Ultimate Guide to Sleep Sacks and Swaddles

When I became a mom, the only thing I knew when it came to swaddles and wraps were…well, swaddles. I wasn’t a pro by any standard, but I knew that babies enjoyed being swaddled. And in the hospital, the nurse re-emphasized that fact and showed my husband and me how to swaddle nice and snug.

But imagine my surprise when I woke up after coming home from the hospital to find my daughter had squirmed her way out of the swaddle completely. In fact, looking back, it was a real safety hazard, as the blanket could have covered her face. Despite our best attempts at swaddling, she managed to always get out of it. She just loved her arms being out and free.

Her legs, however, she enjoyed being wrapped up.

As my daughter grew in strength, the swaddle just no longer cut it. She would kick out of it each time. So began my search for something else. A better option.

In this post, I’m going to share the swaddles and suits we used, my opinion of them, and what we ultimately ended up falling in love with.

Velcro Swaddles: The One-Step Swaddle

I found a velcro swaddle in a bag of hand-me-down clothes from my sister, so I tried it out with Olivia. In theory, a velcro swaddle is a genius invention: you lay the baby in the swaddle and velcro the top over. No wrapping, tugging, or folding.

You just velcro your baby in.

But remember…my daughter liked sleeping with her hands by her face. So it just didn’t work. The minute we “strapped” her in, she’d become fussy and irritated. Not to mention, the velcro was pretty loud. So if we needed to re-adjust it, we were SOL if she was already sleeping.

However, I don’t think velcro swaddles are a bad idea for babies who love being swaddled, but parents who just can’t get the traditional swaddle right. It truly is a one-step swaddle: place baby inside, velcro closed. The end.

Love to Dream Sleep Sack

Our first venture into sleep sacks was early on, as I liked the idea of Olivia being covered completely. We found a Love to Dream Sleep Sack at a garage sale before quarantine hit (along with a rocking chair, a baby carrier, tons of Aiden and Anais blankets, and a really cool outdoor play pen), so I thought I’d give it a try.

These sleep sacks are great for babies who like their hands by their faces, as they can easily rub their face or suck on their hand through the fabric (spoiler alert: they can stink fast because of the slobber, so wash regularly).

I only used one of this brand’s sleep sacks, so I can’t speak to their entire lineup. The one we used was very light weight and worked fine, but it just wasn’t perfect for us. And ultimately, we switched back to a swaddle around her legs, as this sleep sack just didn’t provide much comfort for her.

**Note that since this time, the AAP has advised against the use of any weighted product for sleep.

I think this sleep sack is perfect for babies who don’t like the swaddle, but need some form of confinement.

Magic Merlin Sleep Suits: Truly Magic?

My cousin passed along a Magic Merlin Sleep Suit for us to try, and I was so optimistic about this product. Let me cut to the chase.

Pros of a Magic Merlin Sleep Suit:

-Your baby will look like a marshmallow, which is the cutest thing ever

-If your house has poor heating (like mine), this is a great item to provide warmth

-The Magic Merlin Sleep Suit comforts babies, as it’s padded and can feel secure

Cons of the Magic Merlin Sleep Suit:

-You have to take the whole suit off when you change diapers

-Once your baby can roll, you have to get rid of it

-Sizing is super important

-It didn’t help my daughter sleep any longer

I liked the sleep suit for many reasons, but here’s the biggest safety issue: size matters. My daughter was in the smallest size, but because she was such a wriggle bug, she ALWAYS managed to get her legs inside the suit. And because she would kick, it would pull the top suit down on her arms and neck, which worried me.

We tried folding the legs of the suit so that she couldn’t get her legs inside, but she always managed to do so, and she was never able to get them back out on her own.

The second thing that was worrisome happened on an unsuspecting day: she rolled.

I walked into the room after hearing her wake up on the monitor, and I found her face down, stuck. While she could roll to her stomach, the suit made it impossible for her to roll to her back, and because it was so thick, she really couldn’t pick her head up well.

After talking with my cousin, the same thing had happened with their daughter, and that’s the reason they stopped using it.

So while this suit has many pros, please watch your child when using it.

The Nested Bean Sleep Suit: Imitating Touch

After realizing the Magic Merlin suit wasn’t going to work any longer for my daughter, we switched back to swaddling her legs to help her feel more secure. But she woke constantly. I had to put my hand on her tummy to help her sleep, but that wasn’t sustainable.

Thanks to my middle of the night pumping sessions, I found a sleep suit that promised it would imitate your touch. Essentially, it was lightly weighted in certain areas to mimic your hand on your baby.

I Facebook messaged a local baby resale store the next day to ask if they had any in stock. They had two.

So after work, I drove over and purchased them.

The first one was similar to the Love to Dream sleep suit – it allowed her to keep her hands by her face. The great thing about the Nested Bean sleep suit was that 1) the arm “wings” were mesh (so no smelly fabric after a night of sucking) and 2) you could remove the arm “wings” which we knew we would have to do eventually as she was starting to roll.

The weighted material was located on Olivia’s chest and tummy, so it truly did feel as though a hand was on her all night. And that began to offer some relief to the nonstop wakings.

As she grew taller, we moved her to the next size up, which had the weighted material centralized on her chest. And she slept in that suit until she was 15 months.

And now, at 18 months, she’s still in a Nested Bean sleep suit.

But why? Why do we keep her in a sleep suit?

It has become a strong sleep association for her.

The minute she picks up the edge, she moves it to her face. It’s how she comforts herself. She uses the sleep suit to soothe herself. I’ve watched the monitor and I’ll notice how she holds on to it as she falls asleep, and it’s the sweetest moment.

The AAP recommends that your baby’s crib is free from pillows, blankets, and toys the first year. A sleep suit can serve as a blanket and a “lovey,” as in my daughter’s case.

Does your child need a sleep suit?

If your child is a great sleeper, I don’t think you need to add anything that you don’t want to. However, a sleep suit can be great for many families:

-If your child could benefit from an extra layer of clothing

-If your child enjoyed being swaddled but can now roll over

-If your child likes having your hand on them all night

-If your child is climbing out of the crib, but you’re not ready to move them to a bed

-If your child likes holding on to a blanket or toy, but you know they can’t have that in their crib yet

I believe that in these cases, a sleep suit is a great tool to have. No, it won’t solve all of your child’s sleep challenges. Many things impact sleep, and one thing won’t necessarily fix that. But a sleep suit can solve some issues.

I absolutely recommend the Nested Bean, as my daughter has been a fan for months. They offer a variety of options, so take a look to see which one would serve your little one best. Be sure to follow the weight and age guidelines, as it’s important you select one designed with your child’s needs in mind.

But what about safety? Aren’t weighted sleep suits bad?

After recommending the Nested Bean on Instagram, I received this question above. I am all about safe sleep. That’s the number one foundation of what I do. And I would never recommend a product that I thought was unsafe.

But it’s true: some weighted blankets or sleep sacks aren’t tested rigorously enough. And when you decide to use any product with your child, it’s important to make sure it’s safe.

I am confident in Nested Bean, as they are very transparent about their safety guidelines and testing. Nested Bean has an entire page dedicated to safety, and you can find that here.

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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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