Let's begin with room temperature. The room your newborn sleeps in should stay within 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. With that temperature range, I hope you see that you do not need a heavy blanket for a newborn. They easily become overheated, so a lightweight two-layer system works okay. You will know if your baby is getting overheated if they are sweating or red. If they are too cold, you will observe their hands losing color or getting bluish. My best advice is to keep them fully covered with lightweight materials.
Now, what should your baby wear to sleep besides their diaper?
- A t-shirt OR a gown OR a cotton sleeper OR a bodysuit (onesie) are perfectly adequate as a first layer of covering for a newborn.
- Don't forget socks on their feet.
- A cap on their head during that first week helps newborns maintain their body temperature better.
- Mittens are helpful to protect your baby from scratching their face.
- Some type of second layer of covering, like a sleeper, sleep sack, or swaddle (see below).
A wearable blanket is called a sleeper. Sleepers are full body PJ's that have sleeves, legs, and usually feet. If you put your baby in a gown, then you may opt for a wearable blanket sack or bag. The sleep sacks have arm holes or sleeves with a neck hole, and the legs are free in a sack bottom. Then they zip up or down to close. Another option for clothing is dress your baby in a cotton sleeper or bodysuit (onesie), then use a wearable blanket or swaddle as a second layer.
If you cloth diaper, I recommend using the diaper and t-shirt combo with a fleece or micro-fleece wearable blanket option. Sometimes you have leaks in cloth diapers, and keeping cotton items away from your baby's bottom will prevent them from wicking moisture to their trunk. Fleece does not hold moisture, so it will not wick moisture, and it will stay dry. Along with that, I recommend using fleece fitted sheets for bedding to prevent moisture wicking. This combination will ensure that your baby stays dry while you are figuring out the right amount of cloth and covers to use to keep up with your baby's needs at night. I have cloth diapered for four years now, and this is the best recommendation I can give.
Swaddling also helps your newborn sleep better during the first two months. (Note: The National Task Force on SIDS does not recommend swaddling past 2 months of age due to some babies being able to roll over at that time.) Swaddling is wrapping your newborn's arms snugly so they can't easily move them. Do not make the mistake of trying to wrap their legs tightly, as you can hurt them.
There are so many options for swaddling that I will just mention your options and considerations for each one. Remember that a swaddle would be considered your second layer of clothing for a newborn. Keep that in mind so you don't over or under-dress them for sleep. You might consider dressing your baby in a cotton sleeper or bodysuit for their clothing when swaddling as a second layer.
- Muslin or cotton swaddle blanket - 42 in. by 42 in. ensures you can adequately wrap your baby. To learn how to wrap your baby with a swaddle blanket, I recommend Harvey Karp's swaddling method.
- Sleep sack swaddle - There are wearable sleep sacks that have wings to wrap your baby's arms down at their side. The wings usually close with velcro. Summer Infant makes a budget-friendly option, called the SwaddleMe. I personally like the Halo line Sleepsack Swaddle. Some babies are quite active that they can break out of these velcro-based swaddles eventually. If you have a "break-out baby," you might consider swaddling with one hand near the face, if it is a particular arm that gets loose, OR move on to a more advanced (and more expensive) swaddle -- see below.
- Breakout baby swaddles - For babies that are especially active and easily get out of swaddles, you might consider the following (expensive) options. The Miracle Blanket Swaddle has a very, very long wing for securing your baby's arms. In fact, it has two wings to secure both arms. I have mixed feelings about this swaddle because I had issues with it riding up my baby's chin. Another one to consider is the Woombie which is a snug sack that just zips all the way. Finally, there is the SwaddleUp by Love to Dream which allows you to swaddle your baby with both arms up.
Finally, I cannot emphasize safety enough. Make sure you use swaddles that are appropriate for your baby's size. Unlike other baby clothes, do NOT size UP on swaddles. Though you will see recommendations all over that swaddling is great for babies up through 4 months of age, the National Task Force on SIDS does not recommend swaddling beyond 2 months because some babies (like my active little guy) can roll over at 2 months old. To transition your newborn away from swaddling AND keep your baby from waking themselves up with flailing arms, I recommend the Zipadee Zip transition swaddle.
Since all babies and moms are different, I recommend getting at least one of each kind of swaddle to try out versus investing in a bunch of one kind, only to find out that it doesn't work well for your situation. Note: There are NO affiliate links in this post.
I have an upcoming online webinar class on gentle sleep training for newborns so that they can sleep 6 to 12 hours straight through by 4 months of age. Once my family's move settles out, I will announce a date. Meanwhile, check out the overview for Newborn Sleep Success.
For those of you with newborns, which swaddle did you find worked best for your baby?