When your precious one starts to run a fever, all you want to do is make them as comfortable as possible.
This is easy to do during the daytime when you can monitor their temperature and observe their behavior, but it can take a little more thought at nighttime, specifically when it comes to dressing them comfortably enough for bed.
Babies with a fever should be dressed in one lightweight layer of clothing. Ideally, this should be 100% cotton pajamas or a cotton sleep sack with only their diaper underneath. Avoid using swaddling blankets until their temperature starts to come down as this could risk overheating.
It can be daunting when your little one has a fever. Fortunately, high body temperatures are mostly harmless and can be easily managed at home.
Keep reading to find out how to help your baby sleep a little more soundly with a fever, when to check and treat their fever, natural recovery methods, and more.
Nighttime Fever in Babies
It’s natural to be concerned when your baby is sleeping with a fever, but fevers are usually harmless and can be managed at home.
To help you learn more, we’ve answered some pressing questions relating to this from what counts as a fever, when to let your child sleep, and when to treat the fever.
What Is Considered a Fever in Babies?
From newborn to 2 years old, a fever is considered a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) from a rectal thermometer or 99°F (37.22°C) using an armpit thermometer.
It’s important to contact your healthcare provider if your baby is under 3 months and has a fever.
Is Sleeping With a Fever Dangerous?
Allowing your little one as much sleep and rest as they need is a good thing, and though it won’t directly improve the fever itself, sleep can help their immune system fight off infection better.
Sleeping with a fever is fine (and is recommended to ensure the body gets the rest it needs) unless your child is a newborn or has underlying medical conditions.
Keep an eye out for when a fever could be a sign of something serious.
Should I Let My Child Sleep With a Fever?
Absolutely. Though it can be nerve-wracking, parents should allow feverish babies to rest and recover, so it’s more important to let them sleep than to monitor their temperature throughout the night.
When To Treat Baby Fever
A good rule of thumb is to treat your baby’s fever if it causes them discomfort – this normally goes for anything higher than a low-grade fever (100-102°F).
A high fever can cause your little one to feel pretty miserable with aches, sweating, and headaches, so it’s fine to administer appropriate medicine every few hours in the name of comfort.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are the most effective for treating fever in babies and young children. Just be sure to speak to your pediatrician before administering any medications.
How To Dress Baby With Fever at Night
Babies tend to sleep best when they are neither too hot nor too cold, so stick to dressing your little one in lightweight clothing if they have a fever.
This could be a diaper beneath a light, breathable cotton onesie or 100% cotton pajamas.
Avoid dressing them in beanies or heavy, high-TOG swaddles (even in winter), and instead, focus on maintaining a comfortable room temperature for them.
Chief Medical Officer at Blueberry Pediatrics Dr. Lyndsey Garbi also advises dressing your baby in socks to prevent chills.
Should You Swaddle a Baby With a Fever?
As swaddles can be quite warm and restrictive, perhaps wait until your little one’s temperature starts to drop. You can then swaddle them in light material such as a cotton muslin blanket.
One mom on the Baby Center community forum shared that her son slept swaddled comfortably in a muslin blanket with just a diaper beneath.
How Often Should I Check My Child’s Fever at Night?
There is no recommended frequency for checking your child’s temperature at night.
It’s better to base your checking frequency on how they appear. Are they more irritable, fussy, or tired than usual? Are they warm to the touch or have less of an appetite?
In most cases, it can be better to let your child rest throughout the night and not disturb them than to take their temperature.
An important exception is with babies under 2 months old. It’s usually advisable to check your child’s fever every 2 to 4 hours advises pediatrician Dr. Rachel Pete and consult your doctor immediately if their fever reaches 100.4°F or higher.
Fever in Babies: When To Worry
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it’s essential for babies older than 3 months to see a doctor if their fever is accompanied by any of the following:
- A rash
- Severe vomiting or diarrhea
- Inconsolable crying
- They are difficult to awaken
- They’ve been in a hot place such as inside a hot car
- Appearing/acting very sick
- Your child is on steroids or has immune system concerns
- They are not up to date with their vaccines
For babies between 2 and 3 months old, your doctor should be alerted immediately to a rectal temperature higher than 100.4°F, and newborns under 2 months old with a temperature of 100.4°F (taken any way) should be taken to the emergency department.
How To Reduce Fever in Baby Naturally
Before reaching for the medicine cabinet, try some of these simple and natural methods for managing your little one’s fever:
Give Them a Bath
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in association with Kinsa Health heartily recommends bathing feverish babies before bed.
It can be a regular soak or sponge bath – just be sure to use lukewarm water for a temperature over 100.4°F, and avoid cold or ice baths.
If your little one starts to shiver, end bath time, and dress them in lightweight cotton pajamas.
Provide Plenty of Fluids
Keep your baby well hydrated to bring their fever down. If they’re still breastfeeding, simply continue to feed as often as they need, and if they’re on solids, offer them plenty of water, diluted fruit juice, yogurts, popsicles, or an electrolyte solution.
Keep Your Baby at Home
Last but not least, keep your little one home to rest and recover.
They could be contagious, so as well as benefiting the other children at daycare, keeping your baby at home with you allows you to provide them with a little extra TLC – extra cuddles and play if they’re up to it!
Does Sweating Mean Fever Is Breaking?
Yes, sweating typically means a fever is breaking. The body starts by creating an unwelcoming, cold environment for germs, lowering body temperature.
Once your child begins to make progress in fighting the infection, their bodily temperature resets to normal, leaving them feeling hot and sweaty as the body cools them down, helping them recover from a fever.
Should Baby Wear Sleep Sack With Fever?
If your baby has a fever, it’s advisable to dress them in one light layer of clothing and a sleep sack.
A diaper and a sleep sack or a diaper and a onesie is appropriate as too many layers may cause them discomfort.
Be sure to consider the TOG rating of their sleep sack in relation to room temperature too.
Do Fevers Usually Spike at Night?
It’s common for a fever to spike in the evening as our body temperature naturally rises at night, so a fever that felt mild during the day can feel much stronger as we sleep.
You can help reduce the severity of your baby’s fever with a room-temperature bath and some formula/breast milk to keep them hydrated.
Hopefully, the above advice has helped to ease your mind around nighttime fever in your little one.
The key to helping them sleep safely and comfortably with a fever is to stick to single lightweight layers such as pajamas, onesies, or sleep sacks made from breathable cotton.
Fevers in babies are mostly harmless and can be treated at home, but be very vigilant with babies under 3 months old as fevers of 100.4°F require medical attention from your healthcare provider or emergency department if under 2 months.
Rebecca is a seasoned copywriter and researcher with over a decade of experience, specializing in parenting topics. With a passion for all aspects of raising children, from breastfeeding to potty training.