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.

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.