What Do Babies and Toddlers Sleep In?

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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.

What does/did your baby or toddler sleep in?

Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links where the company receives a small percentage of sales, but this is at no cost to you. We do not recommend products unless we believe they benefit parents or your baby’s sleep.
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9 Responses to What Do Babies and Toddlers Sleep In?

  1. Dyan says:

    My son slept in a sleep sack and either long sleeved onesie or short sleeved one (depending on time of year), until he could pull up in his crib. At that point with him the sleep sack was a bit dangerous as he would try to stand and trip on the sack. Tried the ones with feet but the smallest we could find at the time fit a 3-year-old. At a year I gave him an afghan to sleep with and by 22 months he can keep it on him or pull it on him, or leave it off. He likes to sleep on it more than under, but we dress him in either shorts/t-shirt or long pants/t-shirt. In winter he sleeps in long sleeve/pants sets. He doesn’t like anything on his feet (blanket or footie pj’s), just like me. We keep the house around 70 in summer at night and 68 in winter. He wakes up if he gets too warm.

  2. Kelly says:

    I highly recommend the Blankeaze product! It’s like a sleep sack with legs so your active toddler can still move around in it. It doesn’t have sleeves so my daughter just wears footed pj’s under it and never gets too hot. An added bonus is the zipper up the back. My daughter is a diaper removing queen, so having this over her clothes keeps her from getting to her diaper…..major bonus! She wore one last year, and we are going to get her the next size up for this year (she’s now 2). They come in all sizes. Can’t recommend them enough!!!

    http://www.onestepahead.com/catalog/product.jsp?productId=534081

  3. Kris N says:

    My son, who is almost 2, sleeps in 2-piece jammies with no feet. Either short sleeves or long sleeves depending on the temp. Sometimes socks in winter, but usually not. Sometimes I will cover his lower half with a very small, light blanket, but that gets kicked off after an hour or two. He is a kid who is usually too warm rather than too cold, and we found out his ideal sleep outfit by trial and error. We co-slept on and off, and as he got older and I started using covers for myself again, he would get hot and kick them away even if they were just over his feet. I have never used a sleep sack because he always got way too hot. We found out long ago that fleece footie jammies were also way too hot for him and switched to long-sleeve cotton footie jammies, but having his feet covered still made him get too hot.

  4. WeeWee says:

    I’m in the tropics, and have to turn the airconditioning temperature really low when my child was swaddled. At that time, she was in long sleeves and footsie pants cos she’s such an active sleepy and would fight out of her swaddle within an hour..

    Now she’s just over a year, she sleeps without a cover and clad in short sleeves and non-footed long pants. She still crawls all over the bed in her sleep so looks like it’s a long time before I can introduce blankets!!

  5. Doreen says:

    We live in an apartment in NY so in the summer we are running the AC in the bedroom sometimes making it a bit too cool. We have the thermostat set between 74 and 78 depending on what it is outside. My one year old son sleeps in footed onsie long sleeved pj’s – cotton and I jut put one or two sheets over him – basically they are the receiving blankets I was given when he ws born! – just light smallish cotton sheets but this way I feel he is a bit covered and cosy and yet its not a heavy blanket so am not worried about SIDS or him covering his face with something too heavy when he moves. Hope this helps!

  6. Nicole says:

    @Dyan Thank you for sharing what worked for you! I’m impressed your son could reposition covers at 22 months. That is definitely on the “early” side based on my experience. :)

    @Kelly Thank you for sharing the Blankeaze product! And, bonus, for the Houdini-stopper zipper on the back. I know some parents have had quite a mess to clean up if their toddler takes their own diaper off and then goes to the bathroom. Yuck!

    @Kris Thanks for sharing your experience with your son. Isn’t it so interesting all the things we have to figure out by trial and error? They are definitely all so different.

    @WeeWee It sounds like your daughter likes to be cool, too! :)

    @Doreen Thanks for sharing what works for your son!

    I know other moms really appreciate all the wisdom from other parents, so thank you everyone for sharing!

  7. Willa says:

    My son hates covers (he’s almost 18 months) and always has. He will kick them off immediately. We live in a very hot climate (in the British Virgin Islands) and he sleeps most nights in a onesie, T-shirt, or vest, depending on exactly how hot it is. He always sleeps with the ceiling fan on (good to know this decreases SIDS risk) and we do as well. When he was younger we also used to point a smaller fan towards his crib as well as he was still very hot under the mosquito net even with the ceiling fan on.

    Unless he’s teething he sleeps through the night so long as he has at least 2 hours of napping in the day and gets a good feeding just before he goes to bed. We are very alert for his sleepy cues (rubbing his eyes) but nevertheless try to get him down between 8 and 9 and he wakes between 6 and 7 am, sometimes later. His routine is a bottle and bath, or vice versa.

    He has to sleep alone in his room. We toss and turn and that wakes him up we realized. He started hating his crib, even at the daycare he would crawl up onto the toddler cots and refuse to be put in a crib. I think that was our fault for putting him in his crib at other times besides bedtime – so he felt like it was a jail/punishment – so he sleeps on a queen size bed that is flat on the ground for the past 2 months, and that seems to be working out.

  8. Debbye says:

    Hi Willa-
    Thanks for sharing what works for you! It sounds like you are raising a great sleeper!

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