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 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?

This is Not the Maternity Leave You Are Looking For

When it became clear that, pre-delivery, Sugarpie was healthy and would be arriving to stay, I started thinking about how my maternity leave would play out.

Things have not exactly gone according to plan.

WHat I IMagined This Maternity Leave Would be Like

There would be binge watching on Netflix and Amazon Prime Streaming! (Outlander Season 4, I’m looking at you….)

Exercising on the regular!

Writing. So much writing!

Reading! I would finally have time to read stuff!

Cooking and baking as I haven’t done since before I had Babycakes!

Volunteering at Babycakes’s school!

Taking naps!

Playdates (eventually)!

What This Maternity Leave Has Actually Been Like

Trying to soothe a fussy baby who doesn’t like to nap.

 

Homeschooling my kindergartener.

Needing protective gear to go to Target.

Watching Frozen 2 at least three times a week.

Did I mention a fussy baby?

Stress eating.

Getting beat up on the regular when try to feed the baby.

Shushing the whole house when I do finally get Sugarpie to nap.

Only to have her wake five minutes later. (And multiple times a night.)

Oh yeah, those Target trips? Can’t do that now.

Wash yo’ hands!

Starting to sleep train.

 

In seriousness, this is a hard time for everyone. We’re fortunate, I know others are not. Let’s just try to keep some lighthearted moments in the coming days. Look for beautiful things. Be kind. Celebrate small victories. Eat chocolate. Sleep when you can. Hug your children and kiss your partners (they don’t mean to irritate the hell out of you).

In closing, a PSA from Samuel L. Jackson (language warning):

The Light at the End of the Fourth Trimester

Sugarpie is quickly approaching her 3-month birthday,  and the official end if the newborn phase. And, oh my gosh, what a phase it has been!

For those that don’t know, the first three months of a baby’s life are now often referred to as the “fourth trimester”, a period when baby wants and needs to be kept close – preferably to Mom – under conditions that closely mimic life in the womb. The idea is that this period is a time when parents gently help a baby transition to this big, loud, bright world we live in.

Every baby is different, and so it has been with Sugarpie and her big sister. To be fair, I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about Babycakes’s newborn days. But their temperaments have been different from the start.

We have dealt with mild colic and gassiness (which thankfully seems to be abating for the most part). We have dealt with inconsolable crying, which is now termed “purple crying” (perhaps to make parents feel better). We went from ridiculous all-day sleeping to “We don’t need no stinkin’ naps!”

The sleep is one area where Babycakes and Sugarpie have some similarities. Babycakes was a crap napper, and we struggled with night sleep for a long time (those of you who have been with me for a while will recall my lamentations on sleep training, etc.). While Babycakes was sleeping 10-11 hours straight at night by about 10 weeks before going back to multiple night wakings from about 4 months until 15 months, Sugarpie still wakes once or twice a night to eat. I usually get a big chunk of 5-6 hours (once she went 7!) at the start of the night, so that has helped me immensely. But the lack of good naps (I mean, longer than 10-20 minutes, I kid ye not) makes it hard to get anything done during the day. I know naps will get better, because they did for Babycakes, but it does make it hard.

Temperament is very different, too. Babycakes was a content baby who displayed almost no interest in moving on her own for the longest time. I would put toys just out of reach to entice her to roll over, watch her get 3/4 of the way from back to tummy, and I could seriously see the moment when she decided the toy just wasn’t worth it. She didn’t crawl until 8 months and didn’t walk until 14 months. Sugarpie, however, is in constant motion and, other than that first bought of night sleep, isn’t really completely settled when she’s asleep. And she is just now starting to play reasonably well on her own for a little while (which gives me time to, you know, attend to nature’s call).

I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining, or trying to compare my kids. Both of my children are amazing blessings that I honestly didn’t think we would have. Maybe it’s because we were so far removed from the baby phase that it feels harder. And I know it will get better. Within a couple months, the naps will start consolidating (and I can perhaps get a regular schedule going for myself and my writing!), and life will become normal again – at least, whatever normal will be for us now.

My Goals for 2020

2020 is upon us, and with it the obligitory Yearly Goal Setting Post.

Goals.gif

This year, I’m piggybacking onto the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge, hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

So what’s on tap for me this year? I’m trying to be conscious of the fact that I have a new baby, which obviously changes a lot in terms of how much time I have for any sort of goal setting. But here goes.

Writing

Obviously I want to try and do more writing this year. This includes submitting the historical romance that placed 2nd in three 2018 contests (yes, I know that was a goal last year, too). I also need to return to the first installment in my Sweet Somethings spinoff trilogy, which has sat in First Draft Limbo since last February.

This also incorporates freelancing. I had several excellent freelance writing gigs the past couple years and I want to keep that up, in addition to my independent contractor work with Newsela.

As an extension, I would love to finally set up a copyediting business as well. This has been sitting on my chairside table for over a year. I should probably start perusing it:

Ultimately I would love if I can make enough with my pen, so to speak, to cover Babycakes’s school expenses and maybe a little extra.

Reading More Books

Or just reading books.

More on that later.

Cooking

I love to cook and bake, but haven’t had time to do much of either since I went back to work in 2015.

Okay, since Babycakes was born and then we moved to Charlotte and most of my kitchen stuff stayed in boxes for almost a year.

Being a stay-at-home-mom again for a while will, eventually, give me time to cook and bake again like I used to. For now, it helps that I am now the owner of an Instant Pot:

Apparently I can make yogurt with it? I’m also interested in the fact that I can also apparently sterilze baby bottles with it.

Being Mommy

Of course this year, I want to focus once again on being Mommy. I am officially on maternity leave for the rest of the school year, and then we have to reevaluate our plans beyond that. But I have a 5 year old in kindergarten, and I want to volunteer at her school. And of course, Sugarpie is here.

I also hope to not only finish filling out Babycakes’s baby book, but also keeping up with Sugarpie’s.

what are your big goals for 2020?