One of the most common questions I receive and a common hurdle for parents to get over, is the transition from swaddling your baby with their arms in, to a sleep sack.
So, before we jump in, lets talk briefly about swaddling. Why do we swaddle newborn babies? Well…for multiple reasons. One, is to mimic the womb. When you think about what a baby is used to, it is a warm, crammed space, tucked up in a ball. Second, babies are born with, what is known as the Moro Reflex, or “Startle Reflex.”
Have you ever been watching your baby sleep, and then suddenly their arms fly up over their head? This is that reflex. Swaddling helps prevent themselves from waking up prematurely due to this reflex. Babies usually grow out of this reflex anywhere between 3-6 months; however, we cannot swaddle babies that long, due to safety reasons.
When it comes to swaddling and safety, there are a few things to consider. Ensure that when you are swaddling your baby you are laying them on their back, on a flat surface, with nothing in their crib or bassinet, and do not swaddle if you are bed sharing. When it comes to the swaddling process itself, you want it be snug enough around the arms to create that comforting feeling, while still being able to easily fit a hand in the chest portion. Ensuring your baby also has movement in the hips when swaddled, is also key.
Now, when we talk safety and swaddling, a huge component in this, is knowing when to begin unswaddling your baby. As mentioned above, we cannot swaddle as long as babies have the Moro Reflex, and this often leaves many caregivers dreading taking their baby out of the swaddle, or caregivers end up swaddling longer than considered safe, as they worry about the disruptions this could cause in sleep. It is recommended for safety reasons to discontinue use of the swaddle around 8 weeks, or first signs of rolling. Whichever comes first.
Rather than trying to break the swaddle cold turkey, or risk leaving your baby swaddled too long, there are actually some fantastic transitional items, made particularly for the purpose of transitioning your baby out of the swaddle safely, while still giving your child that comforting feeling they are used to.
I am going to talk about 3 popular transitional items we often see used during the period from swaddling arms in, to use of a regular sleep sack: Magic Merlin, Zipadee Zip, and Swaddle Sleeves Sleep Sack.
Magic Merlin Sleep Suit
Pictured above: Magic Merlin Sleep Suit www.magicsleepsuit.com
The Magic Merlin Sleep Suit is a sleep suit your baby wears to help during this transition from swaddle to regular sleep sack. The sleep suit has a polyfil between the layers of fabric to help provide babies with that cozy secure feeling, essentially mimicking a hug. This helps in preventing that startle reflex from waking your baby.
When dressing your baby in it, they sort of look like an adorable stuffed marshmallow, and you might wonder “Is this safe for sleep?” Yes, absolutely! But it must be used properly. The Magic Merlin Sleep Suit is intended for back sleep only. You must always lay your baby on their back to sleep in it, on their own separate sleep space, in the right temperature for safe sleep, with no positional items in their crib or bassinet. It is also not recommended to use this in bed sharing situations either.
Once your baby can roll with the sleep suit on, it is important to transition them out of it as this is not intended for long-term wearing, but just that transition period from swaddle to sleep sack. With that said, Magic Merlin does provide sleep sacks for longer term use, once your baby can no longer wear the sleep suit safely, which are made of the same fabric, but with the freedom of movement for your baby.
What I love about this!
While wearing this sleep suit, it helps baby feel secure and comforted with that feeling of a warm hug as they adapt to their arms no longer tucked in. Another great thing about this, is it goes on just like a sleeper would, with double zippers to make diaper changes easy!
Things to keep in mind
As mentioned, this sleep suit is intended for back sleep only and must be transitioned out of once your baby can roll with it on. This just means that you would need to purchase a new item for sleeping, as we commonly do, at that time, or have one readily available. This company provides sleep sacks as well.
Another thing to consider, is the sleep suit and temperature. Depending on wear you live, if it’s hot, or if it is summer, this might not be the item for you. If it is warm, but not overly hot you can consider just dressing your baby in a just diaper or bodysuit underneath. If it is excessively hot however, I personally wouldn’t recommend putting your baby in this for sleeping. Unless of course you have air conditioning!
Always check your baby’s temperature by feeling their chest or back to make sure they feel comfortable, and if you’d be too hot in something, chances are they could be too.
Pictured above: Magic Dream Sack Walker & Sleep Sack www.magicsleepsuit.com
Pictured above: Classic Zipadee-Zip www.sleepingbaby.com
The Zipadee Zip is another transitional item from swaddle to sleep sack. Similar to other transitional items, it is intended to soothe your baby’s startle reflex from premature wakings. The Zipadee Zip is shaped like a star, with pointed sleeves. The way your baby’s hands touch these points, and the way the sack is shaped, offers a gentle resistance from that startle reflex, but also allows babies to move freely in it.
While they have the freedom to move in this sleep sack, because it is enclosed, it still can offer that cozy comfortable feeling, that we aim for when swaddling. Plus, it keeps your babies’ hands nice and warm all night! Since there is so much movement in this sleep sack, it is actually safe if your baby is rolling, even while wearing it, so it can be used for long term use, as you size up – even into those toddler years!
Once baby is a little older, also available from this company is known as their Flying Squirrel item, made from the same breathable fabric for your older toddler.
What I love about this!
The light fabric of the Zipadee Zip makes it easy to regulate your baby’s temperature, and dress accordingly underneath. While wearing the Zipadee Zip item to transition, your baby’s hands also stay warm all night. Now temperature of hands isn’t a main indicator in how comfortable your baby is, but you probably find that your little one’s hands do get cold easily so this offers that peace of mind. Not only do the hands being enclosed keep them warm, help in softening that startle reflex, but also can help prevent scratching from those sharp baby nails. With the Zipadee Zip, you can also get long term use out of it, as babies can safely roll in it, so no need to transition to another item, until your little one is simply too big for it, which would happen with any sleep item for babies. Different sizes are available in the same product, so your baby can feel familiar with what they wear to bed long term, into those toddler years.
Things to keep in mind
If your baby takes a pacifier, and ultimately your goal is for them to have it insert it themselves during the night, which often can begin happening around 5 months, the Zipadee Zip can inhibit this. Therefore, if you are wanting to keep your little one’s hands contained, for the ease of the swaddle transition, but also want that independence of them inserting the pacifier on their own, this might not be the item for you. As mentioned above, there are other items from this company for older babies with the option for hands free, but those ones in particular are not technically transitional items from swaddling.
Pictured above: Flying Squirrel Sleep Sack, with mitten cuffs for option for hands in or out www.sleepingbaby.com
Swaddle Sleeves Sleep Sack
Pictured above: Swaddle Sleeves Sleep Sack with weighted arms. Second set of non weighted arms shown http://www.swaddlesleeves.com
The Swaddle Sleeves Sleep Sack is another item for transitioning from swaddling with arms in, to a sleep sack. The unique thing about this sleep sack, is the gently and evenly distributed, weighted arms that help to dampen the startle reflex when asleep, while still allowing baby the freedom to move their arms and reach their mouth for self settling. Once your baby can roll with this sleep sack on, it is important to transition out of the weighted arms, but this sleep sack comes with two sets of arms. One set of weighted arms and one non weighted. Both sets of sleeves have a mitten cuff to put over baby’s hands for warmth and to prevent scratching. When baby can roll in the sleep sack with weighted arms, it is recommended using one mitten sleeve and one weighted sleeve for safety. Then you can transition to using the 2 mitten sleeves, or remove the sleeves completely to use as a basic sleep sack.
Just as any sleep sack, as baby outgrows it you can transition to other items that are available in the size that fits your little one. Swaddle sleeves provides these sleep sacks in different sizes, a footie sleeper, a bodysuit which is great for warmer months, and a convertible swaddle for your younger baby if you are in the market for your newborn as well.
What I love about this!
The ability to gently dampen the startle reflex, while allowing free movement in the arms and access to the hands is great. This works well for pacifier babies too who are working on inserting it independently. Swaddle Sleeves can also be used in replace of a swaddle altogether, for those babies who don’t like to be cocooned, but still are impacted by that startle reflex.
Once your baby no longer requires the weighted sleeves, they can continue wearing the same sleep sack too! This helps with that familiarity and consistency that babies thrive on for sleeping, by being able to remain in the same sleep sack. As baby outgrows it, available sleep sacks up until the age of 24 months are available to grow with your baby as well.
Keep in mind
The weighted arms are breathable, but if you live in a hot climate or it is summer, and you do not have air conditioning, you may just want to go with the bodysuit version vs. the full sleep sack to prevent your little one from getting too warm while sleeping.
Pictured above: Swaddle Sleeves Footie, Swaddle Sleeves Bodysuit, & Swaddle Sleeves Bodysuit: http://www.swaddlesleeves.com