As a sleep specialist, I recommend sleep sacks to parents on a daily basis, as well as give recommendations of when to stop using the sleep sack. As a parent, ensuring that your baby is safe and comfortable during sleep is of utmost importance. In case you are reading this and unfamiliar with them, sleep sacks are a type of wearable blanket that provide a cozy and secure sleeping environment for babies. In this guide, I will explore the purpose and benefits of using sleep sacks, as well as when it may be time to transition away from them.
The Purpose of Sleep Sacks for Babies
Sleep sacks serve multiple purposes when it comes to promoting safe and comfortable sleep for babies. One of the main purposes of a sleep sack is to keep the baby comfortable throughout the night. Unlike traditional blankets that are unsafe for babies under the age of 18 months, sleep sacks provide a secure and enclosed sleeping environment, without the risk of suffocation. This helps to prevent the baby from getting cold during sleep, reducing the risk of them waking up due to discomfort.
As I previously mentioned, sleep sacks are part of creating a safe sleep environment for babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies should be placed on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This recommendation along with other recommendations such as no items in the crib, only a tight fitted crib sheet, can help keep baby safe, and provide peace of mind for parents.
The Benefits of Using Sleep Sacks
Using sleep sacks for your baby offers a range of benefits beyond just warmth and safety. One of the key benefits is that sleep sacks can help establish with your baby’s consistent bedtime routine. By using a sleep sack as part of your baby’s sleep routine, they will come to associate the act of putting on the sleep sack with going to sleep. This can help signal to your baby’s brain that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep, making the bedtime routine smoother and more effective.
Sleep sacks also provide a sense of security and comfort for babies. The fit of the sleep sack can mimic the feeling of being swaddled, which many babies find soothing. This can help them feel more settled and calm as they drift off to sleep. Additionally, as stated before the absence of loose blankets in the sleep environment reduces the risk of suffocation or entanglement.
As your baby gets older, and begins to learn how to climb, sleep sacks are a great tool to prevent that from happening. Always make sure to have your crib on the lowest level by this point in your baby’s life and make sure that there are no objects or furniture next to the crib that can aid in their escape.
When to Start Using Sleep Sacks
Sleep sacks can be used fairly early on, once your baby is no longer swaddled. It is generally safe to start using sleep sacks around 3 to 4 months of age, or when your baby shows signs of rolling over independently. Before this age, swaddling can sometimes help provide the cozy and secure sleeping environment that babies need, when done safely. It is important to remember that once your baby starts showing signs of rolling over, it is important to transition out of the swaddle to a sleep sack to ensure their safety during sleep.
Signs that It May Be Time to Stop Using Sleep Sacks
- This may come as a surprise, but I typically recommend using the sleep sack until your child has outgrown their sack or if they express to you that they are genuinely uncomfortable. One of those signs that your baby may be ready to transition away from sleep sacks is when they start showing signs of wanting more freedom of movement during sleep. This can include becoming more restless and fidgety during the night.
- It may be time to stop using sleep sacks is when your baby is consistently able to remove the sleep sack on their own. As babies grow and become more mobile, they may develop the dexterity to unzip or wriggle out of the sleep sack. If your baby is consistently removing their sleep sack, it may be a sign that they are ready for a different sleep solution.
- Another sign is length and weight. If your child’s toes are at the very end, or they are really restricted with hip and leg movement, then it is definitely time to consider transitioning out of the sleep sack. The good news is that they make sleep sacks into the toddler age ranges, so most sizes will fit up until the age when it is safe for your child to have a regular blanket in the crib with them!
Do you have a little one who knows how to unzip the sleep sack? Here is a tip:
- Turn the sleep sack around, so that the zipper is up the back!
- Did they figure that out too? Put a little tape over the zipper to prevent them from being able to unzip!
Safety Considerations When Using Sleep Sacks
While sleep sacks are safe sleep accessories for babies, it is important to follow certain safety guidelines to ensure your baby’s well-being.
- First and foremost, it is essential to choose the right size sleep sack for your baby. A sleep sack that is too big can pose a suffocation risk if it covers your baby’s face, while a sleep sack that is too small can restrict movement and cause discomfort.
- It is important to dress your baby appropriately for sleep when using a sleep sack. Overheating is a risk factor for SIDS, so it is crucial to ensure that your baby is not too warm while sleeping. Dress your baby in lightweight clothing underneath the sleep sack and monitor their temperature to ensure they are comfortable. Here is a great guide to dressing your baby:
- Always make sure that the sleep sack is securely fastened and that there are no loose or dangling parts that could pose a strangulation risk. Regularly check the sleep sack for any signs of wear and tear, such as loose stitching or broken zippers, and replace it if necessary.
Transitioning from Sleep Sack to a Blanket
When the time comes to transition your baby away from sleep sacks, you can start by introducing a thin, lightweight blanket as an additional layer on top of the sleep sack. This will allow your baby to become accustomed to the feeling of a blanket while still benefiting from the security of the sleep sack. Remember that they should not have a blanket in the crib until at least 18 months of age.
To help your baby feel secure without the sleep sack, consider using a transitional object such as a soft toy or a lovey (stuffy). This can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity as they adjust to sleeping without the sleep sack. Introduce the transitional object during the sleep sack phase so that your child can form a positive association with it.
Lastly, be patient and understanding during the transition process. Some children may take longer to adjust to sleeping without the sleep sack, while others may transition seamlessly.
Ensuring Safe and Comfortable Sleep for Your Baby
Sleep sacks are a valuable tool for promoting safe and comfortable sleep for babies. They provide warmth, security, and can be part of your consistent bedtime routine. However, there may come a time when it is appropriate to stop using sleep sacks. By paying attention to your child’s cues and following safety considerations, you can ensure a smooth and successful transition. Remember to always prioritize your baby’s safety and comfort during sleep, and consult with a sleep training coach or family doctor if you have any concerns or questions.
Are you looking for more in depth help and guidance with sleep training? Book a Free Child Sleep Evaluation Call with me today!