How to Dress a Baby

Four Parts:Putting on ClothingChoosing ClothingDressing for Warm WeatherDressing for Cold Weather

If your baby is uncomfortable, she may act fussy or irritable. Her delicate skin and undeveloped body are extra sensitive to textures and chemicals.[1] Overdressing can lead to overheating, and underdressing can leave your baby susceptible to cold, or even frostbite! To make getting your bundle of joy into clothing less of a chore, there are a few tricks you can use which, when combined with a comfy outfit, will result in a well protected, happy, dressed baby.

Part 1
Putting on Clothing

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    Lay out your baby's clothes ahead of time. This can be especially helpful if your child likes to wiggle about while you're dressing her. Be sure you have laid out her clothing and that it's well within reach to make the dressing process less of a hassle.
    • Clothing that uses snaps to fasten the garment in place can make the dressing process much easier on you.[2]
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    Support your baby while dressing. With very young infants, you will need to provide additional head support while dressing. This can be done by holding her in your lap while putting on clothing and allowing your legs to support her head.[3]
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    Pull limbs instead of pushing. Sleeves easily tangle around your young one's limbs. This can make the everyday task of dressing your child frustrating, but you should avoid pushing her tiny arms and legs into sleeves, as this can cause her to bend or twist a limb painfully.
    • Put your hand through the sleeve from the outside, take your baby's limb gently in your hand, and pull it through.[4]
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    Make room for the head. Young infants have little muscular control and require your support, particularly for the neck and head. When trying to fit her head into an article of clothing, stretch the neckline to give her as much clearance as she needs.
    • You should always try to pull clothing onto and off of your baby quickly, as blocked breathing can cause your little one to panic.[5]
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    Remove clothing in phases. Remove your baby's limbs from each sleeve individually while supporting her by the back of the head. Once the limbs are free, stretch the neckline wide enough so that it clears her chin and face. Then, simply lift the garment off.[6]

Part 2
Choosing Clothing

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    Give thought to using natural fibers. Cotton is lightweight and durable, which is perfect for the wear and tear associated with young children.[7][8] Some other great natural options you might want to consider for your child:
    • Fleece
    • Cashmere
    • Soft wool.[9]
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    Safeguard your baby against chemicals. Some dyes and fabric treatments are quite toxic, and your young one's developing body might be vulnerable to these.[10][11] You may need to look up clothing information before purchasing it. This will help you to determine whether or not the dyes and appliques used on it are nontoxic.
    • You can lessen the risk of exposing your child to dangerous chemicals by buying clothing from secondhand stores and dressing her in hand-me-downs. Repeated washings can diminish the chemicals in the clothing[12]
    • Avoid wrinkle free, anti-microbial, and stain resistant labels.[13]
    • Wash new clothing multiple times to remove residual and manufacturing chemicals.[14]
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    Optimize with snaps and zippers. Young children will need to have diapers changed frequently, and snaps in the crotch of your baby's one-piece will make this task much easier. Zippers or snaps down the front can also aid you in your child dressing responsibilities.[15]
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    Avoid choking hazards. As cute as you might think ribbons, knotted strings, and fabric accents will look on your baby, rough play or daily wear can tear these loose. If this occurs, your child could put a ribbon in her mouth and choke on it.[16]

Part 3
Dressing for Warm Weather

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    Prioritize clothing to diminish heat. In a heat wave, your baby can easily become overheated and fussy. Choose lightweight, loose fitting clothing that breathes to help prevent this. You should also avoid dark colors, as these absorb heat and can contribute to your child's overheating.[17][18]
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    Make use of hats. An umbrella or tree can keep the sun's damaging rays from leaving your child sunburned, but sometimes these options aren't available. A wide brimmed hat can keep your baby from getting too much sun while allowing her to play outside with her friends.[19]
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    Bring extra shoes and socks. Your baby might be different, but many young children prefer to take off shoes and socks in warm weather. The small size of these garments means that they can be easily misplaced. Having an extra pair on hand can be a lifesaver when play time's over and you're ready to redress your child and go.[20]
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    Apply sunscreen to your baby's skin. While you might think that your child's clothing should keep her sufficiently guarded against the sun, but an average cotton t-shirt is only rated at an SPF of five![21] Make sure she is wearing sunscreen before going out to play in warm, sunny weather.
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    Use well-ventilated baby carriers. The heat of the day can combine with your body heat to make the enclosed space of a baby carrier uncomfortable for your little one. Carriers made from nylon, or other light fabrics, can disperse this heat.[22]
    • If you notice that your child is looking more flushed than normal, she could potentially be overheating. Remove her from the carrier right away, and seek out a cooler location.[23]

Part 4
Dressing for Cold Weather

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    Layer your baby like you would yourself.[24] Especially if you live in areas that can be particularly cold, you're probably accustomed to wearing multiple layers to keep warm. It's generally a good idea to dress your baby in with the same number of layers you are wearing yourself.
    • You'll also want to bring along an extra sweater or blanket, just in case your child needs some additional warmth.
    • In exceptionally cold weather, you should opt for layers over a single "super warm" garment.
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    Be careful not to overbundle.[25] Feeling constricted or uncomfortably hot due to too many clothes can cause fussiness in your child. Some doctors assert that many babies are overdressed, citing the custom of many northern European countries to allow children out in the cold without heavy bundling with no measurable negative impact as proof.[26]
    • Check your child regularly while you learn the most comfortable amount of layers for her in the cold. Every child is different, and some will require more bundling than others.[27]
    • Feel your baby's skin temperature to see if she's overheating or chilled.[28]
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    Cover your baby's extremities. Your child could easily develop frostbite or frostnip on the head, face, ears, hands, and/or feet if she is not properly dressed for the cold.[29] Frostbite is where the skin gets too cold and freezes, and can be very dangerous to your child's health. To prevent this from happening, be sure she is fully equipped with winter gear, like:
    • Hat
    • Mittens
    • Scarf
    • Winter boots/booties
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    Watch for warning signs that your child is cold. If your baby's skin is cold to the touch, a blueish color develops in the skin, or she is crying or complaining more than usual, your child might need a break from the cold. Spend some time indoors and think about adding a layer of clothing or a fresh, dry pair of gloves to her winter clothes.[30]


  • Babies often outgrow clothing at a very fast rate. You might consider asking friends or relatives who have kids if they have any second-hand clothing you might use.
  • Follow tag washing instructions for sleepwear carefully; these garments are often treated to be flame-resistant, and improper washing can ruin this resistance.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Babies and Infants