How to Dress Your Baby for a Safe and Comfortable Sleep: A Comprehensive Guide

As an experienced baby sleep consultant, I’ve been frequently asked by parents, “How should I dress my baby for sleep to ensure safety and comfort?” This is a perfectly valid concern as there is a delicate balance to maintain. Overheating a baby isn’t safe, yet babies that are too cold might have trouble sleeping. In this article, I will guide you through practical tips and methods to ensure your baby is dressed just right for sleep.

Understanding the Ideal Sleep Temperature

Firstly, it’s essential to understand that there isn’t a universal “perfect” temperature for sleep. You might come across recommendations for room temperatures between 68℉ and 72℉ for sleeping. However, different homes have different temperatures, and adhering strictly to this range isn’t always feasible. It’s more important to ensure that your baby is comfortable and safe in your home’s typical conditions.

Starting Point: Dressing Your Baby

So where do you start? Well, an excellent initial guide is to dress your baby how you’re dressed. If you’re comfortably sleeping in flannel pajamas under a heavy comforter, perhaps your baby will be comfortable in fleece-footed pajamas and a sleep sack or swaddle.

On the contrary, if you’re cozy in a t-shirt and a sheet, a onesie and a lightweight swaddle or sleep sack might be ideal for your baby. The primary assumption here is that if you’re comfortable in your sleep environment, chances are your baby will be comfortable too.

Assessing Your Baby’s Comfort

You may wonder, “How can I be sure I’ve dressed my baby correctly?” Well, the answer lies in two words: Assess, don’t obsess.

Here’s a straightforward step-by-step process that can help you confidently assess your baby’s comfort. 

Step 1: Checking Your Baby’s Core Temperature

The first step in assessing your baby’s comfort is understanding where to check for an accurate body temperature reading. It’s important to feel your baby’s core, which includes:

  • The chest
  • The neck
  • The back
  • The tummy

Avoid relying on the temperature of the baby’s hands or feet as these extremities tend to be cooler and might not reflect the actual body temperature accurately.

Step 2: Interpreting Your Findings

Next, you’ll need to interpret what you’ve felt. Here’s what to look out for:

  • If your baby’s core feels warm, but not sweaty, and is not cold, you’re in the right zone. This is an indication that your baby is likely comfortable.

Step 3: Addressing Overheating

If, during your assessment, you find your baby’s skin to be a bit sweaty or their cheeks flushed, they might be too warm. Here are some actions you can take:

  • Remove a layer: If the baby was wearing long-sleeve pajamas, switch to short sleeves or even a onesie, which can help reduce the overall body temperature.
  • Switch to a lighter sleep sack or swaddle: If your baby was swaddled, consider using a lighter material for the swaddle to enhance breathability and reduce heat.

Step 4: Handling Coolness

If your baby feels cool to touch at the core, then you might need to add a layer for warmth. Consider the following options:

  • Thicker pajamas: Swap out thin material pajamas for thicker ones to help retain body heat.
  • Add a onesie under the pajamas: This can be an extra layer of warmth without causing discomfort.
  • Use a thicker sleep sack or swaddle: If your baby is swaddled, a thicker material can provide additional warmth.

Remember, these steps serve as a guide to help you better understand how to keep your baby comfortable during sleep. Over time, you’ll learn to intuitively know what’s best for your baby in your specific home environment. As always, if you’re unsure or have questions, don’t hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional.

Options for a Warm-Bodied Newborn

Now, suppose your newborn generally feels warm but still needs a swaddle for comfort. You might want to explore options that can keep your baby comfortable without overheating. One approach could be dressing the baby in only a diaper under the swaddle.

Safe Sleep Guidelines and TOG Ratings

While maintaining your baby’s comfort is important, remember that safety should never be compromised. Ensure to follow safe sleep guidelines, which means avoiding adding blankets, hats, weighted sleep sacks or swaddles, or any loose items to the crib.

Some parents find TOG (thermal overall grade) ratings helpful when choosing sleep sacks or swaddles. This rating tells you how warm a product might be, making it easier to choose suitable sleepwear based on your home’s temperature.

What About Dressing My Baby in One More Layer Than I’m Wearing?

In the early days after birth, newborns are still learning to regulate their body temperature. Hence, they might need one extra layer compared to adults. However, as they grow and figure out temperature regulation (usually within the first week), dressing them as you would dress yourself becomes a more accurate guideline.

I hope this guide has helped clear up any confusion and made the process of dressing your baby for sleep a little less daunting. Remember, it’s all about ensuring your little one is comfortable and safe. If you have any more questions or concerns, always consult your doctor or a professional baby sleep consultant. 


Moon, R. Y., & Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. (2016). SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics, 138(5), e20162938

Mindell, J. A., Sadeh, A., Kwon, R., & Goh, D. Y. (2015). Relationship Between Child and Maternal Sleep: A Developmental and Cross-Cultural Comparison. Journal of pediatric psychology, 40(7), 689–696.

Goodlin-Jones, B., Burnham, M. M., Gaylor, E., & Anders, T. F. (2001). Night waking, sleep-wake organization, and self-soothing in the first year of life. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 22(4), 226-233.

Bach, V., & Libert, J. P. (2022). Hyperthermia and Heat Stress as Risk Factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: A Narrative Review. Frontiers in pediatrics, 10, 816136.

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