Once you have a baby, seemingly simple tasks can become filled with questions. This is especially true of sleep-related topics because it is the one time of day that you're not closely monitoring your baby's every move. What should a baby wear to sleep? How long can they use a swaddle? Do you need a sleep sack? We answer all these questions and more to make sure that your baby is dressed and ready for a long stretch of sweet dreams!
How to Dress a Baby for Sleep
As you get your baby ready for bed, your inclination may be to bundle them up. However, safe sleep requires a certain type of wardrobe. The general rule of thumb is to dress your baby in light, fitted layers. This ensures that they don't get overheated or tangled up as they wiggle around in the night. When choosing their ensemble, it's important to remember that fabric matters. Parents need to look for cotton, bamboo, muslin, linen, or fleece materials. These fabrics are lightweight and breathable. Many of them also have moisture-wicking properties, and they're gentle on the skin.
Under Nine Months
For children younger than nine months of age, parents may also want to prioritize pajamas that come with built in foot cuffs and mittens. This can keep them warm and prevent them from scratching their little faces in the night. Little Sleepies is a fantastic brand that features flip over hand and foot coverings and a double zipper front. This makes midnight diaper changes almost effortless! They also use a buttery soft bamboo viscose fabric that not only keeps your baby comfortable, no matter what the season may be, but it is also extremely stretchy, which allows the onesie to last longer!
Over Nine Months
In contrast, for babies older than nine months of age, parents need to look for either snug-fitting sleepwear or flame-retardant clothing. This may seem odd, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) notes that "children are most at risk from burn injuries that result from playing with fire (matches, lighters, candles, burners on stoves) just before bedtime and just after rising in the morning." Thus, look for this feature when shopping for pajamas for your older babies.
What Should Babies Not Wear to Bed?
While the hospital staff recommends putting a hat on your baby after they're born, it's not a safe option once you leave maternity wing. Hats and hooded clothing can easily be pulled over your baby's face, by your baby, which can cause suffocation. Other items to avoid are extremely thick pieces of clothing that could cause overheating and anything with strings or ties that could cause accidental strangulation.
Safe Sleep Considerations
Experts recommend keeping your baby's room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. They also advise parents to always keep the ceiling fan running. Research has shown that this can diminish the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by up to 72%! When you follow these two guidelines, you can clothe your baby in a footed onesie along with a muslin swaddle or light, wearable blanket, otherwise known as a sleep sack.
Swaddling is another fantastic way to prevent SIDS and keep your baby comfy throughout the night. Unfortunately, once they begin to experiment with rolling over, parents need to stop using this sleep tactic. This can cause the risk of SIDS to increase and lead to accidental suffocation. When your baby becomes more mobile, a sleep sack can be a great alternative, but it isn't required.
Since experts do not recommend blankets until at least the age of one, many parents turn to sleep sacks to help their babies sleep soundly. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) approves these sleep accessories, as long as parents follow certain guidelines. First, these products should never be weighted. Companies market these items to parents looking to improve their babies' sleep, but researchers have found that this added weight can restrict a baby's chest movement (inhibit their breathing), and it can cause them to become entrapped in certain sleep positions, which can cause accidental suffocation. Parents should also look for sleep sacks that give their baby full arm movement. This ensures that they can get themselves out of dangerous sleep positions.
Additionally, it's extremely important that parents pay attention to the Thermal Overall Grade (TOG) of their sleep sack. This refers to the warmth of the fabric. Manufacturers make sleep sacks to accommodate a range of room temperatures. The greater the number, the warmer your baby will be while wearing it. Most companies provide a guide for parents that shows the recommended room temperature for the specific product as well as what sleepwear your baby should wear with it. By not following these guidelines, you risk your baby overheating. What this means is that unless you live in a very cold environment or keep your house at an extremely low temperature, it is best to go with the lowest TOG rating.
Babies struggle with regulating their temperatures, so they overheat easily. One to two thin layers of clothing is all a baby needs when sleeping in a temperature controlled environment. If your baby looks flushed, feels warm to the touch, starts sweating, or is just acting overly fussy, they could be too hot. It is important to address this immediately because overheating can cause SIDS. With that being said, many parents wonder what their baby should wear with and without a sleep sack.
What Should a Baby Wear Under Sleep Sack
Generally speaking, a baby should sleep in a short-sleeve cotton or bamboo onesie or pajama set when using a sleep sack. During the winter months, parents can upgrade this to a long-sleeve cotton, bamboo, or fleece pajama set. However, parents should always reference their user's manual. Each sleep sack will recommend a specific temperature range and clothing type for the specific TOG rating of their product. These guidelines protect your child from overheating, so always follow them.
How to Dress a Baby for Sleep Without a Sleep Sack
If you decide that a sleep sack isn't for you, then simply stick with a pair of thin, long-sleeve pajamas and socks or a footed onesie.
Pay Attention to Your Baby's Cues
While your baby can't speak, they will make it very clear if they're uncomfortable. Pay attention to their cues. If you find them fussy in the middle of the night, the top three things to consider are if they're dry, fed, and comfortable. This last option encompasses a slew of things, including their temperature. If their feet or hands are cold to the touch, consider another light layer. If they feel hot or are showing signs of overheating, change them into something cooler. Every baby is different, so what's comfortable for one baby may not be agreeable with the next. Last, always remember that less is more when dressing a baby for sleep. If you would be too hot in their outfit, then they will be too.