Sleep Sack Hack – My Favorite Swaddling Alternative

Babies love to be swaddled.  They love that feeling of having their arms tucked in, the pressure on their chest.  It reminds them of their time in the womb.  The number one skill for a new parent to learn is how to swaddle a baby.  Or is it?

Inconsistent Techniques

While we were in the hospital with Bugaboo, the nurses would come in, check on her, and then swaddle her up.  They each had a different way.  Some would leave her arms out.  Others would fold the blanket differently.  If we were to try to learn swaddling by watching their examples, we would not have known what to do!

Many parenting classes also teach you to swaddle.  They will give you a plastic baby doll that never moves and show you the best way to swaddle.  This is absolutely nothing like trying to swaddle a live, moving baby.  I met a mother who’d had three babies in three years.  She said the parenting classes taught her a different method each time.

Baby Houdini

We joked that Bugaboo was “Baby Houdini” because she was always able to break free of her swaddle.  However, this is no laughing matter.  Having a loose swaddle blanket around baby is a risk for SIDS.

So how do you get a swaddle on tight enough (but not too tight) while the baby is squirming around?  It was as if Bugaboo knew what we were trying to do – like she was laughing at us.

Swaddle Alternatives

Enter the swaddle alternatives.  When we brought Bugaboo home from the hospital, we didn’t know about these.  We just had a pile of hand-me-down swaddles that my friends and sisters had given us.

Each swaddler has a different method.  Some were large and soft, using three Velcro patches to keep the baby swaddled in.  Others had holes in them, which apparently were to use in conjunction with the car seat.

It didn’t take long to discover which one we loved the best – the Halo Sleep Sack.

Halo Sleep Sack

The Halo Sleep sack seemed to take the idea of a swaddle alternative to the next level.

You put the baby into the sack like you’re dressing her in a jumper – with the arms through the holes.  Then you zip it down!  I love the fact that the sleep sack zips from top to bottom.  This allows us access to the diaper in the middle of the night, without having to get the baby all the way out of her sack.  In addition, I don’t have to worry about her chewing on the zipper and creating a potential choking hazard.

Attached to the back of the sack are two wings with Velcro on them.  Once the baby is in the sack, you put her arms down at her side and wrap the wings around her.  Secure her as tight as necessary with the Velcro.  Voila!  The baby is swaddled just as well as any swaddling blanket job could have done!

Another nice perk about the sleep sack is that every one has the words, “Back Is Best” printed on the front.  If you are leaving your baby with a caretaker, it’s nice to know that they will have this gentle reminder before they put your baby down to sleep.

Transitional Swaddle

Once your baby is rolling over on her own, you shouldn’t swaddle her with her arms in.  We ran into a snag at that point, because she was still young enough she wanted to be swaddled, but we wanted to keep her safe.  Again, we turned to the Halo Sleep Sack.

The newborn and small sized sleep sacks come with the swaddling wings.  So when it’s time to swaddle with arms out, just wrap the wings around baby’s chest with her arms out.  This still creates a comforting swaddling pressure, but allows her arms free to right herself if she rolls.

If baby still needs a little extra comfort from having her arms swaddled in, simply transition from arms in to arms out in two steps – swaddle baby with only one arm in at a time.  The long swaddling wings on the sleep sack make this easy.  And since our Baby Houdini was always pulling one arm out anyway, it didn’t cause any sleep interruptions for us.

Finishing Out the Year

Since your baby shouldn’t have a blanket in her crib for the first year at least, it’s helpful to continue using a sleep sack.  The Halo Sleep Sacks grow with the baby all the way past 18 months!  Starting with the size medium, the wings are gone.  However, you can still put the baby in the sack for added warmth or comfort while she sleeps.  Bugaboo likes to gather up her sleep sack in her hands as she is falling asleep.  She now uses it almost as a lovey – pulling it out of her crib and bringing it to me when she is tired and knows she wants a nap.

Part of our bedtime and naptime routine is to put Bugaboo in her sleep sack.  She knows it’s time to sleep.  Although she may let out a cry of frustration, she quickly settles down.  I have had her nap a few times in the crib without the sack, but for a long nap, it is a comforting sleep association for her.

At 14 months old, Bugaboo is still in the large size sack.  It is very long on her and flows all over the place like a real blanket, but it doesn’t pose a choking hazard.  We intend to use her large sleep sacks until she is too large for them, or until winter.

Other than the one that was given to us, we have used two of each size for Bugaboo since she was born – five in all.  There are dozens of patterns and colors to choose from, and the sleep sacks come in light cotton fabric for the summer or warmer fleece for the winter.  They run $18 – $25 depending on the size, color, availability, and retailer.

So there you have it – the best swaddle alternative you can get!  Hopefully it will help you little one (and you) get some sleep, so that you can remember these as the good old days!


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