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Dressing a newborn

8-minute read

Key facts

  • Dress your baby so that they’re not too warm and not too cold, especially for sleep. Make sure they don’t overheat.
  • Choose close-fitting soft, cotton baby clothes that have a low fire danger label and no loose trimmings.
  • When you dress your baby for sleep, use a safe sleeping bag or light blankets and keep their head uncovered.
  • If you go outside in hot weather, put a sunhat on your baby and cover as much of their skin as you can with loose, light clothing or wraps.
  • Use a safe changing table and never leave your baby on it without an adult next to them.

How do I put clothes on my 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 their head first, then over their face. Do the same in reverse when taking it off.
  • Don't pull your baby's arms — this may cause them to pull back. Gently guide their arms 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 hold 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 may move and fidget more. Reassure and distract them with a toy, talking, making faces or singing a nursery rhyme.

Video provided by Raising Children Network.

Which clothes should I buy or borrow for my newborn baby?

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 0000 for newborns, 000 for 0 to 3 months of age and 00 for 3 to 6 months of age. Size 00000 is available for premature or very small babies. Some larger babies may fit into size 000 or even 00 clothes when they are born. You may like to buy clothes that your newborn will grow into soon and roll up the sleeves until they fit.

Babies have sensitive skin, so soft, cotton clothing is best.

Choose clothes for your newborn that are close-fitting and have a low fire danger label. Don’t choose clothes that are long and flowing, as they can catch fire more easily if these come into contact with a flame.

Remove any loose ribbons or decorations on clothing as this can be a choking risk. Make sure mittens, socks and bootees don’t contain loops or loose threads that could twist around your baby’s fingers or toes.

How should I dress my baby for sleep?

For safe sleeping, don’t let your newborn get too hot or too cold. If your baby gets too hot, this can increase their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).

Make sure your baby is dressed comfortably for the temperature of the room. Your baby’s tummy should feel warm. It’s normal for their hands and feet to feel cooler. If your baby’s skin is red or sweaty, this is a sign that they are too hot.

Babies control their temperature mostly through their head and face. 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.

If you swaddle (wrap) your baby, use a muslin or thin cotton wrap. Don’t overdress your baby underneath it.

Using a safe baby sleeping bag with fitted neck and armholes and no hood in place of a blanket, may reduce the risk of SUDI because it reduces the danger of bedclothes covering your baby's face. It also keeps their temperature at a more consistent level.

If you do use blankets for your baby, they should be made from lightweight muslin or cotton. Layer them, so you can add or remove blankets according to the temperature of the room. Find out more about how to use blankets safely.

How should I dress my baby in hot weather?

In hot weather, dress your baby in loose, light clothing such as a singlet and nappy. If you go outside, ensure they wear a sun hat and keep them in the shade to help protect your baby’s skin from sunburn.

If you go outside, try to cover as much of your baby’s skin as possible with loose and light clothing or wraps. Choose fabrics with a high UV protection factor (UPF). If there is no UPF rating, choose lightweight, closely-woven fabrics. Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months of age.

How should I dress my baby in cold weather?

In cold weather, dress your baby in layers, so you can remove some clothing when you are in a warmer place. Your baby will usually need to wear one more layer than you.

Babies mainly lose heat through their head, so put a hat on your baby if it’s cold outside. To prevent overheating, remove the hat as soon as you get indoors or into a warm car, bus or train, even if this wakes your baby up.

How do I keep my baby safe on the change table?

Make sure the surface you change your baby on is safe. A fall from the height of a change table can seriously injure a baby. Choose a change table that has raised edges around it, approximately 10cm higher than the surface that your baby lies on. You can also use a child safety harness if you have one available.

Never leave your baby on a change table without an adult next to them – even for a moment. If you need to do something urgently, take your baby with you.

Safety tips for baby change tables

  • Ensure the surface has no gaps within your baby's reach that could trap their fingers or other parts 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 you start to change your baby, so you won't need to leave them. If you need to get something, take your baby with you.
  • Keep one hand on your baby at all times, to prevent them rolling or wriggling off the change table.
  • Keep anything that could harm your baby away from their reach, including nappy creams or choking hazards. Remember that babies love to put things in their mouths.
  • Don't try to fix broken change table latches or locking mechanisms yourself. Take the table back to the manufacturer or discard it.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: October 2022

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