Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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How to Dress Your Baby for Winter Sleep

As a parent, we are concerned about our child during the night, worried that our child is too hot or too cold.  In this post, you will learn how to dress your baby for better and comfortable sleep in winter

How does one dress a child for winter sleep and what are the risks?

There are more risks to being too hot versus too cold.

If your child is too hot, she’ll be uncomfortable, and if she overheats, she’ll increase her risk of SIDS.  Other risks for SIDS include extra blankets in the crib, so you’ll want to avoid sheets until the toddler years.

If your child is too cold, she’ll be uncomfortable and possibly have trouble settling into sleep or wake up more frequently.

It’s about finding that temperature sweet spot that suits your child and her environment.

The most vulnerable population for temperature related issues are newborns between the ages of 0-3.  Newborns don’t have the ability to regulate their temperature until about 3 months.   If newborns become too cold, then they use much energy to try and cool themselves, which can be exhausting.  Consequently, if newborns overheat, this can also be dangerous.  

2 Ways to Assess If Your Child Is Too Hot Or Too Cold

  1. BEHAVIOR: Your child’s behavior will give you warning signs.  If your child is irritable or fussy, something is bugging her.
  2. TEST THE SKIN – HANDS, NOSE, BACK OF NECK, HAIRLINE: You can test your child’s temperature using a skin test.  Most kids will have cool hands in colder weather.  That’s okay as long as they aren’t frigid.  Correlate cold hands with her behavior. Cold hands and not fussy.   No problem!  Cold hands and fussy… further investigation required. Check her nose and the back of her neck.  Feeling the temperature of her skin on her nose and back of her neck will give you a better estimate of her body temperature compared to her hands. A cold nose can indicate the room temperature is too cold for her.  A warm back of her neck would indicate her body temperature is adequate. If your child’s hairline is sweaty, she’s likely running a little warm and you might check the room temperature or the number of layers she has on.


You want your ideal room temperature to be 68 F or 20 C.


  • Your outer layer for babies out of the swaddle should be a sleep sack to keep her warm.
  • You can get thick warm ones for winter
  • Cotton and wool materials are the most breathable and comfortable
  • Fleece can be cozy but runs the risk of overheating
  • I just found these amazing wool sleep sacks by Woolino.
  • If you are still swaddling, you’ll want to consider how many layers the swaddle adds
  • Keep newborns in 100% cotton or wool
  • A footed onesie
    You could consider layering with a bodysuit under the onesie.
  • A flannel crib sheet is an easy way to add warmth and comfort.

General guideline, if you think of your bedding as comparable to your child’s sleep sack, aim to have your child in one less layer than you or a layer that is cooler than yours.

In the winter, most babies do well with a footed onesie and a warm sleep sack. On really cold nights you might add a sweater or a second onesie layer.

You will worry you’re not doing something right, but the truth is that your instincts about what to dress your child in will kick in, and you’ll adapt well to this change in weather and apparel.

Want to remember all these tips and put them on your fridge?  Grab my How To Dress For Winter Sleep Cheat Sheet.

Come check out my video on this topic:

I have so much more to teach you about your baby’s sleep.  Come join my online class and community.

Online Sleep Class for ages 4-24 months: Tell Me More

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