This blog post was reviewed by Dr. Pierrette Poinsett
A veteran board-certified pediatrician with three decades of experience. She holds an MD from the University of Chicago and a BS in Chemical Engineering from The University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Poinsett is a diplomat of the American Board of Pediatrics.
Dressing your baby should be simple and straightforward, right? You would assume that all you need is some common sense to carry out this task. While how to dress your newborn may not be top of mind as you prepare for the arrival of your little one, parents often find themselves obsessing about it at bedtime and throughout the night.
For the first few years in your child’s life, they will spend at least half of their day sleeping so it is important that we make choices that help them sleep safely and comfortably . Baby sleep can be complicated, particularly in the early days. Infants are not very good at regulating their own temperature and overheating has been linked to an increased risk of SIDS  so learning how to dress your baby for a good night’s sleep (baby’s and yours) can save parents a whole lot of stress.
The ideal body temperature for newborns falls between the range of 97.7 °F to 99.5 °F (36.5 °C and 37.5 °C). “Newborns, particularly preterm and low-birth weight (LBW) infants, have limited capacity for thermoregulation during the first weeks of life. The optimal environmental temperature is termed thermal neutral temperature, at which metabolic requirements of the organism are minimal” .
So how do you take the above into consideration when designing your newborn’s sleep environment? You have two levers to control your baby’s body temperature: (1) nursery temperature and (2) their sleep clothes.
General approach - use layers: Whether you are getting your baby ready for naps or to sleep at night, generally it is best to dress your baby in layers. Layers provide insulation but they are also quick and easy to remove or add, to find the perfect comfort level. Again, the general rule of thumb for dressing your baby should be wearing one more layer compared to you.
Avoid beanies: Remember that no matter how cold, it is not a good idea to let your baby sleep with a beanie at night. Babies self regulate by releasing heat through the head so wearing a beanie to sleep could lead to overheating, as well as other risks such as covering their faces if it’s too big .
Swaddles: For sleep, wrapping your newborn baby in a final layer with a thin cotton or muslin blanket is a great way to help them sleep better. Known as swaddling, this technique helps soothe infants and promote sleep because it keeps them feeling snug which reminds them of their mother’s womb, and it also calms their startle reflex [5, 6].
Key things to remember about swaddling:
Sleep sack: When your little one has transitioned out of the swaddle, a sleep sack aka a sleep bag, is the ideal final layer for your baby’s sleep. AAP as American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)advises against using loose blankets in a crib , so a wearable blanket, aka sleep sack, will quickly become your new favorite baby item, we promise!
Swaddle blankets and sleep sacks come in a wide range of sizes, thickness and material.
Choosing the right one to dress your baby in is imperative as the goal here is to keep baby feeling cozy and comfortable; not so warm that they could overheat.
Safe sleep reminder: Babies should always be put to sleep on their back at all times, on a firm mattress in an empty crib that is without any loose bedding, bumper cushions, or toys. Research has shown that babies who sleep like this, are at a lower risk of SIDS. 
TOG is short for “Thermal Overall Grade”, which is a unit of measurement that is used to calculate the thermal insulation of a piece of textile. This framework was launched in the 1960s by the Shirley Institute in the UK, now known as BTTG, and has quickly become the standardized measurement used to calculate warmth and weight of a garment in the textile industry .
TOG Ratings, and the TOG Chart, were introduced for parents to use as a guide to dress their babies and to reduce the incidence of SIDS. In our sleep sack example, a lighter sleep sack will have a lower TOG rating, while a warmer, thicker sleep sack will have a higher TOG rating.
IMPORTANT: TOG Charts are based on the temperature in the baby’s room, NOT the weather outside! We created the TOG Chart below to help you easily figure out how to dress your baby for sleep depending on the temperature in their room:
Guides for dressing babies for sleep before and after they start to roll over:
While the TOG Rating Chart is incredibly helpful, nothing replaces physically looking over your baby to check their comfort level and temperature. Signs that your baby might be too warm include the following:
These are all signs that they are overdressed and it will be a good idea to immediately remove one layer of clothing for them or lower the temperature in the room. Don’t base your baby’s body temperature on their hands and feet though, because it is normal for extremities to be cooler which means they are not representative of your little one’s overall temperature .
We know that as first time parents, there is so much information being bombarded at you all at once and it can get overwhelming. While there is a lot to learn, you’ll quickly realize that baby’s bedtime and sleep is extremely important, both for your little one and for you. If you find yourself in doubt about how to dress your baby at bedtime, or you’re waking up several times at night to check your baby’s temperature, following the guidance of the TOG rating system can reduce a lot of that unnecessary stress. TOG ratings and the TOG Charts were invented precisely for this purpose, so that you can worry less and feel more confident about how to dress your baby for sleep.