishing good sleep habits ).

So what should your baby wear to bed? Here’s what to consider when deciding how to dress your baby for sleep.

What Should My Baby Sleep In?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants be dressed in no more than one additional layer of clothing than an adult would wear to feel comfortable in the same environment. A diaper or underwear is not considered a layer.

So, a good rule of thumb is to dress your baby as you would dress for bed and then add an extra layer (a swaddle or sleep sack would be this extra layer).

For newborns, baby nightgowns (for boys and girls) are the best. They allow you super easy access to diaper changes – and this is super helpful during this newborn stage, where there are A LOT of diaper changes!

As baby gets bigger, basic cotton footie pajamas with zippers (snaps are too annoying in the middle of the night!) will work in almost every season when your house is temperature-controlled (i.e. you have heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer). I’ve never been a big fan of fuzzy fleece baby pajamas. I feel like my babies got too hot in them. But, if you like to keep your house extra cold at night, they might be an excellent choice for you. And if you do choose fleece, remember that zippers are your friend!

Tip: Cotton pajamas tend to be “snug fit” while fleece pajamas tend to be “loose fit.” This might mean you’ll need to size up in cotton pajamas and size down in fleece pajamas.

Dressing Baby for Bed With a Swaddle or Sleep Sack

I’m a big fan of swaddling when your baby is a newborn. And I’m an even bigger fan of sleeping sacks from 2 months-almost two years!

Swaddling is beneficial and calming, especially for newborns who still have that pesky startle-response reflex. Swaddling is also a safe and secure way to add an extra layer of warmth for your sleeping baby.

According to baby sleep expert Taking Cara Babies, “In the womb, babies grow and develop in a snug, tight space. That snug place feels secure and comforting to babies in the womb, and swaddling recreates that environment outside of the womb for newborns.”

By keeping their arms and legs more secure and stopping their hands and arms from hitting their faces while sleeping, swaddles help many babies (and their parents) get longer and more restful stretches of sleep.

My favorite swaddles: aden + anais Essentials Easy Wrap Swaddle (easy to get on and off and has a zipper so you don’t have to remove the whole thing for diaper changes!) and Nested Bean Zen Swaddle (has a light weight on the front which helps baby feel safe and secure).

Once an infant attempts to roll over, which be as early as 2 months, it is no longer safe to swaddle your baby. Sleep sacks are also called wearable blankets or baby sleeping bags. Wearable blankets can be used in place of swaddles once a baby begins attempting to roll over.

Related Post: Hands Down the Best Baby Sleep Sack

What Should Baby Wear Under the Swaddle or Wearable Blanket?

First, it’s important to know that overheating your baby at night is a problem and is considered a risk factor for SIDS. So as tempting as it is to bundle them up because it’s cold outside, it’s not a good idea. Blankets and any loose objects are considered dangerous during baby sleep. So what’s the best way to dress your baby for bed under the swaddle or sleep sack?

If your baby’s room is temperature-controlled and you can keep it fairly stable, there is no need to overthink dressing your baby. A long sleeve onesie or footie pajama under a sleep sack should be more than sufficient.

how to dress baby for sleep under swaddle

How to Dress Baby for Sleep In Summer Months

How to dress baby for sleep in summer or during warm weather months is a more common concern for parents than in cooler weather.

Generally, a cotton onesie and lightweight swaddle or muslin sleep sack will be sufficient for warmer weather. Because of its unique body temperature controlling ability, this particular sleep sack is also awesome in the summer.

Consider whether your baby has air conditioning vents, ceiling fans, or plug-in fans near them while sleeping. If so, they’ll probably be more comfortable with at least one thin layer covering their whole body to keep them from feeling the cold air on their skin. A lightweight, full-length cotton pajama set might work best.

And if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of facing 85°+ temps indoors where baby is sleeping, don’t hesitate to let them sleep in only a diaper. Check for the cheeks being flushed and the neck starting to feel sweaty as indications that your baby shows signs of being hot.

how to dress baby for sleep in summer

In the summer, I often dressed my babies in just the Woolino sleep sack and a diaper.

Woolino 4 Season Baby Sleep Sack – Ultimate Merino Wool Baby Sleeping Bag – Two-Way Zipper Adjustable Universal Size Sleep Sack for Baby (2-24 Months) – Birch Gray
  • #1 RATED and #1 SELLING merino wool baby sleep sacks in US and Canada since 2010. Creative Child’s 2018 Top Choice of the Year Award & winner of 2021 Cribsie Award and Mom’s Choice Award
  • REDUCE OR ELIMINATE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS – When baby sleeps better, so do parents. PREMIUM FABRICS for best comfort: Australian merino wool lining – 100% natural, luxuriously soft, and temperature regulating. GOTS certified organic cotton outer
  • THE ONE AND ONLY sleep sack your baby will need until they turn two. UNIVERSAL SIZE: 2 months – 2 years. 4 SEASON USE: Merino wool regulates body temperature so it can be used year-round.

Does My Baby Really Need a Sleep Sack?

I say 100% yes. Both my babies wore one every night. I never worried whether they were hot or cold or whether their blankets had fallen off them or covered their faces. Never let your baby sleep with loose blankets.

Also, putting on the sleep sack every time your baby goes to sleep makes it part of their bedtime routine and signals that it’s time for sleep.

Related Post: 5 Steps to a Realistic Baby Bedtime Routine

Sleep sacks (sometimes called baby sleeping bags or wearable blankets) are unique because they leave the baby’s arms free while still covering their torso and legs. Because wearable blankets are worn and not loose like blankets, the baby’s face is less likely to become covered during sleep.

Sleep sacks come in various materials, from body temperature-controlling wool to breathable cotton to lightweight muslin. They’re also available in various shapes ranging from those with a bottom resembling a sleeping bag to those with foot holes that allow for walking. I recommend avoiding fleece and other heavyweight material under a sleep sack. This will prevent your baby from getting too hot when sleeping.

Related Post: Hands Down the Best Baby Sleep Sack

If you’ve been around my blog long enough, you know all about my love for the Woolino sleep sack. They don’t pay me to say this (but maybe they should!). I purchased one Woolino sleep sack, and both of my babies used it from 3 months until they were almost two years old. That’s a lot of use out of one sleep sack. So for us, it was totally worth every penny.

How to Tell if Baby is Cold at Night?

As moms, we hate the idea of our kids being cold! Resist the urge to over-bundle them because they’re probably more comfortable than you think they are. Idealy baby’s sleeping environment is 68 to 72 degrees.

A good way to figure out if your baby is warm enough when they’re sleeping is by touching them. Use your hand to see if they feel slightly warm when sleeping. A good place to check is the back of their neck or their belly—if it’s slightly warm, that’s perfect!

Here are some other ways to tell if your baby is cold at night: 

  1. Touch their hands and feet: Feel your baby’s tiny fingers and toes. It’s normal for them to be slightly cooler, but they shouldn’t be cold. If they are, your baby might need an extra layer.
  2. Check their core: Place your hand gently on your baby’s chest or back (over the pajamas). This will give you a good sense of their body temperature. The skin should feel warm, not hot or cold.
  3. Observe color and activity: A cold baby might look paler and be less active. If you notice these signs and they don’t seem to resolve with an extra layer, you might want to call your pediatrician, especially if your baby seems unusually lethargic or has a weak cry.
  4. Watch their sleep patterns: If your baby is fussing or having trouble sleeping, it could be a sign of discomfort from the cold. Similarly, if they’re too warm, they might also be restless.
  5. Listen to their breathing: Make sure your baby’s breathing doesn’t become shallow or irregular, which can happen if they’re too cold.
  6. Use a room thermometer: Aim to keep your baby’s room at a comfortable temperature. An ideal temperature is between 68°F and 72°F (20°C and 22°C).

Baby Sleepwear Temperature Guide

Ensuring your baby is comfortable and safe while sleeping is essential, and part of that includes dressing them appropriately for the temperature of their sleeping environment. Here’s a guide to help you choose the right sleepwear for your baby based on the room temperature. Remember that this is a general guide, and you should always consider your baby’s preferences and any health concerns when making your choice.

Room Temperature (°F)Room Temperature (°C)Recommended Sleepwear and Bedding
Above 75°FAbove 24°CLight, breathable onesie or just a diaper. No blankets or maybe a light muslin swaddle.
71 – 75°F22 – 24°CShort-sleeve onesie with a light sleep sack or swaddle.
69 – 70°F21 – 22°CLong-sleeve onesie with a light to medium-weight sleep sack.
66 – 68°F19 – 20°CLong-sleeve onesie with a medium-weight sleep sack.
64 – 65°F18 – 19°CLong-sleeve onesie and pants, or a footed pajama with a medium-weight sleep sack.
61 – 63°F16 – 17°CFooted pajama with a medium to heavy sleep sack.
58 – 60°F14 – 15°CFooted pajama with a heavy sleep sack or a heavier wearable blanket.
Below 58°FBelow 14°CFooted pajama with a heavy sleep sack and possibly a layer such as a fleece onesie underneath, depending on how cold it is.

Always check with your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s sleepwear and room temperature.

What is a TOG rating, and should I pay attention to it?

Thermal overall grade for baby clothes is about how warm the clothes will keep your baby. You can use this info to dress your little one appropriately for different temperatures, though I personally find it to be unnecessary. 

If the temperature of the room is cold, pick clothes with a higher thermal grade. These are usually thicker, like fleece or wool, and they’re great for keeping your baby warm. For cooler or indoor temperatures, choose clothes with a lower thermal grade, like lighter cotton materials, to avoid overheating.

Helpful Tips for Choosing Baby Bedtime Clothes

  • As a general rule of thumb, dress your baby in one additional layer than what you’d be comfortable wearing at night in that same room. For example, if you would only wear a long-sleeved t-shirt and pants, consider dressing your baby in cotton footie pajamas and a sleep sack.
  • In colder months, dress your baby in breathable layers rather than thick clothing. If your baby is too hot, you can easily remove one layer at a time and check at regular intervals until your baby is at a comfortable temperature.
  • Do not be concerned if the baby’s hands or feet feel cool; this is quite normal and helps your baby maintain a regular temperature.
  • Regularly check your baby as seasons change to ensure they are not too hot or too cold. If your baby is too hot, remove a layer and check your baby again in 10 minutes. Unless you keep your house at the same temperature every night, you’ll need to adjust your baby’s sleepwear as the seasons change.
  • Do not overdress your child. Overheating is a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Don’t put a hat on your sleeping baby. It can be a safety hazard if you leave them unattended and unobserved. A baby’s head is where body heat is released. Keeping the baby’s head uncovered helps with body temperature regulation.

A note about safe sleep: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that the way you dress your baby for sleep can affect their safety and reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (risk of SIDS). It’s important to use breathable fabrics like cotton and to ensure the clothing fits snugly without being too tight.

Avoid heavy materials and accessories such as hats, as they can lead to overheating. Sleep sacks are recommended over loose blankets to keep your baby warm without the suffocation hazard. Always place your baby on their back to sleep, in a crib with a firm mattress and a fitted sheet, following these guidelines to promote a safe sleep environment.

And if you’re looking for more tips on baby sleep and helping your baby sleep through the night:

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