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 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.

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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?

A New Edition – I mean – Addition

2019 is coming to a close, and what a whirlwind year it proved to be.

I got started with some very cool independent contracting work, which I’m looking forward to continuing next year.

I self-published a historical fiction short story.

And our family welcomed a new “edition”, you will.

I found out on April 1st (no joke) that we were expecting again. It was the first time since having Babycakes that we had a positive test, and disbelief isn’t a strong enough word for how I felt. As with Babycakes, worry and a lingering need to remain somewhat detached were the norm.

It was not an easy pregnancy.

With Babycakes, I had pretty severe nausea and vomiting from week 6 to week 16 of that pregnancy, and this time around was worse. The nausea began around week 5 and continued literally until the day before I delivered. I had food aversions, mainly meat – which caused anemia. I felt tired. I felt terrible. And as with Babycakes, I worried that, no matter what I did, there was a chance this just wouldn’t work out.

But on December 4th, Sugarpie arrived.

She is an unexpected blessing.

Now, we reenter The Baby Bubble.

School’s Out For Summer!

Friday was my last day of work for the school year, which, weekend not withstanding, means today is the first official day of summer vacation.

Ahhhh….

Of course, though our neighborhood does have a community pool, I don’t exactly envision myself spending the next two months relaxing by or in it. Wading around the kiddie pool trying to keep my toddler from falling and smashing her head into the concrete edge of said kiddie pool? Maybe that’s a bit more realistic.

(I jest. The kiddie pool is actually pretty sweet, and Babycakes totally loves it.)

In any case, it’s been quite a whirlwind of a year. Starting a new teaching job, putting Babycakes in daycare, taking Babycakes out of daycare and into Gramma-care, moving to our permanent home, releasing two novels (remember that Better Than Chocolate and When In Rome are both available for Kindle, and Better Than Chocolate is now in print!), and of course surviving my first year teaching fourth grade.

So what does the summer hold? Some training for work. Getting ready to change schools and grade levels. Writing Sweet Somethings Book #3, of course (and hopefully Book #4 as well). And a trip back to my old stomping grounds in July to visit friends and family.

And my first book signing! Details on that for those local to my old stomping grounds will be forthcoming once everything is completely finalized. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for the event announcement.

And the best is spending lots of time with Babycakes, who is now almost 2 and entering the “I won’t eat anything in the fruit or vegetable groups except carrots and asparagus and maybe some apple if you’re lucky” stage.

She also wants soup every day for lunch.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another, right? 🙂