Let’s Talk About Sleep Sacks

I decided a while back that, since I’m doing the baby thing for a second time, it might just be that I have some advice – at least in terms of baby gear – that might help some moms out as they are thinking about what they need or want for their littles.

Since I am once again in the throes of sleep training (and it’s not going particularly well), I thought I’d start off by sharing some suggestions for sleepsacks and swaddling.

Sugarpie is long out of the swaddle, and there are many schools of thought on the swaddle (to swaddle, not to swaddle) and on sleepsacks in general. But here are some items we gave a go (and how it went).

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The Point of Swaddles and Sleepsacks

Sleepsacks come in all styles, prints, and fabrics, and every mom has her favorites. The general purpose of them is to provide a layer of warmth for baby without having to resort to loose blankets in the crib, which can be a major risk factor for SIDS. Toddlers benefit from sleepsacks because they can’t be kicked off, which makes it a little easier when trying to keep your kiddo warm at night, especially in the winter.

As far as swaddling goes, the idea is that a snug swaddle helps supress baby’s Moro reflex (that “jerky” thing babies do in their sleep), also known as the startle reflex. This reflex is something baby will grow out of by 4 to 6 months of age, but while it’s present can be a cause for premature waking from a nap or at night. Swaddling technique is tied to the swaddling product, and while some baby’s do fine without being swaddled, most need some sort of swaddling for at least the first couple months of life.

Incidentally, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends to stop swaddling at 8 weeks of age, if baby is showing signs of rolling from back to belly, OR if baby CAN roll over, as this is a major safety risk in a swaddle. Every baby is different; our pediatrician gave us the thumbs up to keep swaddling Sugarpie when we went to our 4 months well child check. Her startle reflex was still super strong at that point, she still slept in our room and I was hypersensitive to her every move and sound, and she wasn’t rolling yet. (I have since decided that, like her father, she is just a restless sleeper.)

Swaddling and Swaddlesacks

If you are in the swaddle-baby camp, there are a lot of options out there. Many people like going with standard swaddle blankets, which are usually made from muslin or some other type of breathable material that has some give to it. It’s also helpful to have a swaddle blanket that’s on the larger size, as it gives you the ability to swaddle more securely and longer for larger babies.

There are many different ways to swaddle using a blanket, but the key is to make sure that the swaddle is snug, the fabric is well away from baby’s face, and that baby can’t break out. (Some babies break out but still need to have that swaddled feeling – if they’re breaking out of a traditional swaddle blanket, you may need to consider a different product.)

So what are Your Options?

There are a bunch of different brands out there that offer a swaddle sack, which is a sleepsack that has attached “wings” of some sort that easily swaddle with velcro. They’re pretty foolproof. I have personally been a fan of the Halo sacks since Babycakes was a newborn. They come in different fabrics, from cotton to microfleece. I also liked that when you ARE ready to transition baby, you can do so with these sacks by leaving the arms out and swaddling around the chest, so baby still has that snuggly feeling. While the swaddle sacks only come in newborn and small sizes, the line of Halo sacks goes all the way up to size 5t “Big Kids”. So if you like them, you can use them for a long time.

But Sugarpie was a crap sleeper, and I was desperate to figure out how to help her get some sleep. Early on, I tried out this all-in-one style sack from SwaddleDesigns, that gave us the option of arms in or arms out but up. It was a reaaaally nice sleepsack, but it only comes in size 0-3 months. So unless you have a super small baby, you’ll size out of this pretty quick, like we did.








Another option for babies who like to sleep with arms up so they can self-soothe, but still need some resistance, is the Love to Dream SwaddleUp sack. This particular brand even offers a style where you can remove the “wings” to help baby transition to a regular sleepsack. For us, unfortunately, Sugarpie didn’t like to have her arms restricted in the “touchdown” position, so we passed this particular product on to friends.

One product that seemed like an odd option, but ended up being the key to getting Sugarpie out of the swaddle once and for all, is the Zipadee Zip. It’s this sort of weird starfish-shaped design, with hands in. It allows for very free movement, a great thing if your baby is rolling or mobile in any other way as it provides the free range of motion necessary to make it safe. But because of its design, it provides “edges”, if you will, so the baby still feels secure. If your baby is on the smaller side, Sleeping Baby (the company) also sells a Snuggle Strap, which is basically a velcro belt that goes under baby’s arms to cinch the fabric of the Zipadee Zip to give more resistance.

The Zipadee Zip comes in several fabric options, from a light polyester summer weight to microfleece for winter. I started off with the summer weight Zippy and the Snuggle Strap, but ended up liking the regular cotton sack better. As Sugarpie grew, even without the Snuggle Strap she was nice and secure and snuggly. The fact that her hands were covered were bonus points, because she couldn’t scratch her face. Plus she liked to suck on the ends of the hand points. My only beef with the Zipadee Zip is that, unlike most sleepsacks, the zipper is not two directional, so middle of the night diaper changes can be tricky.

The Nested Bean Zen line of products offers a weighted sack option that safely provides a little extra comfort (so the company professes) to your baby. In addition to standard style sacks, Nested Bean also offers a swaddle sack, onesies, and jammies with their patented weighted “chick” design.

I guess they kind of work like weighted blankets would for adults. We tried out the Zen Sack, but did not get the “miracle” of 8+ hours of sleep within a week like the ads promised. In fact, the first time we tried sleeping Sugarpie in the Zen sack, she kind of hated it. (Maybe if we had used the swaddle sack initially, I don’t know.) Eventually, I figured out that layering the Zen sack over the Zipadee Zip worked well at night (both in terms of layers and security). And then the Zen sack just turned into a really nice sleepsack. The fabric is a soft cotton that washes well, and the zipper goes around the seam, rather than up the front of the body. We’ve grown out of the size we have, but I will not be buying another.

If you are looking for a transitional swaddle product, there are others besides the Zipadee Zip, SwaddleUp, and Zen Sack that many parents love. The Merlin Magic Sleep Suit, besides making your baby look like the State Puff Marshmallow Man, is an option that supresses the startle reflex but allows baby access to their hands for self-soothing. But once baby is rolling, you have to ditch the Merlin. (We tried this for Babycakes, to no avail. Plus she sized out of it really fast.) Other families love the Woombie line of products.

Once your baby is out of the swaddle completely, there are a lot of regular sleepsack options out there. As I said earlier, we are fans of the Halo line of products, but there are options out there from just about every baby sleepwear company you can think of, at a price point for just about everyone. Sometimes you have to see what your baby likes, or you can just decide on a brand and stick with it.

Now as for actual baby sleep, that’s a whole different post…

The Name of Red (Virtual Tour & Giveaway)


by Beena Khan

Genre: Literary Fiction


Two strangers on the same path.

Survivors. Companions.

They will be each other’s salvation.

On a rainy, winter night, a mysterious woman in a red dress seeking shelter comes inside the restaurant Kabir was busy working in —primarily the bar— and night after night, drink after drink, she comes back to the same spot. That is where he sees her for the first time.

Hundreds of patrons around her try to speak with her daily, but she dismisses them. It appears she wants to remain in a blissful peace alone with her booze and books. After seeing the mysterious woman reading a book, and because of his shy nature, Kabir gains entrance into her life by anonymously leaving books with notes for her.

The Name of Red is the story of two strangers, two different personalities who meet on a winter, rainy night who challenge each other. They have a connection which blossoms into a friendship due to their fondness of books. But they both have secrets that can bind them together or threaten their newfound relationship forever.

Read an Excerpt

The restaurant Ferdaus was filled with a buzzing crowd.

The smoke around the people twisted and formed curls, illuminated under the bar lights. The atmosphere was a hazy cloud, lingering against their clothes. Several people came in seeking shelter from the pouring rain outside. The customers of the restaurant turned to look at the entrance door- bell jingling. They glanced at the large crowd coming as the glass door was pulled open, and they watched as someone newstepped in behind them.

The woman walked into the bar for the first time in the winter rain.

She didn’t have an umbrella on her; her little sleeveless dress ended at her ankles, fully drenched. Her wet dress clung to her body, showcasing the outlines of her curves. In one hand, she was carrying the skirt of her dress. Suddenly, she let it go, and her long, bare arms moved upwards as she tried to fix her damp hair which had darkened in intensity due to the rain. It fell past her shoulders, the strands sticking to her face. She attempted to comb through the tangles with her fingertips.

The men watched her movements hungrily, their eager faces drawn to her and at the sight of someone new. Their eyes trailed from her face, to her wet body, then back to the movements of her hands entwined in her hair. Under her arm, she carried a book and a trench coat. It appeared strange she wasn’t wearing the coat when it was pouring outside and freezing in the middle of November. Men were left mesmerized by her, and she turned heads as she walked by. Something radiated from within her, drawing the men around her in.

The women who were with some of these men noticed their gaze on the unfamiliar woman. Now they stared at her with jealousy and anger.

Who is she? they wondered.

Beena Khan will award a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner and a digital copy of the book to 3 randomly drawn winners via Rafflecopter. Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Meet Beena Khan

Beena Khan lives in a suburb in Queens, New York in her apartment. She is 27 years old, from Azad Kashmir, Pakistan. She is an immigrant who moved to New York when she was five years old. She currently holds a Masters Degree in Developmental Psychology from CUNY School of Professional Sciences. She enjoys reading, writing, and netflixing. This is her debut novel.

Her website is www.beenakhan.com. Sign up for her newsletter, where you can subscribe for book news, writing tips, upcoming releases, and exclusive content!

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Biology of the Brain (Virtual Tour & Giveaway)

BIOLOGY OF THE BRAIN: How Your Gut Microbiome Affects Your Brain

by Kent Macleod

GENRE: Nonfiction/ Health

Book Blurb


Biology of the Brain

Are you sick?

Are you plagued by chronic health problems with no cure or remedy in sight?

Are you tired of spending thousands on medications that only seem to make you worse?

Think that your drugs are a sham that are just managing symptoms and never dealing with the root cause? You’re not alone!

Millions suffer from similar ailments and health struggles just like you, only to be prescribed more medications that can actually cause harm, and in some cases, even kill you. The medical industry has it all backward!

Chronic health conditions and mental health disorders are increasing at an alarming rate, and yet we are still trying to use the same old ineffective drugs that can have very serious side effects.

We’re the blind leading the blind in the hopes that the next great pill will solve all of our problems. Meanwhile, the health of the majority of Canadians and Americans is deteriorating—fast!

But there is a growing understanding in the community that there’s a bigger beast at the heart of the health epidemic…

It’s called the microbiome. And it’s intimately connected to your brain.

Microbiome health is brain health.

In The Biology of the Brain, Kent MacLeod, pharmacist, founder and CEO of NutriChem Compounding Pharmacy and Clinic, breaks down why modern medicine is killing people instead of healing them. Instead of leaving the problem as it stands, he provides you with clear, actionable steps to not only heal your microbiome, but to restore your brain health and get your life back.

Kent Macleod is giving away a $10 Amazon/B&N Gift Card to one winner during the tour. Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Read an Excerpt

I’ll never forget this 63-year-old woman who’d come into my clinic. We’ll call her Susie. Susie had type two diabetes, suffered from obesity, and from severe high blood sugar. She tried diets and to exercise to lose the weight, but nothing worked.

She even resorted to medication to stimulate normal blood sugar levels and weight loss. This only made matters worse for her. By the time she came to me, she was desperate (it’s unfortunate I was seen as the last resort, but I’m glad she came to me).

We evaluated her lifestyle, her food intake, her diet, her regimen, her medications. We went over her prior tests, then did our own full-body analysis to determine the culprit of her health issues and inability to lose weight.

Can you guess what it was?

You’re right. Her gut microbiome was all out of whack and needed a drastic recovery if she had any hope of living an abundant life without worry, stress, and chronic health failure. After I went over the test results with her and explained her situation, she became noticeably distraught.

She had been struggling with her weight for years and she had made it her identity. She was never going to lose weight and would always have diabetes and health problems. There was no hope for her. As she wiped the tears from her eyes and lifted her head to me, I asked her one question, “Susie, do you want to get well?”

Meet Kent Macleod

Kent MacLeod is an international thought leader and award-winning pharmacist, with over 35 years of clinical experience delivering patient-centered health care. He’s globally recognized as a hormone health and nutrition expert, and he has lectured at health conferences, published research, and developed course material for many professional clinics based on NutriChem’s success.

He’s won numerous awards for his dedication to patient wellness, including the Canadian Compounding Pharmacist of the Year award, the Distinguished Pharmacy Practice Award, and the Outstanding Service Award for Innovation.  He also wrote the book, Down Syndrome and Vitamin Therapy: Unlocking the Secrets of Health, Behavior, and Intelligence.

He lectures throughout North America and Europe on the gut microbiome, hormones, mental health, Down Syndrome, pediatrics, pain management, as well as pharmacology. His philosophy is to work with every patient—individually—to ensure they receive the best combination of conventional and natural therapies for health maintenance and disease management.

If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, it’s time you learn why your body is hurting and correct it the right way.

Website: http://biologyofthebrain.com/

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Print copy: https://www.amazon.com/Biology-Brain-Your-Microbiome-Affects/dp/173253893X/ref=sr_1_2

Mayhem and the Marquess (Virtual Tour & Giveaway)


by Win Hollows

GENRE:  Historical Romance

Book Blurb

Daughter of an infamous murderer, Ivy Wollard now wields knives instead of needlepoint to survive in a society where no one wants her. When the Marquess of Blackbourne comes along and ruins her chance at a better life, she decides she’d rather have her toes eaten by eels than agree to his proposed scheme. There’s no way her surrender has anything to do with the mesmerizing angle of his jawline or the wicked twinkle in his eyes.

But Asher Blackbourne has a secret. He knows it’s just a matter of time until he goes mad and loses his illustrious title, so when Ivy falls into his path, he realizes he could use her to keep his house of cards from falling down. If every illicit touch between them doesn’t drive him mad first, that is.

Yet Ivy cannot escape her grisly legacy and the dark desires of her father’s admirers. What if violence runs through her veins, and no one who gets close is safe? Mayhem will descend as this rake finally falls for the enigmatic woman who might be just his brand of poison…Er, cure, of course.

Read an Excerpt

Blackbourne came towards the clawfoot tub, running a finger along the porcelain edge.

Ivy shrank back instinctively into the steam.

He chuckled. “Don’t worry, love. I won’t bite,” he drawled, and then paused. “Yet.”

She inhaled as his eyes flashed promises of things she wasn’t sure she understood.

“Your bathwater is quite thoroughly unrevealing with all those suds. What a pity.” He sighed, pulling the nearby chair closer to the tub and lowering himself down into it. “Will you wash your hair for me?”

Ivy blinked “Right now?” she choked, reaching up to pat her hair, which she’d styled in a high chignon.

He nodded, his posture relaxed, although Ivy knew this to be deceptive. He was waiting to hear her answer with taut focus. When she didn’t move a muscle, Blackbourne interrupted her tumultuous thoughts with a soft suggestion. “Let me help you.”

The words reached out to her with tendrils that wrapped her consciousness in a sensual fog, causing the hair on her nape to rise. This was not done, she knew. A proper lady would never allow a gentleman to touch her hair, much less while she bathed. But what about any of their arrangement was proper in the first place? Who would even know?

Besides him.

So she reached up slowly so as not to disturb the water covering her chest and drew the stickpin from her hair, letting its length fall in a heavy coil down her back.

His sharp intake of breath echoed in the tiled chamber.

Was that a good thing? Ivy’s body trembled as she watched him rise and come towards her through the steam…

Win Hollows is awarding a $10 Amazon/B&N Gift Card to one lucky winner during this tour. Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Meet Win Hollows

Win Hollows is a multi-award-winning romance fiction writer who still believes that love conquers all. She currently lives in Colorado with her own real-life hero and their three fur babies. Her passion is writing stories about love and intrigue and will continue to do so as long as characters keep having conversations in her head. Hollows’ other interests include traveling to places with delicious food and languages she can’t speak, having wilderness adventures, and, of course, reading! She loves connecting with readers and fans on Facebook, Instagram, and through her website at http://www.winhollows.com.

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The Coronavirus Rules

I’m discovering that life under the stay at home policies isn’t much different than being a SAHM, except I can’t go anywhere.

In seriousness… We’re living in unprecedented times right now, and everyone is justifiably stressed and scared. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted every aspect of our modern lives: how we shop, what we shop for, the way we do business, teach our children and do our jobs, attend church services, and communicate with friends and family.

I worry for my grandmother, who can only see my aunt from a distance when she stops by with groceries because my uncle is an essential worker. She’s lonely and depressed, and doesn’t even have any technology to video chat with us. (My aunt would facilitate that, but again, social distancing.)

I feel terrible for Babycakes, whose kindergarten year is effectively ruined. She misses her teacher and her friends, is sad and lonely and can’t even play with the girls next door (at least they have each other). Fortunately I used to teach kindergarten so we have  no worries about her academics. But school has done wonders for her socialization. She’s afraid she won’t be able to go to first grade or that she won’t be able to have her birthday party in August. That trip to the beach we have planned for June? She so wants to go and we just don’t know if it’ll happen.

Sugarpie is a challenge. What I wouldn’t give to be able to escape to Target for an hour. The one time I ventured there to get a chocolate bunny, I was so stressed and a bit freaked to see certain aisles look like something out of a Soviet bloc country. At least I can work on her sleep habits, right?

People are comparing this to the Spanish Flu that struck at the end of WWI, and in some ways it’s as scary. But we do know more about how viruses work, and there are teams of scientists around the world working on antiviral treatments and a vaccine. That wasn’t happening in 1918. So there’s a better chance of us getting this thing under control if we work together globally.

We also need to follow the rules. It’s annoying and intrusive, but everyone needs to do what they can to flatten the curve. The sooner we all do this, the sooner we can start getting back to life as normal.

So speaking of the rules, here’s a list that’s making the rounds in Facebook. It’s very tongue in cheek, but humor is an important coping mechanism. The flood of coronavirus memes is evidence of how much humanity needs to find a way to laugh and connect at a time full of so much seriousness and isolation.

The Coronavirus Rules (according to Facebook)

1. Basically, you can’t leave the house for any reason, but if you have to, then you can.

2. Masks are useless, but maybe you have to wear one, it can save you, it is useless, but maybe it is mandatory as well.

3. Stores are closed, except those that are open.

4. You should not go to hospitals unless you have to go there. Same applies to doctors, you should only go there in case of emergency, provided you are not too sick.

5. This virus is deadly but still not too scary, except that sometimes it actually leads to a global disaster.

6. Gloves won’t help, but they can still help.

7. Everyone needs to stay HOME, but it’s important to GO OUT.

8. There is no shortage of groceries in the supermarket, but there are many things missing when you go there in the evening, but not in the morning. Sometimes.

9. The virus has no effect on children except those it affects.

10. Animals are not affected, but there is still a cat that tested positive in Belgium in February when no one had been tested, plus a few tigers here and there…

11. You will have many symptoms when you are sick, but you can also get sick without symptoms, have symptoms without being sick, or be contagious without having symptoms. Oh, my..

12. In order not to get sick, you have to eat well and exercise, but eat whatever you have on hand and it’s better not to go out, well, but no…

13. It’s better to get some fresh air, but you get looked at very wrong when you get some fresh air, and most importantly, you don’t go to parks or walk. But don’t sit down, except that you can do that now if you are old, but not for too long or if you are pregnant (but not too old).

14. You can’t go to retirement homes, but you have to take care of the elderly and bring food and medication.

15. If you are sick, you can’t go out, but you can go to the pharmacy.

16. You can get restaurant food delivered to the house, which may have been prepared by people who didn’t wear masks or gloves. But you have to have your groceries decontaminated outside for 3 hours. Pizza too?

17. Every disturbing article or disturbing interview starts with ” I don’t want to trigger panic, but…”

18. You can’t see your older mother or grandmother, but you can take a taxi and meet an older taxi driver.

19. You can walk around with a friend but not with your family if they don’t live under the same roof.

20. You are safe if you maintain the appropriate social distance, but you can’t go out with friends or strangers at the safe social distance.

21. The virus remains active on different surfaces for two hours, no, four, no, six, no, we didn’t say hours, maybe days? But it takes a damp environment. Oh no, not necessarily.

22. The virus stays in the air – well no, or yes, maybe, especially in a closed room, in one hour a sick person can infect ten, so if it falls, all our children were already infected at school before it was closed. But remember, if you stay at the recommended social distance, however in certain circumstances you should maintain a greater distance, which, studies show, the virus can travel further, maybe.

23. We count the number of deaths but we don’t know how many people are infected as we have only tested so far those who were “almost dead” to find out if that’s what they will die of…

24. We have no treatment, except that there may be one that apparently is not dangerous unless you take too much (which is the case with all medications).

25. We should stay locked up until the virus disappears, but it will only disappear if we achieve collective immunity, so when it circulates… but we must no longer be locked up for that?

(If anyone knows where and with whom this list originated, please let me know. I’d like to give proper attribution.)

How are you and your family holding up right now?