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Do premature babies need clothes?

Yes, premature babies do need clothes. Not only do premature babies look adorable in tiny clothes, but there may actually be some specific benefits to dressing premature babies:

  • Improved thermoregulation: Babies stay warm better when they are dressed because they don’t lose heat as easily from drafts or from cold surfaces.
  • Improved bonding: Mums and dads tend to feel more comfortable around their babies when their babies are wearing clothes like a "real baby" instead of a NICU patient. They feel better getting involved with their baby’s care by changing nappies, taking temperatures, and holding babies close.
  • Less family stress: Parents of premature babies who wear clothes tend to feel less stress around their babies. They interact more effectively with their babies because they worry less about medical conditions and focus more on the baby.

Best clothes for premature babies

A baby’s size, condition, and medical equipment all play a role in what clothes he or she can wear.

  • Hats: Hats are a must in the NICU, even for very small or very sick premature babies. Covering the head helps babies stay warm, and preemie hats are an easy knitting or crocheting project.
  • Nappy covers: Even the smallest baby can wear a colourful cover over its nappy, although to find one small enough you may need to find someone on Etsy who makes them by hand.
  • Anti-scratch & extubation mittens: Anyone who has a premature baby will know how much they like pulling at their wires - whether its whipping out their NG tube, or hanging onto their longline. The nurses will often try and make up a pair of scratch mitts, but there is no reason that you can't provide your own. The Prem Stay-On Scratch Mittens have been clinically tested, and proven to reduce the rate of accidental extubation in the NICU. They have a two-part close system, which means they can grow as baby does. We recommend not having them on too tight, chasing their position regularly, and giving baby’s hand a clean and a massage when they are not on - it is important for baby to have skin-contact, as well as being kept safe from pulling out essential wires.
  • Booties: It can be hard to keep booties on tiny feet, but Goumikids have booties in 3lb-6lb size that are designed to stay on. They are adorable and can be worn by even very small babies.
  • Incubator vests: The name gives it away! These vests are designed to be worn by a premature baby in an incubator. They can be worn with just a nappy and are typically the first item a very premature baby can wear.
  • Sleepsuits: Sleepsuits are great for babies transitioning from a warm incubator to an open crib. However easy-dress style sleepsuits should be used. These allow minimal disturbance when dressing and for monitor cords to be threaded between the snaps.


It’s not just that premature babies need clothes, dressing baby is psychologically important for mum and dad as well as baby's well-being

Very often, families feel like their premature baby doesn’t “belong” to them. By being able to dress your baby in outfits that you have picked, you can claim a little bit more of parenthood back from the medicalisation you go through on the NICU.Remember to check with your nurse if baby is ready to be dressed before doing so, and also ask them if you can be present when the time is right - there is nothing more special that seeing your baby start to look like a “proper” little person.  

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