How to dress baby for sleep

Research shows a clear link between overheating and an increased risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy, so it is important that parents and carers know how to dress baby for sleep.

Sleeping baby white noise

Babies control their temperature predominantly through their head and face. This is why we recommend that you put baby to sleep on their back with head and face uncovered.

Always remember to remove head coverings for sleep and ensure baby is positioned with their feet at the bottom of the cot – and if you’re using sheets or blankets, make sure they are firmly tucked in to prevent baby from wriggling down and overheating.

Room temperature

Red Nose does not recommend a specific room temperature for baby’s sleep. This is because there is no evidence to show that maintaining a specific room temperature prevents sudden infant death.

As long as baby is put down to sleep on their back, and that baby is dressed appropriately for the room temperature – not overdressed or under dressed – with their head and face uncovered, you can feel reassured that you are protecting baby from overheating.

We don’t believe that it’s necessary to use a room temperature monitor, or to leave the heating or cooling on all night, as long as baby is dressed appropriately for the temperature of the room – not too hot, not too cold.

To check, feel baby’s tummy, which should feel warm. Don’t worry if baby’s hands and feet feel cool – this is normal.

If your baby shows signs of heat stress, such as flushed and clammy skin, remove some bedding or clothing and offer fluids such as breast milk for young babies or water for older children.

An oscillating fan positioned away from the cot can help during the hotter months. Fans circulate the air and also provide white noise for baby, which can help them sleep more soundly. Research has demonstrated that oscillating fans can help to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in some circumstances.

What should baby wear?

Dress your baby as you would dress yourself for the temperature of the room – comfortably warm, not too hot, not too cold.

The right sleepwear can help keep baby comfortable and safe. A good option is Bonds Wondercool – the only baby clothing approved by Red Nose for safer sleep.

In warmer weather, you can dress baby in a sleeveless and legless onesies, or just a nappy and singlet. For cooler weather, a full suit will keep baby warm.

If you are using a sleeping bag, select the TOG that matches the temperature of the room. Use the manufacturer’s guide, which usually comes with the packaging, to select the right TOG and underclothes. Also make sure your sleeping bag is safe – it should be fitted around the neck, and baby’s arms fully out of the bag.

For younger babies being swaddled or wrapped, we recommend lightweight, fabrics such as muslin and cotton.

If you are using sheets and a blanket, make sure they are also lightweight and muslin or cotton fabric. But never place soft items in the cot such as lambswool or overlays, as these increase the risk of overheating.

When dressing baby for sleep, remember to dress baby for the temperature of the room – comfortably warm, not too hot and not too cold.

Check out our Safe Sleep Advice Hub for more information about safe sleeping, or you can ask our Safe Sleep Educators a question.

Last modified: 29/1/24