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Dressing a newborn

5-minute read

When dressing your newborn, there are a few things to consider, such as which clothes to use, how to dress them and how to ensure the change table is safe.

Getting clothes for your newborn

Babies grow fast so you may prefer to buy just a few items of clothing in each infant size range. In Australia, the common size range for infant clothes is 000 for 0 to 3 months and 00 for 3 to 6 months. Some larger babies may fit 00 clothes when first born. You may like to buy clothes that your newborn will grow into soon, and roll up the sleeves until they fit.

Choose clothes for your newborn that have a low fire danger label and are close-fitting rather than long and flowing, since these can come into contact with flame and catch fire more easily.

Baby change tables

Make sure the surface you change your baby on is safe. A fall from a height of 1.5m or more can seriously injure a baby, so use roll-off protection on a baby change table. This may include raised edges around the change table, approximately 10cm above the surface that your baby is lying on. Alternatively, you could use a child safety harness if available.

Tips for baby change tables

  • Ensure the surface has no gaps within your baby's reach that could trap their fingers or other part of their body.
  • If your change table is foldable, make sure the locking devices work well and are strong so the table won't collapse.
  • Have everything ready before changing so you won't have to leave your baby. If you need to fetch something, take your baby with you.
  • Try to keep one hand on your baby at all times to prevent them rolling or wriggling off the change table, particularly as they get older.
  • Keep anything that could harm your baby away from their reach.
  • If broken, don't try to mend change table latches or locking mechanisms yourself. Take the table back to the manufacturer or discard it.

Dressing your baby for bed

For safe sleeping, don’t let your newborn get too hot or cold because this can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other forms of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). If you swaddle (wrap) your baby, use a muslin or thin cotton wrap, not a blanket, and don’t overdress your baby underneath it. For sleepwear, your baby should need the same number of clothing layers and blankets as you. Your baby’s back or tummy should feel warm and it’s normal for their hands and feet to feel cooler.

Babies regulate their temperature mostly through their head so to prevent them from overheating, don't cover your baby's head. Avoid putting them to bed with a bib or anything else that could cover their face or be a choking hazard.

A safe baby sleeping bag with fitted neck and armholes and no hood may reduce the risk of SUDI because it reduces the danger of bed clothes covering your baby's face. It also keeps their temperature at a more constant level.

If you use blankets for your baby, dress them according to the temperature of the room, since they can kick the blankets off during the night.

Dressing your baby in hot or cold weather

In hot weather dress your baby in loose, light clothing such as a singlet and nappy or loose top. If outside, ensure they wear a sun hat and sunscreen.

In cold weather dress your baby in layers so you can remove some clothing when you are in a warmer place. Babies lose heat faster than adults, particularly as the surface area of their head is relatively larger, so ensure that they wear a hat. To prevent overheating, remove the hat or hoodie as soon as you get indoors or into a warm car, bus or train, even if this wakes your baby up.

Tips for dressing your baby

The video below, from Raising Children Network, gives you some ideas about how to put clothes on your baby. It's important to be gentle, even if your baby is wriggling.

  • Put your baby's singlet over the back of the head first, then the face. Do the same in reverse when taking it off.
  • Don't pull your baby's arms because they will pull back. Gently guide the arm through the sleeves.
  • For long sleeves, bunch up the sleeve and stretch it to create a wider hole. Then reach through the hole to gently grasp your baby's hand and slide the sleeve on.
  • Do one arm first, then gently roll and slightly lift the baby while sliding the rest of the outfit underneath. Then do the other arm.
  • When babies are older they move and fidget more so reassure and distract them with something they can play with, singing, making faces or a nursery rhyme.

Video provided by Raising Children Network.

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Last reviewed: June 2020


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Newborn clothes & dressing a newborn | Raising Children Network

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

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