FAQ Series: All About Sleep Sacks

When you think back to the first few days of your child’s life, one thing is common amongst all hospital stays: the nurses will swaddle your baby.

And if you are lucky, you might have a kind enough nurse who TEACHES you how to swaddle your newborn – not too tight, but snug enough to where the blanket stays put.

There’s a reason (a good one) that parents swaddle their babies. Babies are used to a confined space and swaddles help them feel comforted and secure.

Want your newborn to sleep better? Swaddle them.

Want your newborn to stop crying? Swaddle them.

However, once your baby is about 6 months old, or whenever they can begin to roll, the swaddling needs to stop as it poses a safety hazard. Swaddling past the point when your child can roll opens the door for accidents to occur – your child rolls over but can’t use their hands to push themselves up, for example.

Just because they can roll, though, doesn’t mean they still don’t enjoy feeling secure and snug. If your little one enjoys the feeling of a swaddle but is past the age when it’s advised to use it, sleep sacks are your best friend.

What is a sleep sack?

A sleep sack is exactly as it sounds: it’s a sack your child sleeps in. Often, sleep sacks don’t have sleeves and resemble a dress when worn. Usually, they have a zipper or snaps that allow you to easily put it on your child.

Some sacks are weighted – they have extra material around the chest or back to give the illusion that a hand is resting on your child. Truly, there are a wide variety of designs available, and it comes down to you deciding what your child will respond best to.

The Benefits of a Sleep Sack

Aside from a sleep sack being generally safer than a swaddle, there are a few benefits that come with making the switch.

  1. Sleep sacks still provide comfort. Your child is still secured – their legs are inside the sack, giving them a feeling of protection. If you choose a weighted sack, then your child has that additional comfort as well. During the cooler months, a sleep sack can be worn over pajamas to provide a little more warmth; however, most are light-weight enough to still be cool enough during summer months.
  2. Sleep sacks make it harder to escape the crib. If your toddler has recently discovered the art of crib-climbing, a sleep sack may help. After lowering the mattress as far as it can go, a sleep sack is the next tool you can use. Since the sacks confine the legs, your child won’t be able to swing a leg over the railing, and it will be harder to gain traction on the rails to climb since the sacks aren’t textured.
  3. Sleep sacks are safer than blankets for infants. The AAP recommends that no blankets, toys, or pillows be in the child’s crib until children are older than 12 months. However, a sleep sack is similar to a blanket, yet doesn’t pose the same safety risk for your child. Children can still grab hold of the material on the sack and use it to rub their face or grip on to – often ways children comfort themselves and initiate sleep.

Sleep Sack Brands We Recommend

I will never recommend products that I personally have not used. For my daughter, we used Nested Bean after we transitioned her from the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit.

Nested Bean came in two designs – one that had more padding around the chest to simulate a hand being rested on her chest, and one that had less weight on the chest.

The first design (the one with more weight on the chest), came with mesh pockets/sleeves where she could keep her hands. Because the mesh netting was near her face, she was able to rub her cheeks and suck on her hand. However, once she started rolling, we removed the pockets/sleeves and let her arms loose.

The second design (with less weight), was looser around her body, so it worked great as we began the transition out of a sleep sack altogether.

Nested Bean has a few design options based on the development of your child and their weight, so be sure to look at the specifications to ensure you’re getting one that works for your little one.

A Word of Caution

Although we used the Nested Bean sleep sacks, you should know that the latest recommendations from the AAP no longer recommend the use of any weighted sleep product.

Always look at The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for any recall information on sleep sacks. The AAP published an article in 2013 with recall information for a specific sleep sack that had loose zippers that could break off and pose a choking hazard to infants. Also, beware of any sacks that have embellishments that can come off, as they can also pose choking hazards.

Many sacks have zippers that can be hidden so that children can’t play with them, but always check the quality of the items before putting your child to sleep in one.

What are your thoughts on sleep sacks? Love them? Hate them? Let us know!

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I’m Katie

certified pediatric sleep consultant

Fueled by equal parts caffeine and passion, I spend my days helping exhausted mamas get their babies the sleep they need. 

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