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sleep / lifestyle
Dressing Your Baby for a Good Night's Sleep
by BetterSleep
Oct 14 2022 • 8 min read
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Getting good sleep should start at an early age. Sleep is hugely important to an infant’s health and well-being. There are a lot of factors that go into ensuring your babies sleep deeply and well, including clothing.

New parents might find it confusing when choosing between a swaddle or sleep sack, baby onesie pajamas, fabric options, and more. It’s important to understand the basics of baby sleepwear, including safety considerations and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

What to Consider When Choosing Baby Sleep Wear

As with anything related to babies, the number of options for pajamas can be overwhelming, especially for new parents. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when sorting through all the choices.

Everyone Sleeps Better When It’s Cool

Good sleep hygiene at any age includes staying cool. The ideal temperature for the bedroom is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although you want to keep your baby warm, it is important to prevent overheating. Evidence indicates that too much clothing and a higher room temperature are risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Depending on the temperature you can maintain in the baby’s room, adjust sleep clothing to help them stay comfortably warm but not hot.

Don’t fall into the trap of over-bundling a baby in winter. SIDS deaths are more common in the cold months, possibly because parents go overboard trying to keep them warm.

Check the Fit

What your baby wears to sleep should be comfortable but more fitted than loose. Loose fabric can inch over your baby’s face, increasing the risk of suffocation. Baby pajamas should be snug fitting but not tight.

Remember – No Blankets

When choosing baby sleepwear, remember that your baby should not have a sheet or blanket. Safe sleep recommendations include avoiding putting anything in the crib with your infant, including blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals.

Sleep clothing is all your baby will have to stay warm when they sleep. As a general rule, give your baby one extra layer of warmth than you would wear to bed since you sleep with covers.


Consider the fabric when choosing your baby’s sleep clothing. Many are made from cotton, an all-around good choice for most babies.

Cotton is breathable and soft. In hotter temperatures, linen is a good option. In winter, you can use fleece for extra warmth. If your baby has very sensitive skin, try muslin.

Avoid polyester or nylon clothing for baby pajamas. These synthetic fabrics do not breathe well or absorb moisture. They can trap heat, increasing the risk baby will overheat at night.

Also, watch out for fabrics with flame-retardant chemicals. These can be harmful and irritating to a baby’s sensitive skin.

How to Dress Baby for Sleeping by Season

You will likely need to adjust your baby’s sleepwear as temperatures change outside. Keep an eye on the temperature in their room as the weather and seasons change, and dress your baby for the weather. You might have a window open, the air conditioner on, or the furnace running at various times of the year, creating a lot of seasonal variations.

You don’t necessarily need to measure the temperature in your baby’s room daily to know how to dress them. Go by feel and choose lighter options and fewer layers when it’s warm to keep your baby cool. Add a lawyer or select warmer fabrics as it gets cooler.

Muslin and cotton are good fabric choices for summer and warmer weather. In winter, a microfleece is cozy and helps your baby stay warm. Pay attention to what you wear to bed to stay comfortable and follow suit with your baby.

Again, remember that your baby has no covers so they will need a little more warmth in their pajamas than you.

How to Tell Your Baby is Comfortable

Ultimately, you want your baby to be safe when sleeping but also comfortable. Since they cannot easily communicate comfort level, how do you know if they are too warm or cold or if the fabric is uncomfortable on their skin?

Fussing and crying can indicate discomfort, but the source isn’t always obvious. Fussing can mean they are hungry or need a change. Telltale signs of overheating include:

  • Sweating
  • Wet hair
  • Red cheeks
  • Hot to the touch
  • Rapid breathing

Check your baby’s skin to ensure the fabric isn’t irritating. Redness and rashes might indicate you need a different type of fabric. Any decorations or fasteners can also cause discomfort by putting pressure or friction on the skin.

If your baby is too cold, their fingers and toes might turn slightly bluish. Even at a comfortable temperature, chilly extremities are not unusual as babies are still developing their circulatory system, but blue indicates they are too cold and need another layer.

Examples of Safe Baby Sleep Wear

It is important to select items of clothing specifically designed for sleeping babies. They generally fit snugly and are made of safe fabrics. Here are some of the most common, comfortable, and safe options:

Sleep Sack (Wearable Blanket)

This popular style goes by many names, including sleeping bag, sleep sack, and wearable blanket. It is essentially just what it sounds like: a bag where you put your baby asleep.

The arms are free to move, but the legs are inside the bag. You can choose sleep sacks with shoulder straps rather than sleeves, so the arms remain uncovered. Sleep sacks also come with sleeves for cooler weather.

Sleep Gowns

A sleep gown is very similar to a sleep sack. It’s a long garment that is open at the bottom but gathered so that it isn’t wide open. The length and the gathering encourage your baby to keep their legs and feet covered but also allow them more freedom of movement.

Footed Pajamas

Footed pajamas are also called sleepers, coveralls, or sleep onesies. There are short-sleeved and long-sleeved onesie options. Both completely cover the feet with no openings or with openings that can be folded over the feet.

It’s the simplicity of a one-piece set but with a little more freedom of movement than a sack or gown.

Footless Pajamas

Footless pajamas are just like footed suits but without feet on the bottom. These give you more flexibility to keep your baby’s feet uncovered in warmer weather or to put on socks when it’s a little chillier. You can also find a short sleeve onesie for warmer nights.

Two-Piece Pajamas

A two-piece set has a top and a separate bottom. They come with short or long sleeves and are footless. This type of pajama set is best for older babies and toddlers. If you do choose two-piece sleepwear, make sure both pieces fit snugly.

About Swaddling

Another option in baby pajamas is a swaddle, but it is not without controversy. Swaddling is the practice of snugly wrapping a baby in a thin blanket. It covers the whole body with one layer of fabric.

The swaddle largely immobilizes the body, with only the baby’s head free of the blanket. Swaddling comforts newborns because it feels like being safe in the womb.

You might learn how to swaddle your newborn before leaving the hospital. You can also find sleep sacks designed for swaddling and with instructions. Whether or not you should swaddle your baby for sleep is debatable, with some benefits and risks.

Benefits of Swaddling

The main benefit of a swaddle is that it comforts young infants. A firm wrap can soothe an unhappy or colicky baby within minutes or even seconds.

A swaddle can also help your baby stay asleep longer. The immobilization prevents the natural startled reflex that wakes babies up throughout the night. This helps the baby sleep more deeply. For parents, it means you won’t lose as much sleep.

Finally, many babies move their arms around a lot. With arms in the swaddle, a baby is less likely to scratch their face.

Risks of Swaddling

Improper swaddling can be a risk for a baby. Make sure you know how to do it correctly, that the swaddle fits snugly, and that there are no loose ends. Any fabric loose from the swaddle while your baby sleeps could cause suffocation.

If your baby shows signs of being able to roll over, the swaddle poses a risk. There is a chance the baby will roll over onto their stomach while swaddling and be unable to breathe.

A baby can begin to show signs of rolling over earlier than expected. Three to four months is typical but look for earlier signs.

Another risk of a swaddle is that your baby can get overheated. Use a lightweight swaddle in warm weather to avoid this. No matter the season, always watch for signs that your baby is too hot when swaddled.

Can Swaddling Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?

Some parents mistakenly believe that swaddling can reduce the risk of or even prevent SIDS. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no evidence this is true. Swaddling can be safe and comforting for young babies, but always place a swaddled baby on its back.

Changing Sleep Wear as Your Baby Grows

The American Academy of Pediatrics issues safe sleep guidelines for babies up to one year old. To reduce the risk of SIDS, follow these rules for the first 12 months. As your baby ages, you have more options for what they wear and how they sleep.

For instance, by 12 months, your baby can have a blanket in the crib. This gives them more control over their sleep comfort, and how you dress them is less important. You should still choose appropriately fitted sleepwear with temperature in mind. Toddlers often kick off their blankets and get chilled before waking.

Restrictive sleep sacks can be frustrating for older babies and toddlers as they gain more control over their bodies. You can transition to more standard pajama sets to allow for more movement.

Additional Tips for Safe Baby Sleep

Choosing sleepwear is just one aspect of helping your baby get a good, safe night’s sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics has other recommendations to improve sleep and reduce the risk of SIDS.

Sleep Position

Always place your baby on their back to sleep overnight and for naps. SIDS occurs more often in babies sleeping on their sides or stomachs. If your infant falls asleep upright in a carrier, move them to a firm, flat sleeping position as soon as possible.

Sleep Environment

For a safe sleeping environment, Only use cribs or bassinets that have met Consumer Product Safety Commission standards.

The mattress should fit securely in the crib. Don’t put blankets, bumpers, or other items in the crib with your baby. The AAP recommends a flat, firm surface for sleeping.

Although staying close to your baby can be tempting, you should never sleep in a bed with them. The risk of sleep-related infant deaths increases when babies sleep or nap on a bed or couch with another person. Your baby can sleep in a safe crib in your room.

Sleep Accessories

A baby doesn’t need much sleep. Choose your sleep clothing carefully for fit, comfort, and temperature, and avoid using other accessories. This includes blankets, of course, but also hats and weighted swaddles or sleep clothes.

Knowing how to dress a baby for sleep is important but also confusing. Talk to your pediatrician if you have any doubts about what your baby should wear to bed.

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