Deciding what your baby should wear when they go to sleep at night sounds like it should be a fairly simple decision, yes? But the reality is, it’s yet another parenting minefield – one that can see you agonising into the small hours about whether your baby is too hot/too cold/going to get tangled up in a blanket in the middle of the night.
But fret not – we’ve taken the stress out of sleepwear, with our expert guide to what your baby should wear at night, so that both you and bubba can (hopefully!) get some shut-eye in comfort:
Baby sleepwear: the basics
One of the easiest ways to determine what your baby should wear to sleep at night is to take a look at what you’re comfortable sleeping in, temperature-wise, and then add an extra layer for your baby. For example, if you’re comfortable in a pair of cotton pyjamas, then your baby should be in a cotton sleep suit, plus one extra blanket.
Room temperature and sleep
Ensuring your baby is the ideal temperature is not just to do with what they’re wearing or how many layers of blankets they have tucked over them, but is also largely down to the temperature of the room at night. It’s important to remember that room temperature is often the best guide as to what your baby should be dressed in to go to sleep.
According to The Lullaby Trust, a room temperature of 16C to 20C is ideal – keeping a simple room thermometer in the room where your baby sleeps is a good idea and can help you determine what you should dress your baby in for the night. At this ideal temperature, your baby should wear a vest, a sleep suit and then a lightweight blanket or a lightweight, well-fitting baby sleeping bag.
Of course, dressing your baby when the room is at the ideal temperature is all well and good, but what about when the weather gets cooler or warmer?
Dressing baby for sleep during the winter
In the colder months, you might worry that your baby will get cold in the night. Rest assured, it’s likely that you do not need to leave your heating on during the night– often adding extra layers of bedding (such as an additional blanket) will suffice in keeping your baby cosy throughout the night.
Importantly, never overdress you baby at bedtime: too few layers is far safer than adding too many, and risking your baby overheating. It’s also crucial that your baby never wears a hat to sleep: your baby needs to be able to release heat from their head at night, to maintain the correct body temperature.
Dressing baby for sleep during the summer
Aiming to keep your baby’s room at the ideal temperature is all well and good, but we all know that during the summer months, the temperature can soar, meaning sticky, muggy nights and often warm, stuffy bedrooms.
‘During the warmer months of the year, it’s important for parents to ensure their babies are kept cool and comfortable, especially during the night,’ says Jordan Davis, midwife and developer of Puriskins Curate Babies Range.
‘A lot of parents would agree that they worry often whether their baby is getting too cold at night,’ she adds. ‘However, during the hotter evenings, overheating your infant can be dangerous and potentially fatal, as increasing your baby’s temperature during sleep can put them at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).’
What should your baby wear to bed: a guide
In time, you will come to know what you should dress your baby in for sleep, depending on the room temperature. This guide can help you get started:
Hot. Dress your baby in a vest only, and cover them with a sheet tucked in at the sides of the cot.
★ 20C – 24C
Very warm. Dress your baby in a sleepsuit (no vest), and cover with one blanket or use a 0.5-1 tog sleeping bag.
★ 16C – 20C
Ideal temperature. Dress your baby in a vest plus a sleep suit. If closer to 20C, add one blanket or a 1 tog sleeping bag. If closer to 16C, add two blankets or a 2.5 tog sleeping bag.
★ Below 16C
Cool. Dress your baby in a vest plus a sleep suit. Add a 2.5 tog sleeping bag plus a blanket tucked over them.
Should you swaddle your baby for sleep?
It’s thought that swaddling your baby (wrapping them gently but securely in a lightweight, breathable blanket) might help to calm your baby and help them feel secure, as the snug fit of the blanket (and the inability to wave their arms around) can remind them of being in the womb.
It’s usually reserved for newborns and young babies, and should be abandoned as soon as your baby can roll over (as it is no longer considered safe once they can do so), but it can be a safe and secure way of tucking your baby up at night, if you follow the safety guidance. This includes:
- Only swaddling your baby in a thin, breathable layer, such as a muslin wrap
- Leaving your baby’s head and neck uncovered; your baby should only be swaddled up to their shoulders
- Your baby should never be wrapped up tightly: gently but firmly is perfect
- Checking your baby’s temperature regularly, to ensure they are not overheating
- Making sure they are dressed appropriately for swaddling (i.e. ensure they are not wearing too many layers)
- Always placing your swaddled baby on their back to sleep
As helpful as some people find it, swaddling does bring with it some risks, the biggest being the risk of overheating, so always do so with caution.
Is your baby too hot at night?
Whether it’s a stifling summer evening, or a chilly autumn night and you’re worried you’ve popped one too many layers on your baby at bedtime, it’s a good idea to know how to check whether your baby is at a comfortable temperature, or whether they’re beginning to overheat.
According to Davis, classic signs of overheating include:
- Flushed, red skin, or potential heat rash
- Baby is warm to touch or has clammy skin
- Damp hair
- Lethargy or unresponsiveness
- Temperature of 38C plus
‘It is important that if parents notice any of these symptoms, that they seek immediate medical attention,’ says Davis.
Of course, if you follow the guidance, it hopefully shouldn’t get to this stage. You can check whether they feel too hot by touching their skin – feel their chest or back as a guide rather than their hands or feet, as these extremities can remain cooler than their core body temperature.
If you think your baby feels too warm, remove a layer and check them again in 10 minutes or so.
Baby sleeping bags or blankets – what’s safe?
Of course, it’s not just overheating that can be a concern: when your baby is very young, many parents worry that loose blankets may shift around and cover the face, and if your baby’s sleeping bag is not a good fit, they might be able to wriggle down into it. So, how can you ensure your baby stays safe when it comes to covers?
‘When putting baby to sleep, it can be difficult judging what bed linen is appropriate,’ says Davis. ‘Blankets are perfectly okay to use, providing they are lightweight, allow airflow and are tucked in the sides of the crib. Remember that a folded blanket counts as two layers.
‘Baby sleeping bags are also just as safe – when looking for the most suitable sleeping bag, ensure you select the most appropriate tog for the season and the correct size, which should fit well around the shoulders, making sure baby’s head does not slip down into the bag.’
And remember, your baby should never sleep beneath a duvet: in fact, all bulky bedding, including quilts, duvets and pillows, must be avoided, as they risk smothering your baby.
When is a pillow and duvet safe for toddlers?
Duvets and pillows are not safe for babies under one year old. But by the time your child is a toddler (12 to 36 months), you can introduce these if you wish, as your child is no longer at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and many of the ‘baby sleep’ rules can be relaxed. Around 18 months to two years seems usual, as your baby still might seem too small at 12 months old and is likely to still be snug in a baby sleeping bag.
However, as your child develops, it’s still important to keep their sleep environment as safe as possible. To do this:
- Avoid cot bumpers – they no longer pose a suffocation or strangulation risk, but your toddler might use them to help them climb out of the cot.
- Remove hanging mobiles – your toddler can become entangled in them.
- Don’t fill the cot with lots of cuddly toys – a few is fine.
- Remove toys with ribbons or strings at night. As with mobiles, they pose a strangulation risk.
- Ensure your toddler’s cot is away from cords or wires that they may be able to pull into the cot, such as blind cords and electrical wires.
- If you decide to add a pillow and duvet to their sleep environment, ensure they are once that are designed for toddlers – they should be thin, and any duvets or quilts should fit the size of the cot or cot-bed.
Last updated: 28-06-2021
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