How To Dress Your Baby For Sleep: A Complete Guide
Little Yawn Collective - Sep 01, 2021
The moment you find out that you’re having a baby, a sea of emotions tends to follow suit.
You might feel surprised, excited, or even a bit confused — especially if you became pregnant much faster than expected. It can take a little while for the idea of a tiny human growing inside of you to sink in. And that's perfectly normal!
We'll be the first to say that being a parent can be quite scary. Babies require a whole lot of TLC from sun-up to sun-down, and they are vulnerable, fragile, and oh-so-delicate. However, they are also a beautiful, life-changing extension of yourself, and being a parent means getting to raise your mini-me.
When it comes to parenthood, you don’t have to figure it all out completely alone, and it is okay to feel a little overwhelmed. Thousands of people become parents every single day and successfully raise their newborns into healthy kiddos.
There certainly will be ups and downs — but parenthood is a beautiful and joyous thing. And if you ask us, there's nothing more serene than watching your newest family member dreaming peacefully as they snooze. Speaking of sleep…
Did you know that what you dress your tiny tot in for bedtime can affect their ability to settle down? Yep, it's true — while baby sleepwear may seem like a fairly simple conundrum, the reality is that it's another parenting minefield.
In this post, we're exploring the adorable world of baby sleepwear to uncover the best way to dress your little one for sleeping success. So grab some coffee or a snack and get comfortable — here's our complete guide on how to dress your baby for bedtime.
But First, Why Is Dressing Babies for Sleep Important?
Have you ever flipped your pillow over to the cold side or tossed your blankets off the bed when you've woken up too hot? Babies aren't mobile in their earlier months, so it's our job to ensure they stay safe and comfortable through the night.
To do this, we need to dress them appropriately to make sure that they don't get too cold or too hot as they get in some zzz’s. When too cold, a baby can easily become uncomfortably chilly and wake up unnecessarily.
How Should I Dress My Baby for Sleep?
While it might be tempting to wrap your bundle of joy in many warm cozy layers, a good rule of thumb is to dress your tiny tot in one additional layer than what you'd be comfortable wearing at night in the same environment.
Diapers and undies are not considered a layer.
In warm weather over 75 degrees, a single layer — such as a cotton onesie and a diaper — is enough for a baby to sleep in. Additional layers are necessary when the weather is a bit colder and temperatures drop under 75 degrees.
What kind of layers, you ask? Light, breathable layers that are loose but not too loose. We'll explain:
If you're adding a blanket to your bed, it probably means you need to add another layer to your sleeping angel. Light layers are best and can easily be removed if your baby gets too warm.
Babies communicate their needs by crying. If it's a particularly warm or cold day and your little one is especially fussy, the temperature might be making them uncomfortable. Taking off or adding a light layer may do the trick to help them feel better.
When babies are asleep, however, they may not give you the same cues as to how they feel like they do when they're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Aside from dressing them in the appropriate number of layers, it's of the utmost importance to check your little one for signs of overheating and chilling as they dream.
An easy, reliable way to check if your baby feels cold is by feeling their torso (back, chest, and tummy) or nape. They should be warm to the touch —not too warm, though! If your little dreamer is sweating or feels restless, they could be overheating, and layers need to be removed immediately to help cool them down.
When it's nice and toasty, your baby will appreciate lightweight, natural fabrics that allow their skin to breathe — like cotton! Comfy-cozy breathable cotton is not only great for layering but also tends to prevent static cling while still providing good insulation.
Loose, but Not Too Loose
Ideally, your baby's sleeping outfit should be loose and stretchy enough to put on easily, but not so loose that it can ride up around your little one's face or neck and put them in harm’s way.
When shopping for baby sleepwear, stick with light layers and breathable cotton. You should also consider your little one's size, typical nighttime needs, and sleeping environment so you can choose the right type for your smallest family member. Here are some of the most popular options on the market today:
- Onesies or bodysuits. These are one-piece outfits that will cover your baby from shoulder to bum, leaving the legs bare. They fit snugly, are ideal for warmer climates, and are super convenient for middle-of-the-night diaper changes.
- Sleep gowns. These are one-piece garments with long sleeves and are usually gathered at the bottom to encourage the baby to keep their little toes covered while still making it possible to kick out their legs. Sleep gowns are wonderful for younger tots, work great in mild climates, and can help to make nighttime diaper changes a breeze.
- Footie sleepers. Also known as footie pajamas or coveralls, footie sleepers are one-piece garments with long sleeves and full pants covering the baby's feet. Perfect for chilly weather because they can keep your little one completely covered — even without a blanket.
- Footless sleepers. Also called jumpsuits or rompers, footless sleepers are one-piece garments with either long or short sleeves and full pants. Like footie sleepers but without foot coverage, footless sleepers are great for warm and cool weather.
- Two-piece sleep sets. Most suitable for older babies, these sleep sets are more like traditional kid's pj's. Excellent for quick bottom-only changes at night, if you decide to go the two-piece sleep set route, just make sure the jammies aren't too loose or baggy to keep your little nugget safe.
Should I Use a Sleep Sack or a Swaddle?
It seems like everyone has some kind of opinion or advice to give when it comes to parenting these days — doesn't it? An experienced mama bear will tell you one thing in one conversation, and the next person you talk to will say something that totally contradicts it. So, who's right?
Well, the answer to the question might be both or neither. You see, when it boils down to being a good parent, it's helpful to keep in mind that all babies are unique in their own adorable way, and when it comes to using a sleep sack or swaddle, the debates can be even more intense.
The reality of it, though, is that one is not better than the other. In fact, they are both terrific options when it comes to providing safe sleep and comfort to your little sleepyhead, but both offer something slightly different that one tiny tot may prefer over another.
That's why we suggest learning about both to find which one will best serve your bundle of joy!
Simply put, a sleep sack is a wearable blanket for babies. They are a sack of cozy fabric with three holes — one for the head and two for the arms. Your baby's body and legs stay warm inside the sack.
Experts say the use of blankets for sleeping babies may pose a risk of SIDS, meaning sleep sacks might be a safer alternative to keep your little buddy snug-as-a-bug.
A swaddle is a large, thin blanket used to wrap up a baby like a burrito, ultimately limiting mobility so they can't wiggle out. Swaddling is great because it can keep your little one feeling safe and secure, mimicking the tight feeling they experienced in the womb.
When done correctly, swaddling is safe and can effectively help calm a restless baby. However, it's important to know when to stop swaddling and swap the blanket for a sleep sack.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should stop swaddling your little one when they begin trying to roll over. Timing will vary for every baby, but this milestone usually happens around four months of age. Swaddling means your baby won’t have their arms free, and rolling over while swaddled can be risky because of this.
What About Hats?
Save the cute baby accessories for your Instagram photoshoots. While we absolutely adore those sweet knit hospital caps, they're really not meant to be used for sleep once you leave the maternity floor.
You see, babies cool themselves down by releasing heat from their heads, and if they drift off to dreamland wearing a hat, they can quickly overheat. For this reason, it is essential to keep your little buddy's noggin uncovered during sleep.
In addition to overheating, headwear in bed can also be a suffocation or choking hazard. So, unless advised to do so by your doc, whatever you do, don't let your precious tot hit the hay wearing a hat.
Will My Baby Get Cold?
Feeling your little one's hands and feet is not a reliable method for measuring body temperature in babies. Why? Because most babies tend to have cold extremities due to their immature circulatory system. While they may feel uncomfortable to parents, most babies aren't bothered by cool paws while they snooze.
As mentioned earlier, to check your sleepyhead's temperature, feel the torso or nape. This is the best method that parents can use without waking their dreaming baby. You want to be able to touch their skin and notice it's not too cold or too warm, but rather a comfortable temperature.
If your little buddy feels cool to the touch — simply add a cozy, lightweight layer.
Since our tiny tykes aren't able to fend for themselves or articulate their needs, knowing what's best for your littlest family member can be quite the challenge. However, being a parent involves continually learning new things about your bundle of joy, including dressing them appropriately for a good night's sleep.
You might not get it right the first couple of times, but that's totally okay as you can always add or remove layers. So take a deep breath because you're doing great!
Here at Little Yawn Collective, our goal is to empower parents and build confidence to establish bedtime routines that work.
Whether you're looking for baby sleepwear guidance or the best sleepy essentials designed specifically for your little buddy, you can always count on us to help bring on the sleepies!
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