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Dressing Your Newborn

When dressing your baby, supporting her on your lap, stretch the garment neckline and pull it over your baby’s head. Use your fingers to keep it from catching on her face or ears.

Don’t try to push your baby’s arm through the sleeve. Instead, put your hand into the sleeve from the outside, grasp your baby’s hand, and pull it through.

When undressing, take off the sleeves one at a time while you support your baby’s back and head.

Then stretch the neckline, lifting it free of your baby’s chin and face as you gently slip it off.


Unless the temperature is hot (over 75 degrees Fahrenheit [23.88 degrees Celsius]), your newborn will need several layers of clothing to keep her warm. It’s generally best to dress her in an undershirt and diapers, covered by pajamas or a dressing gown, and then wrap her in a receiving blanket. If your baby is premature, she may need still another layer of clothing until her weight reaches that of a full-term baby and her body is better able to adjust to changes in temperature. In hot weather you can reduce her clothing to a single layer. A good rule of thumb is to dress the baby in one more layer of clothing than you are wearing to be comfortable in the same environment.

If you’ve never taken care of a newborn baby before, the first few times you change her clothes can be quite frustrating. Not only is it a struggle to get that tiny little arm through the sleeve, but your infant may shriek in protest through the whole process. She doesn’t like the rush of air against her skin, nor does she enjoy being pushed and pulled through garments. It may make things easier for both of you if you hold her on your lap while changing the upper half of her body, then lay her on a bed or changing table while doing the lower half. When you’re dressing her in one-piece pajamas, pull them over her legs before putting on the sleeves. Pull T-shirts over her head first, then put one arm at a time through the sleeves. Use this opportunity to ask “Where’s the baby’s hand?” As she gets older this will turn into a game, with her pushing her arm through just to hear you say, “There’s the baby’s hand!”

Certain clothing features can make dressing much easier. Look for garments that

  • Snap or zip all the way down the front, instead of the back
  • Snap or zip down both legs to make diaper changes easier
  • Have loose-fitting sleeves so your hand fits underneath to push the baby’s arm through
  • Have no ribbons or strings to knot up, unravel, or wrap around the neck (which could cause choking)
  • Are made of stretchy fabric (avoid tight bindings around arms, legs, or neck)


During the first few weeks, your baby will spend most of her time wrapped in a receiving blanket. Not only does this keep her warm, but the slight pressure around the body seems to give most newborns a sense of security. To swaddle, spread the blanket out flat, with one corner folded over. Lay the baby face-up on the blanket, with her head at the folded corner.

Wrap the left corner over her body and tuck it beneath her. Bring the bottom corner up over her feet, and then wrap the right corner around her, leaving only her head and neck exposed.  

Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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