Using Baby Sleeping Bags

Baby sleeping on her back in a merino kid's sleeping bag
The Merino Kids Baby Sleep Bag has a five star review on Amazon. See below for a full range of baby sleeping bag options.

Do you worry that your baby is too warm or too cold at night? Or perhaps check on her sometimes only to find she’s pulled the covers over her face? Or you go into your crying toddler to find he’s completely uncovered and freezing?

The answer to all these dilemmas is to put your baby to bed in a specially designed baby sleeping bag, with an appropriate TOG rating. Baby sleeping bags (also called sleep sacks) can even be good when you bring your baby into bed to feed her. By having her on top of the covers you can be sure she isn’t going to get her head covered, and you can have the blankets pulled all the way up to just under your breasts. So you both stay warm, without risk.

A baby sleeping bag is easy to use. It is not unlike a regular sleeping bag, except that it has arm holes (or sleeves) and a neck opening that is small enough that your baby’s head can’t end up inside the sleeping bag.

You can get sleeping bags for babies with arms and without, with zips up the front or the side, with two way zippers (so that you can undo it from the bottom only if you need to change a nappy in the night), in winter or summer weights.

What weight of sleeping bag should you get?

Most articles on baby sleep recommend keeping the room at a constant temperature, which makes choosing a sleeping bag based on TOG ratings seem simple, and makes sleeping bags with no arms quite effective. However often bedrooms are not at a constant temperature all night, and particularly once your baby is a bit older* many parents balk at keeping the house at a constant 16 or 18 degrees all night in winter. In this case you will probably want to get a sleeping bag with arms for your baby or toddler, or you might find you are waking up to a cold crying baby at 5am.

It is, however, important that your baby is does not overheat, as this has been implicated in increased risk of SIDS. So do not choose a sleeping bag that is extra warm, just in case your baby’s room cools down. Instead, especially during the first year of life, it is ideal if you can keep the room relatively warm over night and dress your baby appropriately.

To determine what weight of sleeping bag you need, check out our TOG rating page, which also gives you an idea of how to dress your baby under the sleeping bag, depending on the temperature. Don’t forget to put socks on your baby, as cold feet can wake anyone up!

Note, however, that not all sleeping bags have TOG ratings, especially the cheaper ones. Without this rating though, it can be very hard to know just how warm the bag is keeping your child, so I would always recommend looking for a bag with a TOG rating.

*So called baby sleeping bags are really routinely used for toddlers up to two or three years old, and there are even sleep suits with legs for up to four or five year olds.

Other considerations

Seatbelt hole: Some sleeping bags have a hole below the bottom of the zip for slipping the crotch strap of a car seat or pram through. This can be great if you are likely to be taking your baby out at night and want to be able to transfer her from the car to her bed without waking her, or if she is going to be sleeping in the pram with any frequency.

However, my baby’s have all got their feet stuck out these holes on occasion, and woken up! So if you are not likely to use the belt gap, I would get a sleeping bag without, or even consider having one of each.

baby sleeping with knees drawn up in stripey light blue sleeping bag
Merino Kids Baby Sleep Bag, Natural Merino Wool Sleep Sack, available for Babies, 0-2 Years, and Toddlers, 2-4 Years – Lots of options!

Zip location: Some baby sleeping bags have the zip at the side, but most have it up the front. The advantage to having it at the side is that the zipper is not going to flip up and stick into your baby’s neck (though I suppose it could stab him under his arm!). Also, older toddlers are less likely to undo the zip this way, though that is not something I had trouble with with any of my children. For those that zip up the front, some sleeping bags have a flap of material with a snap to go over the top of the zipper. Other’s have just a tiny flap of material that the zipper is supposed to slip under, but in my experience these don’t work all that well. Look for one with the snap up flap. This will also prevent an older baby from unzipping their own sleeping bag.

Popular brands

There are many popular brands of baby sleep sack, with perhaps the most popular being Grobags. In fact, if you are buying a ‘Grobag’ second hand, make sure it is genuine – many people use grobag as a generic term for baby sleeping bag. Halo sleep sacks are also poular, though they do not have TOG ratings. Merino Kids do a 100% merino wool sleeping bag (pictured above and to the left), which is said to help baby regulate temperature. While they don’t have TOG ratings, they do a winter weight bag for rooms of 59F-68F and a year round bag for rooms at 64F-75F overnight.

Baby Sleeping Bags are becoming as popular in the US and Canada as they are in the UK.

In warmer weather a TOG rating of 0.5 to 1.5 is appropriate in most regions.

Marital Satisfaction Declines with Kids – But Don’t Worry: It’s Normal

Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up by Harriet Lerner PhDWhen your baby doesn’t sleep well, it can be extremely stressful for the whole household, particularly, of course, the parents. But in truth, many studies have now concluded that marital satisfaction goes down with the addition of kids to the equation, whether they sleep or not! In fact, one eight year long study found that 90% of couples experienced a decline in satisfaction.

That may seem like a depressing statistic, but if you have children, I hope you won’t take it that way.Co-author of that study, Brian Doss points out

The fact that we’ve been largely unsuccessful [in stopping declines in satisfaction] may suggest it’s a really difficult and tough experience and it’s not necessarily a deficit in these couples’ relationships or how they’re approaching it.

Harriet Lerner, clinical psychologist and author of a new book Marriage Rules, suggests waiting it out. “Relationships that appear to be falling apart … may look entirely different down the road,” she says.

One of Lerner’s rules is “Don’t obsess about getting it right”. This fits in well with new research out of Ohio State University by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, which found that parents show poorer adjustment if they think society expects them to be perfect.

So don’t obsess about getting it all right, remember to nurture your relationship as well as your kids, and wait it out. Anecdotal evidence is that, although martial satisfaction may decline, most parents still feel their kids bring more over-all joy and satisfaction to their life, than they cause stress and dissatisfaction. When your baby is screaming at three in the morning though, it may seem like a fine line!

(Source)

Note: If your baby doesn‘t sleep well, you might like to read our articles Your Baby’s Sleep: Swaddling Newborns, Eight Sleep Tips for Every Child, from Elizabeth Pantley, and Your Baby’s Sleep: from Birth to Six Months

In Brief: New Safety Standards for Toddler Beds in the US

A new safety standard for toddler beds has been approved in the United States by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission this week. The new standard builds on existing ASTM voluntary standard for toddler beds (F1821-09) adding extra protections to prevent injuries.

The new standards include requirements that

  • The upper edge of the guardrail must be at least five inches above the toddler bed’s mattress.
  • Spindle/slat strength testing for toddler beds must be consistent with the testing required for crib spindles/slats.
  • Separate warning labels to address entrapment and strangulation hazards must appear on toddler beds.

Naturally, these standards will also apply to baby cribs which convert to toddler beds.

For more information see the CPSC’s press release.

Choosing the Ideal Baby Blanket for Swaddling

Green cotton bag with moby wrap tag.
The 42" x 42" Moby Wrap swaddle blanket is made from ultra-soft 100% stretch cotton and comes with a coordinating newborn hat

Researchers have found that a babies sleep better when swaddled with a baby blanket. The risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) also reduces if babies are swaddled, and placed to sleep on their back. Swaddled babies sleep better on their backs than unswaddled babies, as the wrap helps calm their startle reflex. It also gives warmth, security and comfort to your baby, helping her to sleep better.

The blanket or wraps you choose to swaddle your baby in can also become a comfortingly familiar item when you put your baby down to sleep somewhere away from home, or go on holidays, even after she has outgrown swaddling. So choosing the ideal baby blanket for swaddling your baby is of great importance. See below for some blankets and wraps designed specifically for swaddling. But first, some factors you should consider when choosing the blanket.

Safety

The safety of your baby should be the prime concern. Overheating and swaddling tightly are two things that should be avoided. The fabric of the swaddle blanket must be breathable and lightweight to ensure that air can circulate through the blanket so that your baby doesn’t feel too hot. The fabric must be stretchable in order make sure that your baby can move without any discomfort. A cotton blanket or muslin wrap are both very good, breathable swaddling options.

It is ideal to use organic baby blankets for swaddling your baby. Organic blankets are made from purely organically grown fabrics which don’t contain pesticides and other harmful chemicals. The skin of your baby is very soft and sensitive. Even small amounts of toxic chemicals might cause allergies and other skin and health problems for your baby. If you do choose to buy organic, be sure the fabric is certified organic and that you are buying from a reputable supplier.

Four wraps
Aden & Anais 100% cotton muslin swaddling blankets, 47"x47"

Size and Design

The size of the baby blanket is another important factor. Usually swaddling blankets are square in shape. Often they are oversized to enable you to wrap the blanket more than once around your baby, like the miracle blanket, with it’s extra wide wings. A blanket that is too small will quickly be outgrown. But it should not be so big that it becomes too heavy and thick. Besides, if the blanket is too big, it will cause you difficulties while carrying it with you when you go for outing. For a standard square blanket, ideally, if you want the blanket to last past the tiny newborn weeks, you will want a swaddling blanket that at least one metre square (40 inches), but no more than around a 1.3 metres in width. Unfortunately, most baby blankets are less than one metre, or 40 inches, wide.

Another thing that you need to consider is that the blankets should ideally be machine-washable and durable as you will need to wash them frequently.

The design and color of the baby blanket you buy is your personal choice. Newborn babies can only see color in tems of contrasts, so pastels will not have much impact on your baby, but when you are choosing blankets for sleeping, that is probably a good thing. Extra stimulation is not what your baby needs at bedtime. But, if this is going to be a blanket your baby will keep for years to come, it is worth the extra effort of choosing an attractive design and colours that you like.

Specific Baby Blankets Designed for Swaddling

There are various different blankets and wraps and designed specifically for wrapping babies, from the miracle blanket, which is specially shaped to make it easy to wrap your baby snugly, to the Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe which has a pouch for baby’s legs and feet, and arm flaps that use velcro to stay closed.

Swaddling with the Miracle Blanket

The Miracle Baby Swaddling Blanket, blue with green trim
The Miracle Baby Swaddling Blanket

Swaddling has become a standard answer to help calm fussy babies and to help induce sleep, but not all babies are easy to keep swaddled. Either they get loose after a few squirms or they are just get too active to allow wrapping in the first place. Then too, for new parents, overwhelmed and sleep deprived, sometime it’s just nice to have a product that makes things a little easier. That’s where the Miracle Blanket comes into its own.

Fortunately for the swaddling-challenged parent, there is now an easier way of swaddling. The popular method has been modified and made easy with this specially shaped wrap. It is still a baby blanket, it just makes swaddling easy.

The Miracle Blanket looks plain and simple but that’s what it is supposed to be. There are no buttons, snaps, knots, or zippers that can scratch a baby’s sensitive skin. It doesn’t have a hood or extra fabric that can make parents worry about suffocation or the risk of over-heating. Instead, the Miracle Blanket has been made very simple with the baby and parents in mind. The main idea is to help parents easily and effectively swaddle their newborn. A few flaps and fold and the baby will securely be bundled up ready to sleep soundly through the night. Then parents too can have a longer rest and with a well-rested child he or she will be better organised and less fuzzy and finicky the next day.

Swaddling newborns, and older babies up until they can roll, has proven to reduce the incidence of SIDS by making it easier to keep babies asleep on their backs, it reduces the startle reflex, and helps baby feel snug and secure just like in the womb. The Miracle Blanket makes swaddling easier and keeps baby snugly swaddled for longer. When baby is old enough to stop being swaddled, it might be time to consider trying some baby sleeping bags instead.

The Miracle Blanket is very well constructed. It is designed to be washed regularly and used daily. It is also built to apply slight pressure to the stomach to help with gas and colic. It is made from soft, stretch cotton and is over 6 feet wide.

For more help with getting your baby to sleep well, see Elizabeth Pantley’s sleep tips, or read her book The No Cry Sleep Solution.

Your Baby’s Sleep: Swaddling Newborns

sleeping baby wrapped in a Cocooi Babywrap Newborn Baby Swaddle and Cap, Natural Color,
sleeping baby wrapped in a Cocooi Babywrap Newborn Baby Swaddle and Cap, Natural Color,
Cocooi Babywrap Newborn Baby Swaddle and Cap, 100% Natural Soft Merino Wool

Swaddling newborns is an excellent way to make them feel safe and secure. Swaddling is the method of snugly and firmly wrapping your baby in a blanket or wrap. There are quite a few benefits of swaddling.

Why swaddle?

Firstly the baby is used to the snug environment inside the mother’s womb and will take a while to get used to the space outside. A newborn does not even recognize his own hands and might have problems sleeping with his hands in front of his face. He also has a ‘startle reflex’, where the arms suddenly jerk out from the body, which can wake up an unswaddled baby. This startle reflex will gradually subside over the first few months of your baby’s life.

How to swaddle your newborn

Swaddling babies is easy to do. There are a few methods. The basic one involves using a square baby blanket which is not so thick as to be either too hot or too bulky (it will be wrapped around baby a couple of times). A muslin wrap is good in warmer weather. In order to swaddle your baby, put a baby blanket or wrap on a flat surface, such as a bed. Fold the top corner just a few inches and lie your baby in the middle of the blanket with her head on the fold. Now wrap the right side of the blanket over the baby and tuck the end under her left side, under her left arm. Then take the left end and wrap it around the baby as well, tuck it under her right side under the baby’s back. Now fold the bottom up and wrap it the corners around behind her shoulders. Remember to not wrap the baby too tightly; swaddling is supposed to be cozy and warm. But make sure her arms are securely held.

When swaddling your newborn you must take into account the level of wrapping when deciding what (if any) other baby bedding is necessary.

The following video shows another way of swaddling newborns with the wrap shifted to the diagonal.

When to stop swaddling

After two to three months your baby’s startle reflex will have diminished and swaddling should gradually be discontinued. You can start by either keeping one arm of your baby out of the wrap or not wrapping the legs. Often it is at this point that you will move your baby from a moses basket or bassinette into a crib, as baby cribs have more room to flail around those arms once they are unwrapped.

Swaddling blankets for babies

There are a number of different kinds of baby swaddling blankets available that make swaddling even easier. There is a wide variety of baby sleeping bags and wraps available that are quite comfortable and cozy for babies. The Cocooi Babywrap Newborn Baby Swaddle from Merino Kids of New Zealand is an excellent example. It absorbs and releases moisture to regulate the baby’s temperature and does not let it get too hot or too cold. The fabric is 100% natural, merino wool, very comfortable and hypoallergenic. It has a pouch for your baby’s legs and long “arms” that wrap around holding your baby snugly. All in all it is an excellent product, it makes swaddling your baby very easy and keeps it warm and safe. The Cocooi Newborn Sleep Bag is an option if you need to keep your baby’s arms out to transfer your baby between the crib, stroller and car seat.

The miracle blanket is a similar product to the Cocooi swaddle. Being made of cotton instead of merino wool it doesn’t have the same temperature regulating benefits, but it is priced significantly lower.

Many other baby swaddling wraps are available, but simple muslin or cotton blankets are also perfectly fine.

So your baby’s moving up: How to choose the right kids bedroom furniture

Deciding how to furnish your child’s bedroom can be tricky. There are lots of issues to consider as far your child’s bedroom furniture is concerned. Your child’s bedroom should be a place where he or she can grow and learn but at the same time it needs to be a safe and relaxing space to fall asleep. There are plenty of options for kids bedroom furniture and decor, whether you want something themed, something plain or something in between.

colourful storage unit for kids bedrooms
This colourful kids bedroom storage unit can be used for clothes or toys

Clothing Storage
When choosing your kid’s bedroom furniture, keep in mind that anything vertical must be attached to the wall to be safe, so if you are buying a bookshelf or cupboard make sure this is an option for you. An alternate option for clothes storage is modular drawers or baskets that your child can more easily use herself – you can get children involved in caring for their own clothes at quite a young age if you make the furniture easy to use.

Bedroom for Two
If you are furnishing a bedroom for two children, bunk beds can be a handy option, though most manufacturers recommend not using bunk beds until your children are well past the preschool stage, some say they should be as old as eight or ten. One option for bunk beds for younger children is low-line bunks, where the top bunk is only a metre or so off the floor, but only sits over half the bottom bunk. The lower child’s head end of the bed cannot be under the low bunk, but much space is still saved, and the part of the top bed not over the lower bed can have a cupboard or drawers put under it.

Kids Bedroom Furniture and Bedding Themes
Creating a theme for the bedroom is a great idea and something most kids love. Themes can be timeless (princess, navel, fairy) or based on a favorite cartoon character. It’s probably a good idea to remember, though, that your kids will probably have another favorite cartoon character soon. For this reason you might consider using things like bed sheets that are easily replaceable to create the theme rather than actual bed or other furniture.

Involving Your Child
It is also a good idea to involve your child in the process of buying the furniture. Particularly if your child is moving into a new bedroom, either out of your room or perhaps to make way for a new baby in the nursery, you will want to keep him or her enthusiastic about your project. Your child should have the freedom to decide what he or she wants for her own personal space. However, being the parent you have to keep practicality in mind. While giving your kids a say, it is obviously best to buy something that will not lose their interest in a year or so. A bed shaped like a racing car may be your little son’s choice right now but as he grows he will likely want something else.

That being said, taking your child along to kids bedroom furniture stores to try out some beds can really help excite them about the project. When our then three year old was moving into his own room we took him to a couple of bedroom shops and he had a world of fun just lying down on beds and climbing ladders of bunk beds. At that stage he was too young for a bunk though, so we were very clear about what was and wasn’t an option. This could be a mistake with an older child though, unless you are prepared to give them a fair amount of control, as older children tend to have far more definite opinions than two and three year olds.

If you still have baby bedding that has sentimental value for your child it can be a good idea to keep some of it in their new room, even if it’s just a baby blanket that sits on the end of the bed. And if your are moving your child out of a baby crib to make way for a younger brother or sister, it is a good idea to do this early – before the new baby needs the crib – and give the new baby a different blanket set, allowing your toddler or preschooler to keep the baby blankets they are attached to. This way your child will be more likely to welcome the move to his or her new bedroom and embrace her new bedroom furniture, rather than pining for her old crib.

Eight Sleep Tips for Every Child, from Elizabeth Pantley

The no cry sleep solution

Editor’s note: I discovered Elizabeth Pantley through this review of The No Cry Nap Solution. See below for links for purchasing more Elizabeth Pantley books in the UK.

The no cry sleep solutionUp to 70% of children under age five have sleep problems. Sleep issues are complicated and have many causes. They are hard to deal with because when children aren’t sleeping, parents aren’t sleeping, and that lack of sleep affects every minute of every day for every person in the family because lack of sleep isn’t just about being tired. Sleep has a role in everything ~~ dawdling, temper tamtrums, hyperactivity, growth, health, and even learning to tie his shoes and recite the ABCs. Sleep Affects Everything.

The following ideas are of value to almost any sleeper, of any age. These tips can bring improvement not only in your child’s sleep, but also in her daytime mood and last, but not least – improvements in your own sleep and outlook as well.

# 1  Maintain a consistent bedtime and awaking time.

Your child’s biological clock has a strong influence on her wakefulness and sleepiness. When you establish a set time for bedtime and wake up time you “set” your child’s clock so that it functions smoothly.  Aim for an early bedtime. Young children respond best with a bedtime between 6:30 and 7:30 P.M. Most children will sleep better and longer when they go to bed early.

# 2  Encourage regular daily naps.

Daily naps are important. An energetic child can find it difficult to go through the day without a rest break. A nap-less child will often wake up cheerful and become progressively fussier or hyper-alert as the day goes on. Also, the length and quality of naps affects night sleep – good naps equal better night sleep.

# 3  Set your child’s biological clock.

Take advantage of your child’s biology so that he’s actually tired when bedtime arrives. Darkness causes an increase in the release of the body’s sleep hormone — the biological “stop” button. You can align your child’s sleepiness with bedtime by dimming the lights during the hour before bedtime.   Exposing your child to morning light is pushing the “go” button in her brain — one that says, “Time to wake up and be active.” So keep your mornings bright!

# 4  Develop a consistent bedtime routine.

Routines create security. A consistent, peaceful bedtime routine allows your child to transition from the motion of the day to the tranquil state of sleep.  An organized routine helps you coordinate the specifics: bath, pajamas, tooth-brushing. It helps you to function on auto-pilot at the time when you are most tired and least creative.

# 5  Create a cozy sleep environment.

Where your child sleeps can be a key to quality sleep. Make certain the mattress is comfortable, the blankets are warm, the room temperature is right, pajamas are comfy, and the bedroom is welcoming.

# 6  Provide the right nutrition.

Foods can affect energy level and sleepiness. Carbohydrates can have a calming effect on the body, while foods high in protein or sugar generate alertness, particularly when eaten alone. A few ideas for pre-bed snacks are: whole wheat toast and cheese, bagel and peanut butter, oatmeal with bananas, or yogurt and low-sugar granola.   Vitamin deficiencies due to unhealthy food choices can affect a child’s sleep. Provide your child with a daily assortment of healthy foods.

# 7 Help your child to be healthy and fit.

Many children don’t get enough daily physical activity. Too much TV watching and a lack of activity prevents good sleep. Children who get ample daily exercise fall asleep more quickly, sleep better, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling refreshed.   Avoid activity in the hour before bedtime though, since exercise is stimulating – they’ll be jumping on the bed instead of sleeping in it!

# 8 Teach your child how to relax.

Many children get in bed but aren’t sure what to do when they get there! It can help to follow a soothing pre-bed routine that creates sleepiness. A good pre-bed ritual is story time. A child who is listening to a parent read a book or tell a tale will tend to lie still and listen. This quiet stillness allows him to become sleepy.
Work with these eight ideas and you’ll see improvements in your child’s sleep, and yours too.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution (McGraw-Hill 2002).

More books by Elizabeth Pantley

What is a TOG rating? What should my baby wear?

A Tog rating is a European warmth rating. With few exceptions, the sleeping bags for sale on this site have Tog ratings. That is because the rating tells you very clearly exactly how warm the sleeping bag is – something now always obvious by touch alone. While adult duvets usually come with tog ratings of up to 9.5, baby sleeping bags are generally between 0.5, for very hot weather, to 2.5 for winter weather.

The following gives you a general idea of which rating to choose and how to dress your baby under the sleeping bag, however this is a guide only. You should always be led by your baby’s temperature. You should check your baby regularly to be sure they don’t overheat, and don’t add blankets to the sleeping bag.

What to wear:

Tog 2.5
Suitable for a nursery temperature of 16-20 degrees.
At 20 degrees baby will need only a long sleeve bodysuit. At 16 degrees you should add a full sleep suit or pajama set over the top of the bodysuit.

Tog 1.0
Suitable for nursery temperature of 20-24 degrees.
At 24 degrees a short-sleeved body suit will be sufficient. At 20 degrees at a pajama top.

Tog 0.5

Suitable for very hot weather, and a nursery temperature of 24-27 degrees.
A short-sleeved body suit will be suitable under the Tog 0.5 at 26 degrees.