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…

Is Bad Grammar Putting a Damper on Your Love Life?

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, a lot of people have love and romance on their minds, and are probably finalizing plans and solidifying the final details of romantic gestures.

Valentine’s Day has a long history, from its origins as an attempt by the Roman Catholic church to Christianize a pagan feast day, to its connections to love and romance starting in medieval times. The exchange of valentines and love letters rose in popularity through the Victorian Era, though beyond greeting cards and kids valentine kits, we’ve sort of lost the beautiful art of expressing love in writing.

The huge rise in the popularity of online dating points to some interesting trends when it comes to romance. According to a joint study done by and Grammarly eHarmony, the way we communicate in writing, be it through text or email, has an effect on our prospects in love. Check out the statistics:
Valentine's Day Grammar 2016 Infographic

Funny this study should pop up right now. I actually met my own Romantic Hero of a husband through eHarmony back in 2006 – but that’s a story for another time.

And I always advocate for good grammar.

This Thanksgiving, I’m Counting My Blessings

Let’s face it. Our entire world seems to be heading to hell in a handbasket.

That’s an unusually pessimistic statement from me, someone who is generally a perpetual optimist. But given the events in recent weeks and months, both in the US and abroad, it seems true.

Humanity is in trouble.

And it’s not just the terror attacks overseas. It’s violence right here in America against our fellow citizens. It’s individuals and groups who are calling for increasingly intolerant measures to label, track, and not-quite-but-almost persecute people who should be protected under the laws of this nation. (I would argue that most of them don’t actually understand the Constitution and Bill of Rights, based on comments they’ve made. But that’s another post.)

It’s easy for us, as we go into the holiday season, to obsess, worry, and otherwise feel like there is nothing good left in our world for which to be thankful.

But even as those terrible, nightmarish things are happening across the world and even just across my city, I actually have an easier time being thankful.

My family has had more than our share of tragedy and struggle over the past five years. I’d like to think we’ve managed to triumph over all of it – but again, I’m the perpetual optimist. Even if I’m leaning to the “rose-colored” side of things, I can still find so much to be thankful for today.

I can count my blessings, and they are the simple things.

Seeing the joy in my daughter’s eyes as she toddles to meet me at the front door each afternoon, arms outstretched for “Mama.”

Falling asleep each night next to my own Romantic Hero of a husband, even if he does sometimes steal the covers.

A solid roof over our heads, good food on our table, warm clothes on our backs.

Good jobs with good pay.

Knowing family and good friends are only a phone call away, even if it takes a plane ticket to see many of them.

It’s the little things. The simple blessings. In a world seemingly gone mad, it’s important to keep things in perspective. We can’t control what happens outside the circle of our lives. We can only be grateful for what blessings we have.

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How Much Do You Know About Illiteracy?

 

 

I’m a little late on sharing this particular infographic from Grammarly.com, as September 8 was International Literacy Day. But better late than never, right?

As a teacher, I know how important it is to foster good literacy skills early on in a child’s educational journey, and as a writer and reader, it worries me now many people still struggle with literacy as adults.

We can do a lot to make a difference in the lives of those struggling to read. Being aware of the problem is the first step.

Literacy Day

An Open Letter to DestinyUSA

(For those not in the know, DestinyUSA is a very large mall in Syracuse, NY, with a ton of great stores, restaurants, and attractions.)

Dear DestinyUSA,

You are, in general, a very awesome mall with lots of things to do, places to eat, and stores to shop in. The “green” expansion is pretty great too, even if we did have to wait a long time for it to be finished and opened.

However, I have a smallish bone to pick with you.

The hubs and I took Babycakes, who is about five months old, to DestinyUSA for the first time. She had a great time. So did we, except when it came time to see to her needs.

You see, Babycakes is a breastfed baby. We’ve started her on a select few solids, but breastfeeding makes up 99.9% of her nutritional intake. Now, I’m not really squeamish about breastfeeding in public spaces. I do try to find a quiet, somewhat secluded corner to feed her, but it’s not about me, or the rest of the public. It’s about her.

When she’s eating, Babycakes needs it pretty quiet and free of distractions. Otherwise she really can’t eat well. We use a cover when necessary, but it makes feeding more of a circus than anything else. So I really do try to find a private space to nurse her if she’s hungry when we’re out and about.

Many people would likely say, “Why don’t you just give her a bottle?” Believe me, DestinyUSA, I would if she’d accept one. But she won’t accept any type of container that even remotely hints at being a baby bottle. Sippy cup, yes. Straw cup, yes. But she’s just learning to use those and isn’t good enough with them to get a full feeding. And besides that, she really doesn’t eat well in general if she’s distracted, be it breast, cup, or spoon.

Here’s the issue I had today. There are no nursing rooms anywhere in DestinyUSA. This surprised me, especially since a competing mall (which shall remain nameless), had very nice, new nursing rooms by the food court. I mean, private, quiet, slightly softer lighting, with a changing station (though no sink, and that was a small complaint I made to them), with an actual cushy chair and cushy love seat. It was surprising and wonderful to find.

At DestinyUSA, however, my only option was a family restroom. It was clean, I’ll give you that. But the only non-toilet seating option was a hard plastic chair, the type you’d put on your back porch. It took some serious finagling with my coat to make it remotely comfortable for Babycakes and me. The lights were super bright. Plus, the changing station was broken. Lastly, because it’s a restroom placed between the men’s and women’s facilities, every time someone used the hand dryers, she unlatched and stared at me like it was the scariest sound she’d ever heard in her life. And (okay, this is lastly) the music piped into the mall was so loud, it was another distraction.

She didn’t eat well, and then I had to change her on the station out in the corridor, where it was cold.

Now, this was in the old section of the mall, so I thought the family restroom in the new section would be a little nicer. We shopped, ate lunch, and then went to find the family restroom.

Sadly, it was out of order. So not wanting to traipse all over the mall searching for another family restroom, we returned to the one we used upon our arrival. At this point in the day, it wasn’t that clean anymore. It was till bright, loud, and distracting. I still had to change Babycakes in the hallway. And she still didn’t eat well. I foresee a wakeful night for her, because she didn’t get enough calories today despite my best efforts.

You are a great mall, DestinyUSA. But you dropped the ball on this one. Perhaps you should consider allocating some of the available space (and there is some because you’re constantly adding new stores and restaurants) for the purpose of nice, clean, quiet, softly lit, well appointed nursing rooms. The breastfeeding moms (and probably some bottle-feeding moms) of Central New York will thank you.