Dressing a newborn for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience, but it doesn’t have to be! Knowing how to safely dress and undress your newborn, you will feel more confident as you care for your newborn each day. You will need to consider the temperature to ensure your newborn’s safety and comfort, especially in extreme temperatures. Following some important safety tips can also help you choose clothes for your newborn.
Method #1: Dressing and Undressing a Newborn
1. Place your baby on a sturdy surface or on your lap.
Your newborn will need to be lying down while you change their clothes, so designate a flat, sturdy surface for these clothing changes. You can also use your lap as a changing surface when your baby is still a newborn. This may help them to feel more secure.
- You may want to invest in a changing table or at least a contoured changing pad to use for clothing and diaper changes. You will spend a lot of time changing your baby’s clothes and diapers, so this is a good investment.
- Set up your changing station so that you will not have to bend or kneel for clothing and diaper changes because this will be hard on your back.
2. Stretch shirt and onesie necklines to help them fit over your newborn’s head.
When putting on or taking off a shirt or onesie, make sure to stretch the neckline with your hands. Newborns do not like having things put over their heads, and they may fuss or cry. Stretching the neckline will help to make putting a shirt on and taking it off easier for your baby and for you.
- Some shirts and onesies also have buttons near the neckline that you can undo to make it easier to get them over your baby’s head.
3. Lay your newborn on top of unbuttoned or unzipped clothes.
Prepare the clothing you want your newborn to wear for easy dressing by unbuttoning or unzipping it and placing it on the changing table with the fabric open. This will allow you to lay your newborn on top of the pajamas, shirt, or onesie and easily put their legs and arms into the legs and sleeves.
4. Put your baby’s feet into the pajama bottoms first.
Insert your newborn’s feet into their pajama bottoms before putting their arms into the sleeves. Button or zip the bottoms up to keep them on while you work on the sleeves.
- If the pants you want to put on your newborn are separate from the top, put the onesie on first and then put on the pants.
5. Pull your baby’s hand through the sleeve.
Don’t try to push your baby’s arm through the sleeve of a shirt, onesie, or other piece of clothing. Insert your index and middle fingers and thumb in through the sleeve and grasp your baby’s hand. Then, gently pull your baby’s hand through the sleeve.
- When putting on a onesie or shirt that goes over your baby’s head, pull the fabric down around their body after you get it over their head. Then, reach through the sleeves and gently guide their arms through the sleeves by grasping their hands.
6. Secure the buttons or zipper.
After your baby’s arms and legs are in the clothing properly, adjust the fabric around their waist and neck as needed and secure the buttons or zipper. Make sure to secure the buttons so that they are lined up properly. If the clothing zips up, be careful not to catch your newborn’s skin in the zipper and make sure the zipper pull is facing down and away from their face. Most zippered outfits have a flap of fabric to goes over the zipper to protect your newborn’s face from this hard metal piece.
- Onesies usually button at the crotch. Pull the fabric down around their waist and hips and then secure the buttons between their legs.
7. Include a pair of socks if your newborn’s clothes do not have footies.
It is important to keep your newborn’s feet covered. If you are dressing your newborn in a pair of pants or pajamas that include footies, then you don’t need to worry about socks. However, if the pants do not have footies, then put a pair of socks on your newborn’s feet to keep them warm.
- Check your newborn’s socks often to ensure that they are still on. Babies can easily kick off their socks, especially if the socks are a bit big on them.
- You may also include legwarmers over your newborn’s pants to keep them warm when going outside. As an added bonus, these may help to keep your baby’s socks on.
8. Put thin mittens on your baby’s hands to prevent them from scratching.
Babies have sharp little fingernails that grow very quickly, and they often rub their faces, which can result in scratches. Your newborn may scratch their face so much that they leave marks or even break the skin. If you have noticed your infant scratching their face often, then placing thin mittens on your newborn will prevent them from hurting themselves.
- These thin mittens are helpful for protecting your baby’s face when they are newborns, but they will eventually learn how to pull off the mittens as they grow and develop.
Method #2: Adjusting for Temperature
1. Use the 1 more layer rule to dress your baby.
A good rule of thumb to remember when dressing your baby is to include 1 more layer than you are wearing. This rule can help you to dress your baby so that they will be comfortable.
- For example, if you are comfortable in 1 layer of clothing, such as a pair of sweatpants and a long sleeved shirt, then your newborn will need 2 layers, such as an undershirt and a pair of long sleeve pajamas.
- For babies who are premature, include 2 extra layers.
2. Opt for multiple layers in cold weather.
Newborns lose body heat easily, so it is important to keep them warm. The best way to do this is to layer your newborn’s clothing and add/subtract layers as needed.
- For example, you can dress your newborn in a long sleeve onesie with a light cardigan or sweater over it. This way you can remove the cardigan if it gets to warm in your home, or add another layer if you need to take your baby out, such as a coat or pair of button down pajamas.
- Make sure to include a hat to keep your newborn’s head warm. Hats are especially important in cold weather because newborns lose much of their body heat through their heads.
3. Reduce your baby’s clothes to a single layer in warm weather.
When temperatures rise and you feel like wearing as little clothing as possible, you can reduce the amount of clothing your newborn is wearing to a single layer, such as a short sleeved onesie. You may include a light cotton hat or skullcap as well.
- When the weather is warm, dress your newborn in a lightweight pair of cotton pajamas at night.
4. Include outerwear for going outside.
If you plan to head outside for a walk or even just to take your newborn to your car or to the bus stop, make sure to include extra layers and outerwear. This is especially important in cold weather so that your newborn will be warm enough. It is also a good idea to drape a blanket over your infant’s car seat to protect them from the elements.
- Include a hat, mittens, coat, warm pants, and booties when going outside with your newborn in cold weather.
- Put a sunhat on your newborn to protect their head if you go outside when it is sunny.
- Also, cover your baby from neck to toes with a blanket if you will be taking them outside in cold weather. Make sure to tuck the blanket around your baby so that they cannot flip it up onto their face.
5. Check your baby’s skin to ensure they are not too hot.
Overheating is a serious problem because it may increase your newborn’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). To ensure that your baby is not overheated, check their skin every few hours or any time you suspect they may be warm. If your baby’s skin feels hot or sweaty, then your baby is likely too warm. Remove a layer of clothing or switch your baby to a lighter fabric, such as a cotton pajama instead of a fleece pajama.
Method #3: Dressing a Newborn Safely
1. Choose clothing made from 100% cotton.
Cotton is a breathable fabric and it is unlikely to irritate your baby’s skin, so this is a great option for your baby. Organic cotton may be even gentler on your newborn’s skin, but it can be quite expensive.
- Avoid synthetic fabrics, which may lead to irritation or overheating.
2. Choose clothing that is easy to put on and take off.
Newborns do not usually enjoy getting dressed and undressed, and they may fuss and cry throughout the dressing and undressing process. Clothes that are hard to put on and take off of your newborn may make matters worse, so opt for clothing that will be easy to put on and take off. This will make life easier on both of you. Some good options include:
- Shirts, onesies, and pajamas that snap down the front.
- Pants and sleeper pajamas with built-in feet.
- Shirts or onesies with snaps or buttons around the neckline.
3. Remove extra layers when coming from outdoors to indoors.
If you have added multiple layers to keep your baby warm during a trip outside, make sure to remove these extra layers as soon as you come back indoors. This will help to prevent overheating.
- For example, if your baby is wearing a coat and knit hat along with their sleeper pajamas, then take off the coat and knit hat. Replace the knit hat with a lighter one for indoor wear, such as a cotton hat.
4. Use a sleep sack to keep your newborn warm at night.
Sleep sacks are safer than blankets for keeping your baby warm at night. Include a sleep sack as part of your baby’s sleep outfit. In cold weather, put a fleece sleep sack on over your baby’s pajamas. In warm weather, put a light muslin or cotton sleep sack over your baby’s cotton onesie.
5. Avoid clothing that might be dangerous.
Some types of clothing pose a serious risk to your newborn’s health and should be avoided altogether. Other types of clothing may simply make it harder for you to change your newborn’s clothing and diapers.
- Tight fitting clothing that does not stretch. These types of clothing may restrict your newborn’s breathing and circulation.
- Clothing with cords or strings. These can wrap around your newborn’s neck and put them at risk of choking.
- Clothing that zips or buttons in the back instead of in the front. These will make diaper and clothing changes more difficult.
- Legs that do not zip or button down. These will make diaper changes more difficult.