What is a Blanket Sleeper? How to Choose Blanket Sleepers for Babies

Baby in Blanket Sleeper
Getty Images / Compassionate Eye Foundation / Siri Stafford

Blanket sleepers for babies have been appearing on baby gift registries and at baby showers for generations now. These toasty pajamas can help streamline the number of items on or near baby at bedtime. But what are they?

A baby blanket sleeper is a one-piece outfit for night-time that helps keep baby warm and comfortable without adding extra blankets. Infant sleepers made of thinner material may also be called stretch-suits,  one-piece pajamas, or footie pajamas, while thicker versions are generally called blanket sleepers.

Separate thick blankets and bedding are not recommended for babies because of the risk of suffocation and entangement, but newborn babies still need to be protected from chilly night air. Typically, babies need about one additional layer of clothing beyond what an adult would wear in the same temperature. That's where the blanket sleeper comes in handy. These garments usually have long sleeves and long legs to chase away chills. Often, sleepers even cover a baby's feet, and many feature snaps or zippers at the legs to make diaper changes easier. Sleepers come in a variety of materials, from airy cotton to thick fleece, which means there is an infant sleeper for any season.

One of the most popular blanket sleepers for babies is the Gerber Blanket Sleeper (Buy on Amazon.com), which is available in loads of patterns and colors for boys and girls from newborn through toddlers.

How to Choose the Best Blanket Sleepers for Babies

When choosing a blanket sleeper for your baby, there are a few things to consider.

First is night time diaper changes. Choose a blanket sleeper that opens fully at the bottom so that you don't need to fight with it to take off a yucky diaper. Baby and child pajamas are supposed to be tight fitting or made of flame-retardant fabric to meet federal safety standards. If the blanket sleeper is of the tight-fitting style, take an extra minute to evaluate the diaper change situation!

Zippers that open the front of the sleeper fully and extend down one leg might work, but may also wake your baby when they're opened and cooler air flows inside the whole thing, especially if you also have to take baby's legs out of the sleeper to change the diaper. Versions that zip or snap around the inside of baby's legs and up to the diaper area may be easier for stealthy night-time diaper changing.

Make sure the fabric is easy to wash and dry. Nighttime diaper accidents and spit up can happen often in the first months. Quick clean up and non-fussy washing instructions are essential. If the sleeper is intended to be worn alone, check to see if there are any exposed zippers or snaps that might feel rough against baby's skin, and see if the fabric is soft on the inside, as well.

Keep in mind the advice above - that your baby only needs to be a little warmer than you do at night. The usual daytime advice is one layer more than the adults are wearing. That means, unless you're sleeping outdoors in the winter, your baby probably doesn't need three layers of ultra polar fleece to be comfortable at night. In fact, overly heavy blanket sleepers could overheat your baby, which isn't healthy, and could result in a very sweaty and miserable baby, too.

Wearable Blanket Offers Style Alternative

A newer style of blanket sleeper is the sleep sack or sleep bag. These sleepers also take the place of a separate blanket for your baby, but they are used over the top of regular lightweight pajamas. They can also be worn over non-pajama comfy clothes, such as a one-piece bodysuit or a baby t-shirt. The bottom of the sleep sack doesn't have separate leg compartments, but instead is like an enclosed skirt. This style is also known as a wearable blanket. Some wearable blankets are also designed to swaddle your baby. One of the most popular wearable blankets is the Halo SleepSack (Buy on Amazon).

Sleepers for Older Babies

Sleepers are a good choice for older babies and toddlers, too, especially those who move around a lot and kick off their sheets or covers.

For babies who are mobile, the wearable blanket style might be hard to walk in if your little one can get out of bed on his or her own. Make sure your little one can walk easily in the sleeper if he or she is likely to wander down the hall at night. If the sleeper has enclosed feet, be sure there's non-slip coating on them to prevent those little feet from skidding around in the dark.