Baby Sleep Sacks and Sleeping Bags

Baby Sleep Sack

Baby Sleep Sacks

Swaddling babies helps them fall asleep faster and sleep for longer, especially overnight. At some point, though, your baby will outgrow swaddling. Either they kick out of it every time or simply don’t fit into any blankets or velcro swaddlers any longer. When this happens, it’s time to move to the baby sleeping bag, also called a sleep sack.

Sleep Sack or Sleeping Bag?

Grobag Baby Sleeping Bag

Grobag Sleeping Bag

Baby sleep sacks and sleeping bags are very similar in appearance. Both are usually zippered and have either arm holes or long sleeves for your baby’s arms to go through. The legs are loose inside the zippered section, which keeps them warm but lets your baby move around more. A sleep sack is usually cotton or flannel; many of them have sleeves to make a sort of wearable baby blanket.

Baby sleeping bags have a wider range of sizes and designs; usually they’re multi-layered and thus a bit pricier. They even make “baby” sleeping bags for older children to take to preschool for nap time. Otherwise, baby sleep sacks and baby sleeping bags are pretty much the same.

Halo Sleep Sack

Halo baby sleep sack

Halo Sleep Sack

Halo makes a variety of sleep sacks for newborns and older babies. These are designed to be worn over regular sleepwear and take the place of loose blankets, which you aren’t supposed to have in the crib. Like I said, these allow room for your baby to kick, but they can’t be kicked off so they’ll continue keeping your baby warm overnight. One feature that I do like is the reverse-zipper: it zips from the neck down, so that you can make a diaper change without taking your baby out of it.

These are used by hospitals all over the U.S. and Canada, in part to promote safe sleep practices. In fact, two of our boys’ sleep sacks are made by HALO, and they’re embroidered with Back to Sleep, the slogan of the national sleep safety campaign. If you buy one through Amazon, a portion of the sale goes to First Candle/SIDS Alliance and The Canadian Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths.

Baby Aspen Sleep Sack

Baby Aspen Sleep Sack

Baby Aspen Snuggle Sack

The Baby Aspen Snuggle Sack is really cute; it has a matching hat with a pair of antennae on it. Like the HALO sleep sacks, it has a zipper on the bottom. Included is a leafy branch-shaped cardboard hanger with little ladybug accents. This Snuggle sack has:

  • Plush fabric on the outside, with a 100% cotton inside lining
  • Rose-pink polyester wings separated by a deep-pink wedge
  • A soft-gray jumper-like fit at the top
  • A ladybug applique that says Snug as a Bug.
  • Shiny, silvery circle appliques on the front and back.

Grobag Baby Sleeping Bag

Grobag Baby Sleeping Bag

Grobag Sleeping Bag

Grobag makes several baby sleeping bags and their patterns are adorable! Most of them are 2.5 tog, which indicates a thickness that your baby can wear year-round to sleep at night. It’s 100% woven textured cotton with applique and embroidery details, 100% super-soft jersey lining, quick dry polyester filling on the 2.5 tog. The 6-18 month and 18-38 month sizes have front zips with zip clicks; a cover on these prevents your clever little ones from opening their bags.

One of the best features of these baby sleeping bags is that they’re machine washable and can tumble dry on low. Grobag is all about baby sleep safety and includes a booklet of safety guidelines with every bag.

aden + anais Muslin Sleeping Bag

You might recognize aden + anais from their widely popular baby swaddling blankets, which I’ve already reviewed (and praised) elsewhere on my blog. This is a great fabric because it’s woven to be extremely breathable, which makes this sleeping bag one of the safest you can get. It’s incredibly comfortable for babies (and adults), and becomes even softer the more you wash it.

It turns out that they also make sleeping bags of the same material.

Aden + Anais Sleeping Bag Little Man Aden + Anais Sleeping Bag Little Man Aden + Anais Sleeping Bag Little Man

The also zip from the bottom as well to allow diaper access. If the swaddling blankets are any indication, the Aden+Anais sleeping bag is probably the most comfortable baby sleeping bag out there.

Deedee Sleeping Bag

Deedee Sleeping Bag

Baby Deedee Sleeping Bag

Oversized, glow-in-the-dark zipper. Now there’s a feature that any parent can appreciate, especially those of us who have stumbled into the nursery in the middle of the night to soothe a crying baby. The Baby Deedee Sleep Nest is a quilted sleeping bag for babies and toddlers 0-36 months.

Unique shoulder snaps make it easy to place baby into the sleep nest, even while sleeping, in just 2 easy snaps. I loved this feature in our Deedee sleeping bag and regretted the day that our boys grew out of it (they’re in Halo sleep sacks now).

For pure ease of use, the Deedee Sleep Nest definitely wins the prize.


Baby Sleeping Bag Size Chart

This chart, adapted from the one provided by Baby Deedee, will help you choose the right size sleep sack or sleeping bag for your baby. A word of caution – they’ll fit into a slightly oversized sack, but won’t tolerate one that’s too small. So buy big!

Size Age Length Weight
Small 0-6 mos 22-26″ 10-18 lbs
Medium 6-18 mos 25-32″ 16-26 lbs
Large 18-36 mos 31-39″ 24-36 lbs

Which Sleep Sack for Your Baby?

So which sleep sack or sleeping bag is right for your baby? Here’s my 30-second summary.

  • The Halo sleep sack is your basic model, the top seller, where part of the proceeds goes to promote baby sleep safety.
  • The Baby Aspen ladybug sleep sack makes your little one into a cute lady bug! Guaranteed to win all of the “cutest sleeping baby” prizes.
  • Grobag sleeping bags have many adorable patterns and can be put in the dryer.
  • Aden & Anais sleeping bags probably offer the best comfort due to the breathable muslin material.
  • The Baby Deedee sleeping bag is for light-sleeping babies: it’s easy to put on and take off, with its oversized zipper and unique shoulder snaps.

Even if you’re still swaddling your baby, go buy one of these now! You’ll want to have it ready when he or she starts kicking out of the swaddle.

5 Dangers Near Your Baby’s Crib

5 Dangers Near Baby's CribA baby’s crib is supposed to be the safest place in the world for him. You tell yourself: I leave him in his crib at night, I put him on his back to sleep. He’s completely safe, right? Well, maybe not.

After reading through the American Academy of Pediatrics baby sleep safety guidelines, there are some other dangerous things in your baby’s room. Things you might not have even thought about. Here they are.

Crib Danger #1: Window Hangings


Room-darkening shade

You’ve probably heard about the dangers of mini-blind cords – these narrow, super-strong, knotted strings are strangulation hazards for children and pets. You probably shouldn’t have them in your baby’s room at all, and elsewhere in the house, you should be super-careful about tucking the cords up and away from a child’s reach.

Another worry for your baby’s room is curtains, particularly when your baby is big enough to start grabbing at things. These can easily be pulled into the child’s crib and thus are a suffocation/strangulation hazard. Now, I’m a huge proponent of blocking out the light so that your child can sleep. But the safest way to do it is a plain cordless room-darkening shade.

Crib Danger #2: Crib Bumpers or Sleep Positioners

Dangerous crib bumpersWhat!? Those adorable crib bumpers that were the signature item of your $250 bedding set might be dangerous? Absolutely. I read a scientific study about this a couple of years ago, where they investigated SIDS deaths and what had caused them.

Crib bumpers was its own category – some infants had smothered when their face was against a bumper, and some had become entangled in the cords that are used to tie those bumpers on.

Don’t worry about the fact that your crib’s bars and sides are made of wood or a similar hard material. Your baby is not strong enough to bonk himself against it and cause any real harm.

I certainly didn’t read about any SIDS deaths attributed to the hard sides of the crib. It’s not easy to throw these away because they’re so cute and they cost money.

So I went to eHow and found some great ideas for recycling crib bumpers:

Crib Bumper Recycling Ideas

  • Make a wall hanging. You can cut the bumper into squares and hang them up like pictures. Or, sew large, evenly-spaced pockets on the surface of the bumper and hang it on the wall for some cute extra storage.
  • Make pillows or tooth fairy pillows out of them. Remove the straps, and cut a square out of the bumper. Sew up the cut edge, and then sew a little square of fabric right in the middle (leave one side unattached to make an opening). This is the perfect size to slide under your child’s pillow to await the tooth fairy.
  • Give yourself some cute new heating pads. Cut the bumper into square sections and remove the stuffing. Fill each section with rice, sew up the ends, and voila, a new microwaveable heating pad. Add herbs or aromatherapy oils for a more soothing effect.
  • Create a valance for your baby’s window. All you need is a wide satin ribbon that matches the baby room decor. Sew the ribbon in evenly spaced loops on the top of the crib bumper. Then, you can slide the loops onto a valance rod to hang across the ceiling.

Your crib should just have one thing in it: the baby. While we’re on the topic, don’t buy into the myth of baby sleep positioners.

Crib Danger #3: Heaters and Fans

Portable FanYou may need to control the temperature of your baby’s room to make it a little warmer, or provide some comforting white noise in the form of a small fan. These are both excellent ideas to help your baby sleep. A fan in the room actually can decrease the risk of SIDS.

However, it’s important that neither fan nor heater be close to, or pointing at, your baby’s crib. Hot air from pointed into the open side of a crib will heat it like an oven, and your bundled-up baby might easily overheat. A fan pointed at your baby’s crib (or a ceiling fan) has the opposite effect.

Protect your newborn by ensuring these are not right next to your baby’s crib and that they’re pointed away from it.

Crib Danger #4: Someone who smokes

You’ve heard of second-hand smoke, right? It’s worse, in some ways, than smoking a cigarette because the second-hand smoke is unfiltered. The thing about smoke is that it lingers and settles in your hair, in your clothes, and on your skin. Afterwards, the smoke residue and its 100+ known carcinogens go where you go, including into your baby’s room.

This is called third-hand smoke and it’s a scientific fact. People who smoke or who have recently been in smoky places (bars, casinos) should not be allowed in the baby’s room and certainly not near the crib, where the residue can be absorbed by soft bedding. At the very least, you should offer a clean shirt and ask them to wash their hands before coming near your baby or his room.


Crib Danger #5: Electrical outlets and cords

Electrical outlet cover for baby

You should try to position your baby’s crib away from electrical outlets, especially those with active cords for lamps, night lights, or other devices. This is more of a danger for babies that move around and grab at things (usually after 6 months). The outlet itself is a shock hazard for tiny fingers. Electrical cords could be pulled into the crib and become a strangulation hazard.

Make sure any outlets near the crib are covered securely with plastic outlet covers. Devices that need to be plugged in should be as far away from the crib as possible. Lastly, don’t let a baby or (worse) a toddler see you remove an outlet cover and/or plug something in. They imitate the things their parents do, so don’t teach them that one!

See also our review of mini cribs and bassinets for recommendations of safe places for your baby to sleep.

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Baby sleep problems Periodic Table of Baby SLeep Train baby to sleep through the night Wireless VIdeo Baby Monitors
Baby sleep problems takes you through the most common sleep issues and how to address them. The periodic table of baby sleep has all the essential elements for healthy baby sleep habits. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night. Our video monitor reviews compare the latest cutting-edge wireless color video baby monitors.

8 Baby Sleep Habits to Avoid

8 baby sleep habits to avoidThe path to healthy, consistent sleep habits for your baby is spider-webbed with tempting side roads. They seem like good ideas at the time. Short-cuts, if you will, to make life as a new parent a little easier. But there are some baby sleep habits that you really need to avoid.

These practices will come back to bite you, and make training your baby to sleep through the night on his own that much more difficult.

1. Not setting a schedule. 2

Newborns eat on a 3-hour or 4-hour schedule so you can use the points of the clock: 3, 6, 9, and 12, (three-hour schedule) or 4, 8, 12 (four-hour schedule). These are the times your baby should eat. Try not to waver more than half an hour.

This means holding your baby off, if he wakes up at 11:15, or waking him up by 12:30 at the latest. Don’t get into the habit of letting your baby eat and sleep every hour. Set your schedule, and stick to it. This is just as important during the day as it is at night; for some tips, see our article on baby nap questions.

2. Letting baby sleep outside the crib. 2

Your baby needs to learn to go to sleep in the crib on his own. If you let him fall asleep in your arms every time, or to doze off in a favorite swing, he’ll grow to expect that. He won’t be able to sleep without it, and that’s going to be hard, especially as your baby grows.The solution to this is simple, but the earlier the better: put your baby in bed just before he falls asleep. If you need to pick him up and soothe your baby, that’s fine. But put him back down as soon as he’s calm.

3. Putting baby to bed too late. 2

There’s a strange law of opposites with babies and bedtimes: the later they go to bed, the earlier they tend to wake up. That’s why many of the forums, guides, and sleep experts advise the early bedtime (EBT) technique. For my boys, they’re ready an hour or two after dinner: 7 or 7:30. Babies just aren’t programmed to stay up late.

baby up too lateLots of parents want to keep their babies up a bit later than that, especially those who work and want to get in some quality time. It will be hard for you to do this, but you must.

Establishing a nighttime routine is crucial for you and your baby. Set an early bed time, stick to it, and make the most out of every waking minute you can.

loose items baby crib4. Letting loose items collect in the baby crib. 1

I admit that I’m guilt of this. As you’re changing the baby, swaddling, switching blankets, etc., you tend to collect a lot of cloth “debris”. Dirty clothes, extra blankets, burp cloths, that sort of thing. Even compact cribs, with their wide opening and flat surface, make excellent collection areas for these things.

We all know this is a danger, even if you put the baby on the other side of the crib. Put a big hamper or basket in your baby’s room and use that to collect the stuff instead. Remember, sleep safety guidelines now say that the only thing that should be in your baby’s crib is the baby himself.

baby first cry5. Over-responding to baby’s first cry. 2

baby blankets on etsy

Winter is coming! Etsy’s cutest hand-sewn baby blankets

Some babies cry in their sleep, and most (if not all) babies occasionally wake up randomly even when they’re routine sleepers. That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you apply good techniques, your baby learns to fall back asleep on his own and to self-soothe. Perhaps one out of every four unexpected wake-ups, my boys will cry, but then konk right out again.

Two times out of four, I can apply soothing techniques to get him back to bed. Only one time out of four do I have to pick him up and offer a bottle.
Invest in a good baby monitor to help you distinguish between little cries and full-on tantrums, and also to reassure yourself that your baby is safe. Baby monitors have come a long way in recent years. See our wireless video monitor reviews for some good options, including one monitor that transmits to your iPhone or smartphone!

feed baby sleep6. Putting baby to bed hungry. 2

Or, if not hungry, then insufficiently fed. The nighttime feeding is crucial to getting your baby to sleep through the night. You get one shot at it, so make it count. At dinner time, feed your baby solid food (if permitted), ideally a vegetable mixed with baby cereal. If baby’s still hungry, mix up more baby cereal and offer it. Then you can play with him for a bit while that settles.

Just before bed, at the right part in your routine, offer a bottle of nice warm milk — offer as much as he’ll take. Don’t let him go to sleep if you know he needs more to drink! Often the more a baby eats, the longer he can sleep at night (notice I say can, not will).

baby bedtime routine7. Skipping parts in, or not even having, a bedtime routine. 2

You should establish a routine for putting baby to bed, including a bath (optional), a fresh overnight diaper, clean pajamas, and swaddling. All of these are key elements to getting your baby to sleep as quickly (and for as long) as possible. I admit that I’m tempted to skip things occasionally.

Does he really need pajamas when I have him in a onesie already? Should I put him into a nighttime diaper when I just changed him 20 minutes ago? He looks warm enough; do I need to swaddle him?

Yes, Yes, Yes! Any skipped step could be the one that has him waking up at 2 a.m.

cosleeping with baby8. Bringing baby to your bed to sleep. 1,2

Oh, no! Thought you were going to get away with that, did you? There are a few types of co-sleeping with baby that parents might make a habit of. Sharing a room, but not a bed, with your infant is actually recommended by pediatricians, as it lets you monitor your baby while he sleeps overnight.

The worrisome kind is bed-sharing, when your baby sleeps in the same bed as the parents. It’s not safe to have a tiny infant sleeping with lots of pillows, loose blankets, and 1-2 exhausted parents. Further, this practice disrupts your own sleep as well, because you’ll:

  1. hear every little noise or movement the baby makes, and
  2. probably be paranoid about rolling over on him or her.

If you find yourself in this circumstance, begin by bringing a bassinet or small crib into your room. See our  mini crib reviews for some compact but stylish cribs. Start transitioning your baby to sleep in that whenever he’ll take it, but at least one night per week. Then go to two nights, then three. For more help, see our article on getting baby to sleep in the crib.

Maybe you just want to be able to watch your baby at all times, even when he or she is asleep. Wireless video baby monitors make that possible, and we’ve reviewed some of the latest models.

Conclusion: Improving Baby Sleep Habits

Don’t feel badly if you’ve picked up a bad habit or two. Nobody’s perfect, and certainly not the author: I’ve been guilty of every single bad habit listed above at some point or another. But you’ve read this far, which means you’re willing to work at improving your baby’s sleep habits. Don’t be afraid to tackle some of these problems.

The latest research on baby sleep training intervention shows that it has both short-term (baby and parents getting some sleep) and long-term (reduced maternal depression) benefits, but no long-term harms. You have nothing to lose by trying it!

Start tonight. The sooner you ditch those bad habits, the sooner your baby will have a longer, safer, more consistent night of sleep. For more help, get our e-book, Baby Sleep Training 101.

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Baby sleep problems Wireless VIdeo Baby Monitors Get baby to sleep through the night Aden & Anais Blankets
Baby sleep problems takes you through the most common sleep issues and how to address them. Our video monitor reviews compare the latest cutting-edge wireless color video baby monitors. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night. Learn about Aden+Anais swaddle blankets and why your baby will love falling asleep with one.
Best Baby Mobiles 6 tips for starting solid food Best baby pacifiers Early bedtime for baby
Best Crib Mobiles reviews musical, black/white, and organic crib mobiles. 6 tips for starting solid food has some good advice for when your baby starts eating solids. Best Baby Pacifiers has our recommendations for newborns, older babies, and teething infants. Early Bedtime strategies that work surprisingly well for helping babies sleep through the night.
 [1] Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Moon RY. SIDS and
other sleep-related infant deaths: expansion of recommendations for
a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2011 Nov;128(5):1030-9.
 [2] Weissblut, Marc. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Ballantine Books; 1 edition
(October 4, 2005). Read our review.

Periodic Table of Baby Sleep

We’ve created this clickable periodic table of baby sleep with all of the elements — sleep essentials, good habits, common sleep problems, and safety concerns — to help your baby get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Essentials Sleep Problems
Establish baby sleep routine Feeding to get baby to sleep Warm to get baby to sleep Reflux keeps baby awake Gas keeps baby awake Hungry baby wont sleep
Burp baby for sleep Quiet to get baby to sleep Comfort baby to sleep Get Sick baby to sleep Baby sleep diapers
Dark to get baby to sleep PERIODIC TABLE OF BABY SLEEP Get teething baby to sleep
Pacifier for baby sleep Nightlight for baby sleep Loose blanket baby sleep safety Smoker baby sleep safety
Swaddle baby to sleep White noise for baby sleep Cereal for baby sleep Overheating baby sleep safety Drugs baby sleep safety Cosleeping and baby sleep safety
Good Sleep Habits Safety Concerns


Essentials for Baby Sleep

These are the basic things that your baby needs to fall asleep. In dark blue are the basic necessities for putting baby to bed; in light blue are the things he’ll need to fall asleep quickly and consistently.

Establish sleep routine for baby Routine. Establishing a sleep schedule and nighttime routine for your baby is critical for good sleep habits. You’ve probably heard of bath-bottle-bed, a classic bedtime routine. Following the same steps at roughly the same time each night helps train your baby that it’s time to go to sleep.
Feeding baby at night Feeding. A full belly is one of the most important ingredients for success in baby sleep training. Simply put, the more food your baby has in his belly, the longer he’ll sleep. It’s all about the nighttime feeding. Solid foods, once your pediatrician OKs them, make a huge difference if you give them at the evening meal.
Burp a baby for sleep Burping. One of the most common reasons, if not the most common reason, that babies won’t go to sleep or wake up crying is from stomach gas. That’s why you have to burp a baby extensively before bed. Knowing some alternate burping techniques will help get stubborn burps out.
Quiet for baby sleep Quiet. This may seem rather obvious, but most infants sleep best in a quiet sleeping environment. White noise is fine, but random noises — from televisions, radios, siblings, or parents — will disrupt the rest and might wake your baby up for the night. Keeping things quiet can be especially difficult if you’re entertaining or traveling with your baby. Invest in a good baby sleep monitor to stay in tune with your baby overnight.
Comfort baby to sleep Comfort. This has two parts to it: choosing the right clothes and blanket(s) for your baby to sleep in, and comforting him at bedtime. You, as a caring parent who’s online reading about babies and sleep, probably do this last part pretty well. For help with the first, see What A Newborn Should Sleep In and check out our guide to cute baby pajamas.
Warm to get baby to sleep Warmth. Being nice and warm helps a baby sleep just as much as it helps an adult. Babies have a harder job of it, though, because they’re so little. A velcro swaddler or baby sleep sack will help keep your baby warm and snug overnight. See also How to Swaddle A Newborn.
Dark for baby sleep Dark. You can help your baby sleep through the night by promoting his natural circadian rhythms – make sure he gets light during the day when it’s play time, but goes to sleep in a dark or nearly-dark room, with at most a night light to see by.

Good Habits to Help Baby Sleep Longer

There are numerous sleep strategies that parents use to help their babies sleep longer and more deeply. Not all of these will work for every baby, but these are some things I recommend when you’re trying to get your baby to sleep through the night.

Pacifier for baby sleep Pacifier. The pacifier is a must-have for bedtime. You should have two or three backups readily at hand so that you can find one in the dark in the middle of the night. Many parents use the hospital-preferred Soothie, though pacifiers by MAM seem more comfortable for older babies. See The Best Baby Pacifiers for more recommendations.
Swaddle baby to sleep Swaddle. If you ever look through the window of a hospital nursery, you’ll notice that the nurses tend to swaddle a newborn under their care. Sometimes one-handed, too, which is impressive. Swaddling your baby mimics the warm snugness and comfort of the womb, while also providing a safe wrapping for your baby to sleep in. A baby sleep sack or sleeping bag does the same while allowing the legs some movement.
Night light for baby Night Light. This could be for your baby, to keep him entertained or distracted while he’s falling asleep in bed. More likely, though, it will be for the parents, to minimize the number of cracked knees and stubbed toes that inevitably result from bumbling around in the dark in baby’s room. See Choosing A Night Light for Baby for some recommendations.
White noise for baby White Noise. Something that provides a low, steady humming noise helps shield your baby from other noises that might wake it. Further, it forms part of the baby bedroom “environment” in which your baby becomes accustomed to sleeping. A fan is a good choice here, because it has the added benefit of circulating air around the room. Soothers and sound machines are also a comfort for many babies.
Baby cereal at night Cereal. As soon as your pediatrician approves it, get some single-grain cereal and start teaching your baby to eat it. Rice and oat cereals are good to start with. You can use cereal to thicken baby food (especially carrots, sweet potatoes, and most fruits). Give your baby cereal at the evening meal (or a bit with the bedtime bottle) and you’ll almost certainly notice him sleeping longer.

Common Baby Sleep Problems

When your baby cries in bed, or wakes up in the middle of the night, there are dozens of possible explanations. In my experience, though, a handful of the most common reasons explain 90% of the times that a baby won’t sleep.

Hungry baby wont sleep Hunger. In my opinion, this is the single most common reason that babies (1) refuse to go to sleep, or (2) wake up crying in the middle of the night. They’re growing all the time. They need food to do it. A good nighttime feeding strategy will help keep your baby’s tummy full overnight.
Gassy baby wont sleep Gassiness. Another major source of bedtime discomfort and baby waking up. Sometimes there’s not much you can do; infant digestive systems are still maturing and need some time to work the kinks out. Just be sure you know how to burp a baby thoroughly before bed, and be certain to do it every time.
Wet diaper wont sleep Diaper. A fresh, clean diaper is a must when putting your baby to bed. Babies with a wet or dirty diapers usually won’t even go to sleep, much less stay there. When your infant is a little bit older (say 3 months), look into the Huggies Overnites diapers. These wick away more moisture to keep your baby dry overnight. See our article on the Importance of Diapers for Sleeping.
Reflux baby wont sleep Reflux. Spitting up is a common problem with newborns, and especially frustrating around bedtime because (1) your baby messes up his pajamas, and (2) he’s just regurgitated the food he’ll need to sleep overnight. You can protect against this by keeping him upright (holding, bouncer, or Bumbo seat) for 20-30 minutes before bed. For more tips, see Handling Reflux or Colic.
Get A sick baby to sleep Sick. Even the best-trained babies have trouble sleeping when they’re sick. They feel icky, they’re congested, they can’t breathe, and they cough the pacifier right out. Getting A Sick Baby to Sleep takes extra patience and extra work, but it can be done.
Baby sleep while teething Teething. This is one of the reasons why baby won’t sleep that’s hard to diagnose. Sometimes your baby has a runny nose, or refuses to eat even though he seems hungry. My boys would suddenly wake up screaming, as if in pain. Luckily there’s a good solution for this problem: Baby Orajel.

Unsafe Sleep Practices

All of us have bad habits. When it comes to babies and sleep, however, your weak points can actually create a dangerous situation for your baby. Some of the most worrisome safety concerns warned about by the American Academy of Pediatrics are in orange and red.

Back to sleep cosleeping Co-sleeping, or sleeping in the same room with your baby is actually a recommended practice to help you monitor him overnight. A mini crib is ideal for this. Bed-sharing (letting the baby sleep in your bed), however, can be dangerous. This is a major risk for SIDS and you shouldn’t get into the habit. See Cosleeping with Baby for some advice. And check out the safe crib for co-sleeping.
Back to sleep smoking Smoking. Room-sharing and bed-sharing with someone who smokes increases a baby’s risk of SIDS, even if that person doesn’t smoke while in bed. The carcinogen-containing smoke particles cling to a smoker’s clothing, skin, and hair, and can still be transferred when he or she touches or goes near an infant. Quitting smoking is something you should try very hard to do. For you, and for baby.
Back to sleep safety overheat Overheating. With all of the flannel pajamas, swaddlers, and baby blankets, it is quite possible for your baby to overheat. The AAP recommends that your baby have, at most, one more layer of clothing on than an adult would need to feel comfortable. Some of the digital video baby monitors that we reviewed include remote temperature sensors for the nursery, which seems like a nice idea.
Back to sleep safety drugs Drugs and Alcohol. Parents taking prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs (you know what I mean), or alcohol can endanger their baby because these things make them (1) less responsive, (2) groggy and/or clumsy, and (3) poor in judgment. The risk of SIDS is even higher when parents also let the baby sleep in their bed.
Back to sleep safety loose blankets Loose Bedding. This is the danger that we all know about, and all of us eventually become guilty of. When you’re trying to get a baby to sleep and comforting him, it’s tempting to put a little stuffed animal or soft pillow or loose blanket in his crib. Be strong, and don’t do it. Your baby’s crib should only have one thing in it: the baby. Consider swaddling with an Aden+Anais blanket for extra comfort.

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How to Swaddle a Newborn

How to Swaddle A Newborn BabySwaddling a newborn baby is an essential skill for new parents. A swaddled infant will stay warmer, safer, and more comfortable in bed. Thus, it should help them sleep longer. Translation: more sleep for you. Here we’ll discuss some of the reasons for why you should swaddle your baby, how to swaddle a newborn, and when to stop swaddling.
Why Swaddle A Newborn?
How to Swaddle A Newborn
Newborn Swaddling Tips
When to Stop Swaddling

Why Swaddle A Newborn?

Newborn babies, having just left the womb, are a little frightened by their new world. Swaddling gives newborns a sense of the snug comfort they need to feel secure. There’s a reason that swaddling techniques are practiced by most hospital nurseries: Many newborns won’t sleep without it. Swaddling also keeps babies warm, especially their arms and legs, by keeping them close to the trunk of the body. Finally, swaddling is a safety measure for baby sleep; in fact, it’s the only safe way to keep a blanket in the crib.

How to Swaddle A Newborn

This step-by-step guide describes how to swaddle a newborn using a standard receiving blanket. You can and should master this technique. Do it right, and your newborn will never be cold at night!

Newborn swaddle blanket Before you begin: Choose a good blanket. A square or rectangular-shaped blanket, such as a receiving blanket, is best for this. The extremely popular Aden & Anais blankets are well-suited for this. Make sure that the blanket is big enough to perform all of the steps below; if you can’t tuck it securely, the swaddle won’t hold.
How to swaddle a newborn step one Step 1. Fold one corner down, making a triangle. You can make this a perfect triangle if the blanket is big enough; the point must extend far enough below baby’s feet that you can fold it up and reach the chin. If not, don’t fold the corner all the way to the other side (see image to the left).
How to swaddle a newborn step two Step 2. Add the baby. Your newborn’s neck should be over the edge of the fold that you just made or slightly above it so that the blanket stays away from the face.
How to swaddle a newborn step three Step 3. Fold over one corner and tuck under your baby. Which side you choose doesn’t matter, but be sure to tuck the corner so that it’s smooth and secure under your baby’s back. Not loose, and not scrunched up.
How to swaddle a newborn step four Step 4. Bring up the bottom corner. This is what separates swaddling from simply wrapping your baby up in a blanket. If your baby is a kicker, allow enough room for his legs to move so that he doesn’t kick out of the swaddle. The bottom edge should come up to your baby’s chin; if there’s extra reach, fold it over and around the first side-corner you folded in.
How to swaddle a newborn step five Step 5. Fold over the other side. This should be a nice, even fold, wrapping over the bottom-folded section and reaching the other side. You will tuck the extra bit under your baby’s back, so that his weight holds it in place.
How to swaddle a newborn step six Step 6. Your newborn is swaddled! Now you can feel free to feed him, rock him, or put him to bed. You’ll notice that I recommend keeping the newborn’s arms free, instead of wrapping them up. This bit of advice comes from the pediatric nurse who taught our baby class. She’s adamant that a baby’s arms should stay free, allowing a newborn to comfort himself.

Newborn Swaddling Tips

  • Use a relatively thin blanket of appropriate size. Due to the number of folds involved, swaddling doesn’t seem to work as well on blankets that are too thick or too large relative to the baby.
  • Start over, don’t salvage. If a fold was off, the newborn was positioned funny, or it just doesn’t seem to be working, start the swaddling over from the beginning. The result will be much better than a salvage job.
  • Practice swaddling a baby one-handed. Trust me, you’ll need to know how. You can watch nurses in the NICU or hospital nursery; they’re experts at this.
  • Try a velcro swaddle blanket. These things make swaddling much faster, and hold more securely in place around your newborn.

When to Stop Swaddling

Cute Sleep Sack for NewbornsAt some point, it will be time to stop swaddling your baby. You’ll probably realize this over time, as your baby gets too big to be swaddled with most blankets, and manages to kick out of them whenever you do it. If you bought a velcro swaddler, you’ll notice that it doesn’t fit them completely any more and only wraps around the lower half. This, incidentally, may be around the same time that your baby starts moving on his own and rolling over.

When you start seeing these signs, it’s probably time to replace the swaddler with a plain sleep sack, which I highly recommend. These are light fleece garments, with or without sleeves, that zip up in the front. They are very warm and comfortable; both of our twins are currently sleeping in them. For more, see our review of sleep sacks and sleeping bags.

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Baby sleep problems takes you through the most common sleep issues and how to address them. The periodic table of baby sleep has all the essential elements for healthy baby sleep habits. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night. Check out our reviews of Essential baby gear for helping babies sleep at night.

Co-sleeping with Baby

Cosleeping with BabyCo-sleeping is a practice where a baby sleeps close to one or both parents at night, instead of in a crib in his or her own room. This is a fairly common practice, and there are different subsets of it. What are the benefits? What are the risks?

Parents usually have a reason to start co-sleeping. Whether or not you should stop, and how to make the transition, are hard questions to answer. I’m here to help.
Types of Co-sleeping
Benefits of Co-sleeping
Co-sleeping and SIDS
Other Risks of Co-sleeping
How to Stop Co-sleeping

Types of Co-sleeping

Cosleeping is a broad category in which the baby sleeps close to one or both parents. There are a few different subtypes of this:

  • Room sharing, in which the baby sleeps in a crib or bassinet in the parents’ room.
  • Bed sharing, where the baby sleeps in bed with parents at night.
  • Co-bedding, for families with multiples, is when twins share the same crib to sleep for naps and/or for the night.

As a father of twins, I must admit that I’ve done all three of these at some point or another. We have a small crib in our room (room sharing). On rare occasion we’ve picked up a twin who was crying in their room, and let him sleep in bed with us (bed sharing). A few times when they were newborns we’ve put both boys to sleep in the same crib or pack-n-play (co bedding).

Benefits of Co-sleeping

Portable Baby Bassinet for Cosleeping

There’s a reason that cosleeping is a common practice: parents find one or more benefits to it. These might be simple economic realities. Extra rooms and baby beds cost money, and some other expenses (diapers, formula) have higher priority. In the case of room-sharing, the American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends it for babies because it lets parents more closely monitor their infant while he’s sleeping. Convenience is another benefit of cosleeping; when your newborn wakes up every three to four hours, and you’re exhausted, it’s tempting to keep him close by, especially at night.

One of the most common justifications I hear is, “My baby only sleeps if one of us is holding her, or if she’s in bed with us. And I’ve got to get some sleep!” I’m very sympathetic to the parents who admit this. Sometimes you have to do what’s necessary to get your baby to sleep so you can get some shuteye of your own. However, this is something you can work on by establishing a sleep routine for your baby, and there are definite reasons to try to stop co-sleeping with baby in your bed.

Co-sleeping and SIDS

The American Academy of Pediatrics released updated baby sleep safety guidelines in late 2011. Among these are some specific points related to co sleeping. Basically, it is recommended that you sleep in the same room but not the same bed as your baby. There is substantial evidence that this practice (room sharing but not bed sharing) decreases the risk of SIDS by up to 50%.

Infants may be brought into the parents’ bed for feeding or comfort, but should be returned to their crib or bassinet to sleep. This helps prevent suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment that could occur in the parents’ bed. Devices that claim to make bed sharing more safe are not recommended. The AAP recommends against bed sharing flat-out, but the most dangerous practices of it are:

  • Bed sharing with infants younger than 3 months of age.
  • Bed sharing with a current smoker, even if he/she does not smoke while in bed.
  • Bed-sharing with someone who is excessively tired, taking medication, or has used drugs or alcohol
  • Bed-sharing with anyone who is not a parent, including other children
  • Bed-sharing on a soft surface (water bed, old mattress, sofa, armchair, etc.).
  • Bed-sharing on any surface with loose soft bedding, such as pillows, quilts, and comforters.

You should try to avoid bed sharing altogether, but the above practices especially.

Should Twins Share A Bed?

The issue of bed sharing with twins is a contentious one. Some argue that twins should sleep in the same bed to encourage their co-development and comfort one another. Others might do this for practical reasons; it takes extra space and extra money to buy a second twin when you’re having twins.

My twin boys share a room but sleep in separate cribs, which seems like a good compromise. The older one is a couple of pounds heavier, and we didn’t want him rolling on top of his brother (or waking him up) on accident. This way, they can see and babble at one another and still have a safe place of their own to sleep in.

You might think “Oh, I’ll never have to worry about this,” but here’s a little statistic for you. The chances of having twins are around 3% with each pregnancy. It could happen to you!

Other Risks of Co-sleeping

There are some disadvantages to cosleeping, even the recommended and safe practice of having your baby sleep in his own crib or bassinet in your room.

  1. Although your presence is probably a comfort, your baby might have trouble sleeping if he sees you or hears you moving around. Sources of loud irregular noise, such as cell phones, alarm clocks, televisions, and radios, are likely to wake babies up if they’re in your room.
  2. Having the baby in your room (or worse, your bed) can prevent you from sleeping. Parents are programmed to respond when a baby moves, coughs, or makes any irregular noise. Also, you might be tempted to respond too quickly if your baby does wake up. A significant fraction of the time that my babies have woken up and fussed, they go back to sleep on their own within a minute or two.
  3. This might be a minor point, but cribs and bassinets take up a lot of space in your bedroom, and they’re notorious for causing stubbed toes and cracked shins for parents late at night.

How to Stop Co-sleeping (Bed sharing)

So, you’re co sleeping, and not the good doctor-recommended kind? Don’t feel too badly about it – there are reasons why so many parents find themselves bed sharing. Here are some strategies you can use to transition to safer sleep routines for your baby.

  • Don’t make bed sharing a habit! Occasional cosleeping is much easier to fix. If part of your baby’s nighttime sleeping routine is falling asleep in your arms or while snuggling you, that’s a hard precedent to break.
  • Put your baby to bed before he or she falls asleep. Babies need to learn to fall asleep by themselves while laying (on their backs) in their own cribs.
  • Be strong. I feel a powerful urge to run to the rescue whenever I hear one of my babies cry, and I’m sure you feel the same way. This transition period will almost certainly involve some crying. Let your baby fuss for five minutes or so before going in to comfort him or her.
  • Start slow. Don’t go cold-turkey on breaking your cosleeping habit, or you could be in for a stretch of sleepless nights. Instead, try it one night out of four and increase the frequency over time.
  • Think about the benefits. Moving the baby out of your bed is a win for everyone. For the little ones, it’s a safer night’s sleep. For the parents, it’s so much more freedom. You can do what you want, when you want, and sprawl however you want, when your baby is in his own bed. You’ll probably get more sleep, and better sleep, without fear of rolling over on top of him. Keep these benefits in mind, and you’ll stay motivated to do the right thing.

You don’t have to go cold turkey. You can invest in a mini crib or bassinet and put them right next to your bed. That way you get all of the benefits but your baby gets to sleep in his or her own little space. There are even special safe co-sleeping cribs to help this transition.

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Best Baby Pacifiers has our recommendations for newborns, older babies, and teething infants. Baby sleep problems takes you through the most common sleep issues and how to address them. The periodic table of baby sleep has all the essential elements for healthy baby sleep habits. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night.

Back to Sleep Safety Guidelines

Baby sleep safety tipsBack To Sleep is a public education campaign started in 1994 to combat the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The central recommendation, the one for which the campaign was named, was that babies be put on their backs to sleep (not their stomach or side). This has been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS. Since the campaign began, SIDS death rates have dropped by 50% (see figure).

Sleep Safety Guidelines

In late 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released updated guidelines for promoting safe sleep for babies. These are recommendations made by pediatricians to reduce the risk of SIDS. Though their list is extensive (and backed up with a lot of research), I’ve boiled it down to the essential baby sleep safety tips.

Baby Death Rates Since Back To Sleep

Effect of the Back To Sleep Campaign

Put your baby on his or her back to sleep every time

Infants should be placed in a “supine” position — completely on their backs — to sleep. This should be done every time the baby goes to bed (including naps) and continued until 1 year of age.

Some parents worry that doing so increases the risk of choking, but this is not the case. Babies have protective airway mechanisms to prevent this. Even with babies that have reflux should be put on their backs to sleep.

Use a firm [flat] sleep surface

Ideally, a firm mattress covered by a fitted sheet. The AAP recommends that a crib conforming to ASTM safety standards be used. Check to make sure that your crib or mattress hasn’t been recalled. The mattress should be sized to fit your baby’s crib (see our list of the best baby crib mattresses). Importantly, don’t put your baby in a crib with missing parts, and don’t try to fix a broken crib yourself.

Also, make sure the crib or bassinet is placed in a safe location, away from electrical cords, mini-blind cords, etc. (see our article on 5 dangers near your baby’s crib). Sitting devices, such as car seats, strollers, and swings, are not recommended for routine sleep. This is especially important for babies younger than 4 months of age, as partially-upright positions might cause their airway to become obstructed.

Sleep in the same room, but not the same bed, as your baby

Under no circumstances should your baby sleep in bed with you. Doing so exploses them to lots of suffocation and strangulation hazards, including pillows, loose blankets, sheets, and the bodies of the parents. This is a real danger. Also, it’s recommended that the mini crib or bassinet be put in the parents’ room near their bed so that they can monitor and comfort the baby overnight. There are now baby monitors that detect sound and movement to help you monitor your infant when you’re out of the room.

Keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib

Your baby’s bed should have three things in it: a mattress, a fitted sheet, and the baby. No pillows, no soft cushy toys, no sheepskins, no loose bedding of any kind. It’s OK to swaddle or put him in a baby sleep sack, but loose blankets are not recommended. Crib bumpers and bumper pads should not be used. These increase the risk of suffocation, entrapment, and strangulation. Don’t worry that your baby will injure himself on the bars of the crib – he won’t. Throw those bumpers away.

Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime

Though the mechanism is unclear, the use of a pacifier is associated with reduced risk of SIDS. My personal suggestion is to keep two or three of your best baby pacifiers in the crib so that you can find one when you need it, even in the dark. The AAP says that you should put it in when you put the baby to bed, but you don’t need to re-insert it if the pacifier falls out while your baby is asleep; the protective effect continues even if the pacifier isn’t in the infant’s mouth. For breastfed babies, the pacifier should not be introduced until 3-4 weeks of age to avoid nipple confusion.

Soothie Baby Pacifier

Avoid Overheating the Baby

Your infant should be dressed appropriately for the environment, with no more than 1 layer of clothing on than an adult would wear comfortably. Check your baby for signs of overheating — perspiration or feeling hot to the touch — and address them immediately, even if the baby’s asleep. See also our guide to what a newborn should sleep in.

Breastfeed your baby

The AAP recommends that you breastfeed your baby, feeding only breast milk (directly or expressed) until 6 months of age. There is a protective effect against SIDS for breastfed babies. Exclusive breastfeeding is best, but some breastfeeding is better than none at all. If you’re having trouble, consider a quality breast pump so that you can store and feed expressed milk.

Safe baby breast pump
Medela Breast Pump

Do not use home breathing/heart rate monitors

This one surprised me. The AAP recommends against using home cardiorespiratory monitors, the kind that detect apnea (pauses in breathing while sleeping), brachycardia (heart rate drops) and/or blood hemoglobin oxygenation. There is no evidence that these decrease the incidence of SIDS.  While there may be some values for certain infants (preemies?), monitors should not be used routinely.

I did not see any specific recommendations against using a baby movement monitor like the Snuza Halo. See our review article for some good options.

You may have seen baby sleep positioners, crib ramps, or other products claiming to reduce the risk of SIDS. The AAP found no evidence that these were effective and recommends against them. For more, see my post on the myth of baby sleep positioners.

Pregnant women should receive regular prenatal care

According to the AAP, there is “substantial evidence” that women who have prenatal care are less likely to have a baby that dies from SIDS.

Avoid smoke exposure during pregnancy and after birth

Smoking should absolutely be avoided by the mother, during pregnancy and after birth. Also, you should minimize your baby’s exposure to smoke from other people, including relatives and friends. Smoke lingers in hair and clothing; people who smoke should generally not be near (and certainly not holding) your baby. Also, smoking combined with co-sleeping creates a high risk for SIDS.

It’s just selfish to smoke around a baby.

Avoid alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy and after birth

Alcohol taken during pregnancy endangers a fetus. You should know this already. After birth, alcohol should be avoided because it impairs your judgment and dexterity, which could prevent you from caring for your infant. Alcohol and/or drug use in combination with co-sleeping creates a particularly high risk for SIDS.

My question to the AAP: shouldn’t illicit drug use be avoided at ALL times?

What To Read Next

Baby sleep problems Periodic Table of Baby SLeep Train baby to sleep through the night Essential Baby Sleep Gear
Baby sleep problems takes you through the most common sleep issues and how to address them. The periodic table of baby sleep has all the essential elements for healthy baby sleep habits. Visit our sleep training section for strategies and tips for teaching your baby to sleep through the night. Check out our reviews of Essential baby gear for helping babies sleep at night.