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How To Dress Your Newborn: Expert Tips

Posted on June 18, 2024 by Henry Ford Health Staff
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One walk through the baby clothing department is enough to make any new parent’s head spin. But your baby’s first wardrobe doesn’t have to be complicated (or overly expensive). 

Once you know how to dress your baby based on the climate and environment, you can determine which items you need and which you can skip. Sarah Lavery, R.N., prenatal education coordinator at Henry Ford Health, outlines a few basic guidelines to make dressing your baby easier.

Baby’s First Hours: Skin-to-Skin

You already own the best “outfit” for your baby in their first hours of life: your skin. “Skin-to-skin contact is the best way to help your newborn regulate their body temperature,” says Lavery. “Your little one has to adjust to room temperatures much cooler than the womb they just left. Your body provides the perfect amount of warmth without overheating.”

To enjoy skin-to-skin benefits with your baby, undress them down to the diaper and remove your shirt. Place baby on your chest and cover both of you with a light blanket. 

Newborn Clothing Checklist

Skin-to-skin is great at home, but if you’ll be out and about, you need to know how to choose the right outfit for your baby. “Babies don’t need fancy frills—they just need to be comfortable,” says Lavery. 

In your baby’s first few months of life, your baby will typically need:

1. Car seat cover

A cover designed to fit over your baby’s car seat can block the cold wind when you’re running from place to place. “A car seat cover is safer than a blanket, which your baby could kick off or pull over their face,” explains Lavery.

2. Coat or snowsuit (in cold climates)

If your baby will be outside when it’s cold, consider getting an infant coat with built-in mittens. But don’t put a thick coat on your baby if they’ll be in a car. “Bundling up for a car ride can overheat your baby and will interfere with the car seat's safety,” says Lavery.

3. Cotton onesies

Cotton is soft and breathable, and a onesie snaps in place to stay put through all your baby’s wiggling. “Onesies can be great on their own for hot days,” says Lavery. “Use them as a base layer if it’s cool.”

4. Footies or socks

Baby’s feet get cold easily, so cover them up unless it’s very warm. “If their socks tend to fall off, try pants with built-in footies,” suggests Lavery.

5. Hat

Beyond the first day or two of life, babies don’t need to wear hats 24/7. “If it’s cold, slip a beanie on your baby. Otherwise, skip it because they could overheat,” advises Lavery.

6. One-piece pajamas

Sleepers are quick outfits for sleep or play and are easy to put on and take off. “One-piece sleepers make dressing your baby simple,” says Lavery. “Fleecy, long ones keep baby cozy in cold weather and short cotton ones are great for warm days.”

7. Sleep sack

A sleep sack is a great way to cozy baby up for nap time. “If your baby needs a blanket for sleeping, a sleep sack is a safe alternative to blankets,” says Lavery. “Newborns may also benefit from sleep sacks that include a Velcro swaddle if they’re not rolling over yet.”

8. Soft pants

Elastic-waist pants are easy to slip on and off for diaper changes (and pair well with onesies for a quick, comfy outfit). “Buttons, zippers and tight-waisted pants may not be as comfortable for babies,” suggests Lavery.

9. Sweaters or cardigans

When the temperature drops, your baby will need some extra layers. “Cardigans with snaps layer well over onesies, and you don’t have to pull them over your baby’s head,” Lavery says.

Dressing Your Baby for Any Season

In addition to choosing the right clothes, you can avoid overheating or chilling your baby if you:

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  • Add one layer: A good rule of thumb is to dress your baby as you would dress, plus one extra layer.
  • Avoid drafts: Don’t place your baby in the line of a fan, heater, air conditioner or breezy window.
  • Check on them: Periodically feel your baby’s face or exposed skin. If they feel cool, add a light layer (and give them a snuggle). If they feel too warm, remove a layer and move them to a cooler place. Watch for red or sweaty skin—signs that they’re too hot. Blotchy skin can mean your baby is cold.
  • Get a good fit: Clothing that’s too tight can make babies hot, but overly loose clothes can let too much heat out.
  • Keep them dry: Wet clothes can quickly chill a baby, so change them into dry clothes any time they get wet.

When in Doubt, Ask 

Caring for a new baby is a big job, but you’re not alone. Your pediatrician and healthcare team are here to answer your questions about anything—from dressing your baby to feeding and sleeping. 

“Choosing the right clothes for your baby is important because it avoids chills or overheating,” says Lavery. “We’re happy to offer tips on how to dress your baby so you can both be comfortable and happy.”


Reviewed by Sarah Lavery, a registered nurse and the Prenatal Education Coordinator for the West Bloomfield Birthing Unit at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

Categories : ParentWell
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