A client e-mailed me within the last couple of weeks with what she thought was a “silly” question, but it was a good question. She wanted to know what her toddler should sleep in after a sleep sack and wanted to know when a toddler can/will keep a blanket on. This article will talk about what babies and toddlers sleep in at various ages.
It is probably rare that babies are not dressed warm enough as we, new parents, are overly worried our babies will be cold. But, babies can be dressed TOO warm just the same as not warm enough. In fact, it took us several weeks to a month to realize our few-week-old son cried a lot in the car seat because he was too hot! He was born in colder weather and we simply didn’t know how toasty that car seat kept him. Finally, one day, I took him out and felt how sweaty he was and we stopped dressing him as if he was going hiking to the top of Mount Everest in the dead of winter.
Here are some general guidelines in what babies sleep in at various ages, but you do have to use your best judgment based on where you live, how hot/cold you keep the temperature in your house when your baby sleeps, and your baby’s preference (some will prefer to be warmer than others), among other factors. These are just guidelines and you know your baby best.
What do newborns sleep in?
In general, you do not want to dress your newborn too warmly to sleep, because consider that he or she will likely be swaddled, too, so that is an added layer or in a car seat like I mentioned my son above. Not only could it make your baby uncomfortable, but it also increases the risk of SIDS (note that using a fan can decrease the risk by 72%). Think about layers at every age, because if he or she feels too warm, you can simply remove one layer at night. If she spits up on the outer layer, depending on severity, you can simply replace the outer layer, too.
For newborns who are swaddled, I recommend a onesie underneath a light sleep-and-play outfit (long-sleeve in the winter and short-sleeve in the summer). In the summer, you can probably skip the footed outfit or socks, but in the winter, you may want to keep them on. If your newborn is no longer swaddled, read below.
What do babies sleep in?
Once your newborn has grown up a bit and you are trying to stop swaddling your baby, you can dress your baby the same as a newborn, but then consider a sleep sack, instead of the swaddle. It is a wearable blanket and is safer than putting a loose, thick blanket in the crib with baby, before she has the fine motor skills she needs to keep it off her head. In the summer, depending on the temperature of your house, you may want to skip the sleep sack or blanket all together. Babies sleep better in a cooler temperature, approximately 68-70 degrees, so you don’t want them too warm. For most people (though not me), our body temperature drops at night in order to lead to a better night’s sleep.
What do toddlers sleep in?
One important thing with toddlers is that when they are TOO warm when they sleep, they are more prone to night terrors and nightmares. So, you do want to make sure your toddler is warm enough at night, but not too warm, just like your baby. Skin should be comfortable to the touch and even a little cool, but not cold/frigid. Even when your toddler can talk, it isn’t always something they can express as to why they are waking at night. Sometimes we have to be detectives (at least I’ve felt that way).
More and more people are continuing to use sleep sacks into the toddler years, so this is still an option. They make wearable blankets that allow your toddler to walk in them and then you don’t have to worry about him keeping the covers on at night. The Merino Kids Baby Sleep Bag is made from Merino Wool, which regulates your toddler’s body heat, so he won’t wake up too hot or too cold. They do make a baby’s sleep bag, too, that helps to regulate your baby’s temperature. There are also toddler sleep sacks that have legs for your toddler’s feet to go through, so he can walk while wearing the blanket.
If you and/or your toddler do not like a wearable blanket or sleep sack, you can expect your toddler to keep the covers on sometime after three or four years old, usually. There are probably a few two year olds who will keep them on, learn to replace them on their own early, or simply don’t move too much at night, but generally, I expect 3 and 4 year olds to continue to call for you at night to replace the covers. In the case of my youngest son, who is 3 1/2, he simply does NOT like covers on him and never has (yet), so we just don’t worry about it. If your toddler is going to repeatedly call you in the middle of the night to be covered up, I recommend dressing her warmer, so she doesn’t need the covers on at all and that way once the covers come off, it won’t matter. In the winter, consider fleece pajamas or putting a t-shirt on underneath cotton pajamas, for example, plus socks, if your toddler is prone to being cold.
I hope this article has given you some ideas about what your baby or toddler can sleep in at night. If you’re looking for other ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.