In the Northeast region of the U.S., where I'm at, fall has officially come and the weather is finally getting cooler. I LOVE the sweater weather, so this is a-okay with me! Yes, I know that fall brings winter, but I don't want to think about that right now, okay? Just let me enjoy fall!
The cooler weather might mean that you need to dress your baby warmer for the night. Notice I said might? This is because the clothing your baby needs is based on your INDOOR temperatures. So, for example, if you have a well-insulated house that you keep set at 70 degrees all year long, then your child might not need much extra warmth added in the winter. Our house is an example of the opposite. We do keep our thermostat set at about the same all year (70-72). However, we don't have great insulation and two of the three bedrooms are directly above the garage. So, those rooms do get colder in the winter months and warmer in the summer months, regardless of what our thermostat says.
What should my baby wear to sleep?
It's actually easiest to base what your child needs to wear to bed on what you wear. If you wear the same exact thing to bed all year long, then your child likely can too. If you wear thicker/longer/warmer pajamas during the winter and add a blanket to your bed, then your child will need added warmth also. As a rule of thumb, dress your child similarly to yourself, with one added light layer. So for example, if you wear cotton long-sleeve and pants pajamas in the winter, and sleep with a sheet and a warm blanket on...then your child should be in long-sleeve cotton pajamas with socks (the added light layer) and a thicker sleep sack OR fleece footed pajamas and a medium sleep sack.
Not all babies love the feel of fleece on their skin. Also, fleece pajamas hold in heat differently than cotton ones do. So, if you do need to dress your baby warmer in the winter, but don't want to, or can't, use fleece pajamas, then a thicker TOG sleep sack will work to add warmth instead! What is TOG, you ask? TOG means "thermal overall grade." It is a rating system used to measure the insulation of sleepwear and bedding. The higher the TOG rating, the warmer the object is. The following graphic gives a bit more detail about what level of TOG you should use for the temperature in your baby's room.
What should my baby wear to bed in summer?
We use a sleep sack year-round here when the kids are under 2, because it's also a sleep prop. (As a side note- kids don't usually stay under a blanket until 2.5-3 years, so you can continue using a sleep sack until then. Unless, of course they are little Houdini's and get out of it no matter what you do, like my older two.) In the summer, my baby sleeps in a cotton short-sleeve-shirt and pants or shorts, with a very light muslin or cotton sleep sack. The sleep sack we use in the summer has a 0.5 TOG rating. For our older kids, they sleep in shorts and a T-shirt with a light blanket available if they need it.
What should my child wear in the fall and spring?
In our area, we have four seasons. In the spring and fall, it's definitely cooler, but not as cold as in the winter. So, in the spring and fall, my baby sleeps in cotton long-sleeve pajamas, with socks, and a 0.6 TOG rating sleep sack. For our older children, they sleep in a cotton long-sleeve-shirt and pants with a fleece blanket. Phoebe (2) doesn't wear a sleep sack anymore (she just takes it right off), but doesn't yet stay under her blanket either. Therefore, we tend to dress her a bit warmer by adding socks or using cotton footed pajamas.
What should my baby wear to bed in the winter?
Our winters can vary, so we gauge what they wear based on how cold it'll get overnight. On semi-cold nights, we put the baby in a cotton long-sleeve-shirt and pants, socks, and a 1.2 TOG sleep sack. On the really cold nights, we use footed pajamas and a 2.5 TOG sleep sack. For our older children, they sleep in cotton or fleece pajamas, with socks (or footed pajamas), a comforter, and the same fleece blanket they use year-round. Their Grammy made their blankets, so they're also kind of a lovey.
I'm a huge fan of Baby Deedee sleepsacks. I've tried quite a few, and these continue to be my favorite. You can get them on Amazon and they come in multiple different TOG weights, and different sizes and colors. Plus, they have snaps at the shoulders, which makes it easier to get a very wiggly or already sleeping baby into it. I've also used some thin, plain cotton ones.
When they were little babies, I used the Love to Dream transition swaddle, which is a swaddle that can turn into a sleep sack by zipping the arms off. This is my favorite for young babies until they really get the hang of sleeping in the wide-open space around them. That's when I switch to a more traditional sleep sack. Here are the sleepsacks we use for all of our kids:
Favorite Summer Sleep Sack (0.5 TOG): TILLYOU Breathable Cotton Wearable Blanket
Favorite Spring/Summer Sleep Sack (0.6 TOG): Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Lite
Favorite Swaddle/Sleep Sack for Young Babies (1.0 TOG): Love to Dream Transitional Swaddle
Favorite Winter Sleep Sacks: Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Fleece (1.2 TOG) and/or
Baby Deedee Sleep Nest Warm (2.5 TOG)
(These are not affiliate links. Most are also available on Amazon and some at Target. For the record, I don't recommend any gimmicky sleep sacks that promise to change your child's sleep just by using it (ie. Nested Bean, Magic Merlin, etc.)
Every area, and even every home, is different. It's best to gauge what your child needs to wear, in any season, on what you would wear to bed in that season. Do you need to change your child's pajamas for the seasons, or can you get away with keeping it the same? Drop any questions in the comments!
~Ashley Bell, pediatric sleep consultant