Babies are incredibly sensitive to temperature, and it’s challenging to know what to dress them in for different climates.
One of a parent’s top worries is how to dress their baby for bed, knowing that the temperature may fluctuate overnight.
One of the most important things is that your baby has a comfortable, safe, and restless sleep – because the more they sleep, the more you do.
But as a new parent, even the seemingly simple decision of which pair of tiny PJs your baby will wear can seem like a mountain to climb.
So, how should you dress your baby for sleep?
The Basics Of Dressing A Baby For Sleep
There are a few standard rules that you’ll need to follow to ensure you’re doing the right thing for your little bundle of joy.
Depending on the temperature, layering can be a good or bad thing, and there will always be people out there with differing views and opinions.
However, a good rule of thumb is to judge how many layers you’re going to wear to bed at the current temperature and give them one extra layer on top of that.
It’s always better to have your baby slightly underdressed than pile on a ton of layers. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) can occur from overheating.
Babies shouldn’t have loose sheets over them at night to keep them warm; you will need to rely on their clothes to keep them at the right temperature.
Having a footed onesie or a muslin swaddle should be enough to keep them at the right temperature.
An ideal room temperature for a baby is between 68- and 72-degrees Fahrenheit.
You should keep a thermometer in the room and try to keep it as close to this temperature as possible.
The Different Types Of Baby Sleepwear
Some babies take to swaddling immediately. They love the safety and security that they get from being in a warm, firm hold.
It feels just like being back in the womb for them.
You need the perfect balance of warmth and comfort and keep your baby cool enough that it’s not a health concern. For this, a cotton or muslin swaddle is perfect.
The material is breathable to let some air in and also flexible enough that it’s easy to wrap around your baby and tuck it in.
If you’re in a warm room, you can be confident that cotton or muslin won’t overheat them, especially if they’re in this single layer.
They don’t need to be wearing anything other than a babygrow and nappy when swaddled.
Sleep Sack/Wearable Blanket
As your baby gets older and can confidently roll over by themselves, a swaddle may become less safe as they’re able to wiggle their warms free.
This might mean that they unwind the swaddle, and, for particularly energetic babies, they might pull the swaddle up over their face, limiting the ability to breathe correctly.
At this stage, you’ll need to switch up to a sleep sack or wearable blanket. These are easier than a swaddle to fit around your baby.
They fit over your baby’s head just like a shirt and zip around the bottom to ensure that their feet are contained.
The zip keeps your baby’s feet warm and secure, just like a swaddle, but allows for more movement while controlling the ability to move the material.
(If it’s secured around the bottom of their legs, they won’t be able to pull it over their head).
These sacks are available in cotton or thicker materials depending on the temperature in your room.
Your baby could layer up underneath or just have this on over a nappy.
If your baby has grown out of swaddles and sleep sacks or just struggles to sleep wearing them, then you might need to move to everyday two-piece sleepwear.
This is fine too, as long as you purchase sleepwear with feet in.
Babies lose lots of heat through their feet, so they must stay warm, and the feet in the pajamas will also ensure their tiny toes don’t get caught in any bedding.
If you’re using sleepwear alone, you’ll need to ensure that you layer up a little more, even when it’s warm.
This is because your baby’s hands will be free from cover, and you need to make up for the heat lost this way.
A babygrow underneath should be fine to maintain the right temperature.
How To Dress A Baby For Sleep In A 70+ Degree Room
Always try to maintain an even temperature throughout the night for your baby. This helps them to get more sleep.
If you live in a hotter climate, or if it’s just summertime, it can be concerning that your baby will get too hot during the night.
To prepare for this, select a short-sleeved cotton or muslin bodysuit, a cotton swaddle, or a sleep sack without layers underneath.
This should be sufficient to keep them at the right temperature.
Don’t be tempted to add a fan to the room, as the constant airflow can cause your baby to catch a chill, no matter how warm it is.
Also, from a fire safety perspective, you should also turn all fans off while you’re sleeping.
If the heat is really beginning to worry you, you can place a fan in the hallway outside your baby’s door.
This should slightly increase the airflow without potentially causing any other damage.
If you have air conditioning in your home, the temperature should be pretty even throughout the night.
That means you’ll be able to stick to the rule of layering your baby with a single extra layer to yourself.
If you’re fine with minimal bedtime clothing, just add some classic footy PJs for them, and they’ll be fine.
How To Dress A Baby For Sleep In A 65 (And Below) Degree Room
Obviously, in some climates, you’ll have the opposite problem.
If you’re living somewhere that tends to be much colder at night, it can be concerning that your baby may be cold.
Babies are much more sensitive than adults and will feel the cold, so the chances are that, if you’re a bit chilly, they are too.
When you start to drag out those long PJs at night, you’ll need to start wrapping your baby in an extra layer.
Try a set of microfleece PJs with feet over a bodysuit or a sleep sack over standard cotton PJs.
Baby hats are one to avoid. They look cute, but unfortunately, they only really work while your baby is around a week old.
As soon as they can move their heads themselves, a hat can become a danger as it could easily slip off their head during sleep to cover their face.
This may result in suffocation. Give hats a pass, no matter how cold it is.
How Do I Know If My Baby Is Too Cold At Night?
It’s difficult to tell if your baby is cold during the night as the typical tell-tale signs, such as cold skin, won’t apply until your baby is a little older and their circulatory system develops fully.
Babies also struggle to regulate their own body temperature like adults and lose heat quickly because of their low fat levels.
Their respiratory system also isn’t fully developed, and it takes a lot of oxygen to power the cells to develop that circulation.
They need much more access to oxygen than we would to stay warm and keep their body going.
That’s why blankets over your baby’s face are so much more dangerous than if an adult slept in the same way.
They’ll Tell You
If your baby isn’t happy, you know that they’ll typically make you aware of it, and loudly.
Your baby will wake up a couple of times during the night anyway, and after checking for food and changing needs, the temperature should be next on your list.
If you can’t find anything wrong, then this may be the issue.
Checking your baby’s hands and feet isn’t a good indicator to find out if your baby is cold, as that’s where they’ll lose the most heat anyway.
Check the temperature of their neck and chest with the back of your hand. This should give you a more accurate reading of their overall body temperature.
If your baby is too warm, the back of their neck may be sweaty. If that’s the case, you’ve overdone it on the layers.
Baby’s faces are a good indicator of their overall temperature. If they’re red and flushed, then they’re too hot.
Pink cheeks with a normal peach forehead are normal, and if your baby is drained of color and seems a little pale, this may mean they’re too cold.
If your baby is unusually quiet or still, this could also mean that they’re too cold.
It takes a lot of energy to keep the blood flowing around where it should be to stay warm, which means that they don’t have much energy to keep their limbs moving.
What To Do If Your Baby Is Too Cold
If you fear that your baby is too cold, there are a few things that you could do to make them feel more comfortable.
- Adjust the room temperature – Turn down the aircon and turn up the heat
- Change the crib location – Move away from windows and doors
- Preheat the mattress – Place a hot water bottle on the crib mattress to warm the surface, then remove it before you lay your baby down.
- Use a firm mattress – Make sure the mattress fits the crib perfectly and is firm, even when your baby lays there. This stops excess cold air from getting under your baby.
- Nappy changing – Wet diapers can be a factor in your baby being cold. If it’s clear that they’ve been wet for some time, change them.
Sleeping Bags Or Sleep Sacks
Sleep sacks are a significant upgrade from swaddling your baby and can help them keep warm too.
Because your baby is zipped into them, you can be sure that they’ll stay at that same temperature throughout the night without you having to worry.
They come in a few different thicknesses made of different materials to help keep your baby at the right temperature throughout the night.
Thin Cotton – A cotton sleeping bag is just the same material as a standard t-shirt, with a small zip around the bottom.
This is best for hotter climates, when the temperature is high all year round, even throughout the night.
It ensures that your baby can’t move around too much and protects them from the dangers of loose sheets.
1.0 Tog – Is the basic sack with two thin, cotton layers. This is best worn with a short-sleeved bodysuit or vest for warm weather during the summer months.
Your nursey thermometer should read 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit to use this type of sleeping bag.
2.5 Tog – This is a sleeping bag with a fleecy layer between two external cotton layers to keep your baby warm.
It’s recommended to use this type of sleeping bag when the temperature is less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
It would help if you coupled this with a long-sleeved bodysuit, sleepsuit, or two-piece pajama set.
Never use a blanket alongside or instead of a sleeping bag. Blankets could:
- Cause a suffocation hazard if your baby pulls it over over their face.
- Be pushed to the side during the night if your baby rolls over, meaning they lose the benefit of the heat source.
Do Babies’ Arms Get Cold In Sleeping Bags?
Baby sleeping bags or ‘sleep sacks’ are specifically designed to fit loosely enough to allow airflow but zip tightly enough to stop the material from moving too much and putting your baby at risk.
However, they have armholes and fit pretty much like a standard shirt over your baby’s shoulders, and that does worry some people as the baby’s arms are exposed to the room’s temperature.
If you feel that your baby’s arms are cold during the night, this could be completely natural.
Babies don’t develop proper circulation right away, meaning that their arms and legs may feel cold because they don’t have as much blood pumping around as we do just yet.
Even adults can develop cold hands and feet without actually feeling cold overall.
So, yes, a baby’s arms may feel cold while wearing a sleeping bag, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong.
If your baby isn’t crying or making you aware of the problem, they’re completely fine with the temperature around them.
What To Do If Your Baby’s Hands Are Cold
If you’re still really concerned that your baby is cold, try putting on a t-shirt so that their arms are covered while not overheating the bottom half of their body.
You could also up the tog of your sleeping bag if you’re worried about your baby being cold in general.
Making the all-important decision of how to dress your baby for bed can be scary at first, but it’s one of those decisions you’ll have to make daily, so get used to it and set a routine.
Get into the habit of checking the temperature before bed and checking the forecast throughout the night to give yourself the best chance of making the right decision.
While your baby is still young, they’re likely to wake up during the night a few times for feeding anyway, so you can always change your decision mid-way through the night if you need to.